Two of this year's supposedly biggest games, Rage 2 and The Division 2, still sit next to my PS4 in their shrinkwrap, unplayed. That has never happened to me before. Games aren't cheap. Like most of you, I can't really afford to buy games and then not play them, and yet when it comes to playing these big games, it's increasingly turning into a chore.
It's even weirder when it comes to Rage 2 and The Division 2 - sequels to two games that I actually really liked. Rage, in particular, I have a real soft spot for; it was the first game I played after my divorce, and I'd moved into my own place. It helped ground me, and for that reason it'll always be a significant game for me.
But when it comes to the sequel... I mean, it just feels like it'll be more of the same. More shooting. More post-apocalyptic scenes. More zombies and mutants. More death. More explosions...
The Division 2 might not have the zombies and the mutants, but it's still more ruined locations, devoid of life. More litter blowing in the streets, and hollowed-out buildings, and more firearms porn.
I think, finally, I'm done.
Days Gone I reviewed a few months back, and I enjoyed it - to a point. It was basically fine.
Thing is, looking back, I sort of played the game on autopilot. I wasn't engaged with its story, and not even particularly engaged with the gameplay.
The setting was pure The Last of Us, the structure was pure Far Cry. And I'd not long before played Far Cry New Dawn - with yet another post-apocalyptic setting, with more forests and mountains, and communities of survivors, and missions to do this thing, and do that thing, all of which I felt as if I'd done scores of times before, across dozens of games.
The recent showings at E3 didn't convince me that things are going to improve anytime soon. It was a barrage of familiar images, from games that apparently aren't yet available.
I mean, even if you take away all the post-apocalyptic stuff, even if you lose the guns, the structure of modern blockbuster games has become so familiar - the whole UbiSoft map-mopping model - that you can now play most games reflexively.
There's generally a structure to movies. When I first started learning screenwriting - self-taught; I didn't pay for an expensive, unnecessary, course - and learned the three-act structure, and the turning points within that, it became so that I could tell you what was going to happen in most films before I'd even started watching. Tell me the length of a film, and I could even tell you when those things are going to happen, almost to the minute.
The next trick was then to learn how to turn this off, so that I could enjoy the films without seeing the workings of it. The best films, however, disguise their structure; exposition will be hidden behind surprising characterisation, or they'll obscure the characters' journeys. They'll subvert expectations, while still being true to a tried-and-tested formula.
Games haven't reached that point yet, and not since the 80s have this industry been so obsessed with copying trends.
The first step to breaking out of what has becoming morass of over-familiarity is ditching the zombies and post-apocalyptic stuff. People talk about there super-hero fatigue hitting movies, but the reason that hasn't happened is because Marvel is smart enough to give each film its own identity, its own subtle genre spin.
If the games industry was making movies, every summer blockbuster would be a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, with zombies and grunty alpha males shooting guns and riding bikes around forests. Imagine that; imagine a world where all the biggest films were objectively identical.
That's where the games industry is at right now, and I think I've had enough of it. If I have to shoot another thing in a forest I'm going to start punching walls.
It's why you're finally seeing more indie game reviews appearing on these pages, because there I at least know I'm going to get something different. It's why I appreciate what Nintendo is doing, why I play more games on my Switch than I ever do on my PS4 or Xbox one. It's why I've finally given in to VR with my Oculus Quest.
I just crave something different. My tastebuds have become saturated by being fed the same thing over and over and over and over. It has got to change and evolve, or it's going to die.
Look at EA's Anthem. It has been a massive failure for both EA and its developer Bioware. Yes, it was kind of broken when it first came out, but that could've been overlooked if everything else about it hadn't felt so bloody prosaic. It was like a sort of gaming jambalaya made up of leftovers found in the back of the fridge.
The quasi-Iron Man/Gundam characters designs could've been taken from any sci-fi game. The setting was once again another forest/jungle/mountain place, with a bit of RPG world-building thrown in, the structure lifted from Destiny... it was a game with no discernible identity of its own.
It's utterly shameless in its theft, utterly devoid of any creative purpose beyond "If you like that, you might like this..." - the gaming equivalent of an Amazon recommendation.
This happened before, back in the 70s when Pong gave birth to a billion clones of itself, and in the 80s when home computers had a dozen versions of all the major arcade hits. In a way, it wasn't so bad back then - games were cheaper, quicker and easier to make, a new Donkey Kong rip-off was just sort of punted out, without all the marketing hoo-hah telling us it was the new most-important game ever.
Anthem, by contrast, is a Frankenstein's monster of a thing, albeit one which cost hundreds of millions of dollars over its multi-year development cycle. It quite possibly risks bringing down Bioware, and all because it was chasing trends instead of trying to set them.
I mean, I get it; it's scary to spend an inordinate amount of money on an untested idea. Of course it feels safer to chase after what's fashionable and popular. But by doing so, if your timing is off, it backfires, and I see the first signs of those diminishing returns happening.
The games industry quickly needs a course-correction. If the next generation from Sony and Microsoft stand a chance of succeeding, they need to offer something we've not seen countless times.
We need new IPs, fewer sequels, more games which stand out rather than blend in. I want that excitement of the new again, and less feeling like I've seen it all before. If it doesn't happen, I fear that Anthem is just the start of the slide...