Where the gaming industry can - and should - do better in 2023

 (Pokemon/ Nintendo)
(Pokemon/ Nintendo)

I came to gaming as a result of the pandemic, two years ago. Dishonoured II was my gateway drug; from there, I became addicted to Assassin’s Creed, The Witcher and Red Dead Redemption in short order.

Back in the good old days, everything I played was an enjoyable experience. A few years on, I’m older and (slightly) wiser, and know enough to separate the good from the bad. And wouldn’t you just know it: 2022 had its fair share of both.

These past 12 months have encompassed excellent highs and disheartening lows. I adored the open-world expanse of Horizon: Forbidden West and the tightly-wound horror of The Callisto Protocol, but the gaming industry still has its fair share of work to do when it comes to improving the player experience for everybody. Here are some of my biggest bugbears.

Bugs at launch

This is a big one. A lot of games have this problem, but none encapsulated it so well as the hotly-anticipated Pokémon: Scarlet/ Violet. Billed as Pokémon’s first-ever open-world game, it was panned upon release for its hastily designed graphics and, more importantly, its litany of glitches.

Sadly, this is not a problem unique to Pokémon. Many games (Fifa 23, Babylon’s Fall and CrossfireX to name a few) launch seemingly fresh out of their beta modes, and players have to contend with a variety of glitches that then get hastily patched up as the weeks go on.

Not only does this disrupt the playing experience, it makes you question why you’re shelling out the big bucks (sometimes more than £50, no laughing matter) for a product that isn’t even finished. Studios can – and should – do better.

The loot box issue

To loot box or not to loot box: that is the question. This has been a hot topic for several years now, but it is certainly picking up steam and I’d be happy to see these pesky little blighters banned or at least severely regulated in 2023.

Though almost every game on the market has an in-game purchasing mechanism, loot boxes are a different beast: they’re randomly assigned, meaning that people buy on the off-chance that they will get an item they desire. More often than not, they don’t: the result being that gamers (and especially children) can spend thousands in the hunt for the dream weapon or skin.

Essentially, it’s gambling, and games like Fornite have come under heavy criticism for featuring them before. My advice? That they get taken out for good.

Diversity in characters

Diversity in video games has definitely improved over the years, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. In an industry where 46 per cent of gamers are women, the line-up on our screens is still depressingly white, straight and male.

Fixing this issue isn’t solely up to studios (though they could definitely make a start by hiring a more diverse workforce), but to gamers too: there was an uproar when God of War: Ragnarok revealed that some of its secondary characters would be black, with some pointing out that the series is based on Norse mythology (to which I’d reply that it’s a fantasy game).

That said, 2023 looks to be taking steps in the right direction. Upcoming game Forspoken features a black heroine, Frey, in the lead role, while vampire-slaying game Redfall has a fully diverse line-up and lead female characters are (finally) becoming the norm – thanks to games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Horizon: Zero Dawn.

And when it comes to LGBTQIA+ characters, these finally seem to be stepping into the light too, with blockbuster games like The Last of Us Part 2, Life is Strange and even Gotham Knights featuring queer protagonists. Here’s hoping this trend continues; after all, it’s long, long overdue.

Cheaper games

We’ve all been there. A game is coming out in a month or so, it looks just up your street, so you head online to find out how much it costs. The result may well leave a smoking hole in your wallet, or (as is more likely) a sense of simmering resentment at its unaffordability.

The price of games became a hot topic in recent months thanks to Microsoft’s announcement that their AAA games were going to be more expensive in future. Going forward, games like Starfield, Redfall and Forza Motorsport are going to set back viewers $70 to keep up with Sony’s pricing system – that is, £58, which could possibly be raised to £70 in future.

And look: I get it. Games are expensive because a lot of work has gone into crafting them; often thousands of hours on the part of the developers, who labour away to create campaigns that can hit up to 80 hours in playing time. And yet, if these same games were streamlined a bit and made more affordable as a result, wouldn’t that be better for everybody?

Even with schemes like Xbox’s GamePass (PlayStation’s equivalent PlayStation Plus subscription has come under criticism for its complicated tier system and the quality of the games included since it launched six months ago), not everybody can afford to spend the big bucks on the latest releases. Here’s hoping that game studios wise up to this in 2023 and introduce a more appealing solution, otherwise a lot of fans are going to be left out in the cold.