The 'double-A' game is dead. Let's mourn its passing.

Opinion: But not too much, says Tom Pakinkis...

It seems we've all come to hate the Black Ops bandwagon; the Call of Duty carousel that every jay-shooting member of Joe Public seems willing to queue 24 hours for every year.

But where do we shout our abuse from? A rickety old bandwagon of our own, rolling alongside the COD cart with a duo of scowling steeds leading they way. Fuming they are.

We all love to hate the trend, to push against the grain. Ironically, it's almost become fashionable to be unfashionable. According to balls-out Bulletstorm dev Cliff Blezsinski, however, it won't be long before we have little chance but to join the blockbuster train - when it's triple-A or triple-out.


"I believe the middle class game is dead," he said at GDC last week. "It needs to either be either an event movie... Or it has to be an indie firm.

"The Other Guys starring Will Ferrell and Marky Mark? Nah, I'll f****** rent that, I don't really care, right?"

It's a very accurate but very worrying prospect at first. Indie games are safe, good, that's our integrity as an art form in the bank. As long as we've got the likes of Flower, Limbo and Braid to point to when the mainstream are all being big meanies, we're safe.

But phrases like "event movie" are bound to summon connotations of mindless meat-headedness.

Some excellent ideas and innovative gameplay choices have come out of those double-A games that Cliffy B pronounced dead at GDC - you only need to look as far as the reaction to Bizarre Creations' closure last month to see how much chunks of that middle ground mean to us.

We get a lot of tat, no doubt, but last year alone saw titles like Blur, Singularity, Alpha Protocol and Alan Wake all failing to break into the safe zone of triple-A status - when they actually had quite a lot to offer the world of games.

Think about all the great experiences you'd have to wipe from your memory without double-A games. There's a lot of goodness packed into the middle ground, it's just that it's not a sustainable territory and that's a shame.

But then, when I think about it, this inevitable move towards polarised safe-zones on the gaming spectrum, and the dominance of the triple A doesn't mean the end of inventive creation at all.

I'm unashamedly all for the big blockbuster when it comes to Hollywood. I don't mind being fed the same heroic, explosion-splurging action flick over and over as long as I still leave the cinema feeling powerful enough to carry the car home rather than drive it.

I know it's shallow and I know I'm a bad person for not giving money to family run cinemas and confectioners that pop every kernel individually with the warmth of their aged palms, but I like a basic "event movie" even if it doesn't offer much nutrition for the mind. There are plenty out there who curse the dominance of multi-million dollar Hollywood productions every day of their lives though.


But games are different. When it comes to the big blockbusters in the medium we call home, the money is more likely to go on technological development and innovation rather than some big named actor brought in to smash the box office.

It's not always the case, granted, a lot of pretty mindless efforts are given a leg-up to success by pushing most of the funding towards marketing while the game itself makes few notable strides forward.

But, when it comes to video games, bigger budgets can allow for bigger ambitions and even bigger achievements in the right places. We still get our fair share of shallow show-pieces but then we also got an impressively detailed engine in Assassin's Creed and beautifully rendered worlds in the likes of Uncharted and Mass Effect with deep characterisation, fulfilling narratives and a bit of a brain to back up their looks.

Then we've been treated to Heavy Rain, a psychological thriller that put empathy before explosions and yet to arrive L.A Noire which is making massive technological leaps.

See, for every ten G.I Joe's at the cinema we get at least one Inception, for every ten big-budget, "event movie" FPS titles at retail we'll get a Dead Space - a blockbuster with some atmospheric depth to boot.

It might be tempting then to get precious over the underrated double-As that the fat cats crushed upon arrival, it might be popular to hound popular sell-outs from the sidelines, but the games industry is like no other, one where a lot of its weightiest, most stimulating and satisfying assets come from its big event movies.