I have always been a huge fan of “quirky” games. The gaming era when I hit that sweet spot of having a surplus of both disposable income and free time – just before actual adult life stepped in and said “Um, no” – was the latter half of the PlayStation 1 era and the first few years of the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. So it was during that time that I was basically able to buy any game that I wanted, which naturally included said quirky games. And back then it was easy, since there was only a game like Parappa the Rapper or Katamari Damacy every once in awhile (in the U.S. at least). So it wasn’t too hard to be a collector of those smaller, more out-of-the-box-type games because I could buy them all without breaking a sweat (and have plenty of time to play them). It is definitely true that there are an obscene amount of games both currently available and upcoming. I don’t know the exact numbers but I think it’s pretty safe to say that right at this moment, we have access to way more video games than at any other single point in video game history.
An obvious downside to this is that it’s impossible to keep track of every single game that comes out. You can’t just lazily coast along until the next Space Channel 5 or Cubivore arrives at your local game store and is impossible to miss amongst the relatively small amount of familiar games. So yes, you’re going to miss some games. But if the trade off to that is basically a constant stream of quirky games – or just worthwhile games in general, to bring the discussion back to being about having too many of all types of games – I’m going to call that a positive trade off. As far as there being so many worthwhile video games available to play that there just isn’t enough time to get to them all, I’d say that’s a #FirstWorldProblem if I ever heard one.
It feels silly to me to wish for less games just so I can play all of them. I already know I’m never going to be able to watch every great movie in my life or listen to every great album, so why should games be any different? So you mean to tell me I’m never going to be without one or more good games to play that I’ve never played before, pretty much for the rest of my life, because that are just that many to choose from? And that the downside is that I’ll have to miss some? It just feels like such a greedy complaint, that there’s so much good stuff to pick from that I can’t “have it all.”
To be clear, I definitely get frustrated by how overwhelming it can be to try and make sense of just how many games are out there. And more than that, trying to parse out which ones are decent, which ones I’d personally like, when I should spring for a $60 game and when I’d be better off finding three to six indie/downloadable games for that price, and so on. There was certainly a nice piece of mind 15-20 years ago of at least knowing of literally every game that came out, and being able to look at any game sitting on a shelf and already having some small amount of knowledge on it because I read about it in EGM. But those days are gone, and they were fated to eventually gone as the industry continued to grow into a legitimate form of mass media comparable to music or movies or books.
It’s been that way for all of the other mass media industries for a long, long time now: At any point in your lifetime, did you feel you were aware of every single album that came out, or even every band that existed? Of course not, because there are far too many of both. And sure, it’s always been easy to be able to keep track of the big Hollywood releases, but what about indie movies, or “direct to video” movies, or movies that go straight to cable or Hulu/Netflix/etc? Have you ever been able to confidently say “Yeah, I know about every single movie that has come out in the last few years?” I seriously doubt it. Books are the same way, of course. It’s like that with any well-established media industry. Video games were bound to get there sooner or later. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that some of my favorite movies and bands wouldn’t have been possible without there being a thriving indie or just slightly off the mainstream scene that allowed them to exist.
The thing is, I really don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say there are too many movies, or too many bands, or too many books. People just appreciate how much there is to choose from, and are happy so long as there is enough for them to be able to enjoy. I don’t see why games shouldn’t be the same way. You might be saying that more games also equals more bad games, and that may very well be true, but I think it’s easy to forget the extremely high amount of absolute garbage there is on even systems like the NES that do have measurable, manageable amounts of games in their libraries. Percentage-wise, I doubt there is a significantly higher percentage of truly bad games now than there was at any other point in gaming history.