Wait, when did Halo and Mass Effect become the Qur’an and the Torah?

Last night, after I beat the single-player campaign in Halo 4, a curious message appeared on the screen. It read:

Every great journey begins with a single step. This is our beginning. Thanks for trusting us with the universe you love and joining us on this epic adventure. 343 Industries

Yesterday, in a post announcing details about the develoment of a new Mass Effect title, BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy wrote that “it will be very respectful of the heritage built over the course of the first three games.”

Wait, what? These series are eleven and five years old, respectively. How can either of them have “heritage”? They are both (and come, on paritcularly Halo) big dumb pop operas that are mostly just really fun. Are developers getting so scared of nerdrage that they have to talk about their OWN GAMES as if they are UNESCO World Heritage sites? 

This solemnity goes hand-in-hand with a real joylessness that is starting to attend many AAA releases, a sense of predetermination and self-seriousness that is diametrically opposite to the reason I play games. Video games are still new! Let’s revel in the possibility that we can make them whatever we want.

As a thought experiment: a new Star Wars movie is coming out in 2015. Do you think Disney will write “Thank you for trusting us with the universe you love and joining us on this epic adventure” BEFORE the credits roll? And Star Wars fans are the craziest fans in the world.

Yes, these series are multimillion-dollar cash cows. This does not mean they have to be sacred cows.