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In Defence Of Dead Games

We hear the phrase 'dead game' a lot in gaming. Probably not quite as much as the dude who runs Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout's Twitter account, but still. We hear it a lot. It's seen by many as the perfect finishing blow, an absolute destroyer of worlds that not only ends the conversation, but results in complete and utter annihilation of your opponent. It's video gaming's answer to 'your mom'. It sounds cool and effective, but it doesn't really mean anything at all.

It's usually a phrase thrown at games which enjoy a brief period of white hot popularity, and then fade into relative obscurity. But this obscurity is not caused by the total abandonment of the game, but instead by its time in the sun being over. The aforementioned Fall Guys was the biggest hit around in the summer of 2020, and you get the impression that the devs don't really know where they went wrong. They didn't change the game, add monetisation to turn people off, or play around with it out of greed or hubris – one day a lot of people just stopped playing. It's still as fun as it always has been, and receives regular updates for its remaining playerbase, but it's no longer the number one game in the world. It feels wrong to hold Fall Guys' success against it – is it really 'dead' just because it's now 'quite popular' instead of 'the only thing people can talk about'?

Cyberpunk 2077, which also burned incredibly bright incredibly briefly, is also labelled a 'dead game', which is even more ridiculous. Cyberpunk 2077 still has an active community, brings in high numbers, and unlike Fall Guys, every update is major news. I didn't care for the game at launch, and have not enjoyed any of the additions the game has added since – though obviously, the bugs are significantly better now – but to suggest the game is 'dead' is ludicrous.

You don't even need to lose overall popularity, you just need to no longer be cool. Fortnite, a game which is extremely popular with young adolescents and adults, but less so with teenagers who avoid its cartoonish styles for grittier shooters, is routinely labelled 'dead'. By which people mean 'I personally no longer like it and I am embarrassed that I used to so I will take out my own insecurity, lack of sense of self, and social anxiety out on a video game'. Ain't being a teenager grand? Fortnite has been out for long enough now that some people played it at launch, went through the typical teenage anti-Fortnite, dead game phase, then circled back around to playing it again. Getting old – it'll happen to you too, kids.

Occasionally, there are true instances of 'dead games'. Babylon's Fall, Square Enix's truly atrocious RPG which launched earlier this year, dropped to just one player a month or so after launch – said player later admitted that he left the game idling and was not even actively playing it. Babylon's Fall is truly dead. While Square Enix revealed a long road map to support it – despite previously throwing the much more successful Guardians of the Galaxy under the bus – it feels like it might be best for all concerned if the game just cuts its losses.

Here's the real thing with dead games though – so what? While no one wants to see the games they love die for real, the way Battleborn, Anthem, and, likely soon, Babylon's Fall have, it's telling how obsessed we are with what other people think that a game's overall popularity across the medium is still seen as its defining metric. That, and review scores – neither of which should affect your own enjoyment. Have an original thought for once and just play the games you want to play, and let other people do the same. What's that? You disagree? Yeah, well… get this: your mom.

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