A new word has been tossed around the gaming industry like a rag doll: Innovation. In the 90s, it
was “extreme,” and now it’s “innovative.” What exactly defines innovation anymore? Most genres
possible in video games have been well covered, or at least tried. Nintendo’s newest cash cow,
Pikmin, was touted as being highly innovative. I’m sorry, but multi-tasking individual units has
been done many times before in Real Time Strategy games…big deal. Just because the units are
cute little plant creatures now doesn’t make it innovative.

Innovative concepts have been added to “been-there, done-that” games. Don’t take this the wrong
way, I love The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but where would it be without Z-Targeting,
ocarina music, or even Epona? Well…it would be just another adventure game. Adventuring is a
genre that has been tapped many times and therefore isn’t innovative, however, the unique
concepts within the adventure make it worth your time.

So why do people continue to cry out for innovation? I don’t think their cries can fully be met
this day in age. Improvements can only be made on currently existing ideas, and that’s what makes
for innovation. Because so many ideas have either bombed or have been played out, game developers
must sometimes take drastic steps to ensure that their game stands out. For example, take
Nintendo’s ideas for Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Starfox. Mario sports a waterpack and people
complain. Zelda is cel-shaded and people complain. Metroid is first-person and people complain.
Starfox steps out of his Arwing and people complain. What is wrong with everyone? These are the
fresh, new concepts you’ve all wanted. Is it because these ideas are just too far out or is it
because someone tampered with your favorite series? Of course, though, there are still those who
have embraced these new directions like myself.

So, what is the point to all this you ask? My point is that innovation probably cannot be
accomplished the way people want it to anymore. Whether you like Link’s cartoon appearance in the
new Zelda may not be the important thing. The important thing could possibly be that it gained
your attention. Unique implements must be this eye-catching so that you notice the game.
Brand-spanking new and innovative games are few and far in between today, so sometimes great
leaps must be taken to create an experience you’ve never played before.

By Craig Lupienski – 04/19/02

Screenshots for Innovation: Can you handle it?