It's a rite-of-passage thing. Also an age thing. You're probably around 25, have jumped, slaughtered and strategised your way through at least 1000 games, and found them amazing and entertaining. Then something happens.
You start to get bothered by the sameness. You start to notice that games recycle the same ideas on a generational timeline, that every 5-7 years or so game developers repackage the same concepts for new platforms. And also keep making the same mistakes.
Over time, you start to think that games need to be saved.
You start to remember beyond one generation, and maybe even speak of ages past in a way reminiscent of Tolkien's elves recalling the First Age. You find it really difficult to get excited by, say, the 4th Halo or the latest FIFA because you've seen it all before. You might intellectually appreciate them, but your heart's not really in it.
Your attention span shortens. You struggle to remember the last time you had a gaming all-nighter and you look on Skyrim not as a challenge, but rather as a task. A drudge, even. You wonder just how long games can get away with that sort of thing. You also start to be much less tolerant of the first hour of a game: if it doesn't absorb you then you dump it.
You also start to be bothered by tone. Issues of who you're playing, motivations and representations start to seep in, and you find yourself questioning in a way that you never did. So, you start to feel less delight in mainstream games, and instead appreciate cleverness. You begin to think that games like Pippin Barr's Let There Be Smite or Bennet Foddy's QWOP are part of a complex and evolving conversation of the language of games. This leads you to over-ascribing meaning to certain kinds of games in the hope that they will "take gaming forward" or "lose the old stereotypes".
And when they don't have that effect outside of a particular echo chamber of equally bothered gaming enthusiasts, you become exasperated. Eventually you come to the conclusion that games are going wrong somewhere. That they can't go on like this. That they'll never be taken seriously without radical action.
But of course they can and will.
The video game is, and probably always will be, a medium better suited to the younger mind. Remembering that the fun aspect is most important, and that fun and learning are sort of the same thing, this is not surprising. A young mind simply loves the new skill, the new trick, the new feat of logic that enables solving the problem or creating the cool thing. An older mind realises that many of the skills that it sees are just old skills repackaged, so of course there's an excitement gap.
All youth-targeted media (such as pop music or comics) are similar, and each has its older fans for whom said medium seems doomed. The truth is that many of the publishing companies that operate the medium understand their customer better than the older fan thinks, and if push comes to shove are perfectly happy to let their old customers drift away. They will do so eventually, goes the reasoning, so why focus on their concerns? While the aged gamers may get riled up from time to time (for example: over standards in game journalism), these kinds of publisher know that that is only so much noise. The kids won't really care.
All that's happened is that you've grown older and wiser, and perhaps peeked behind the curtain too much (if you work in games, this whole cycle seems to hit much harder). The video game, like comics and pop music, is largely a medium for the younger mind. Particularly when it comes to platforms and their marketing stories striving for the future and the bleeding edge.
It's easier to impress the young because they have no experiences to refer to, but also because the young mind's understanding of depth tends to be quite different to the older mind. To the youngster a band may sound very relevant to the struggles that they are going through, yet to an adult they sound pompous and ridiculous. Younger people lack a depth of insight and wisdom, which in some circumstances makes them easy prey but in others makes them more genuinely enthusiastic than their cynical forerunners.
Old School Graymers
The reason that we all hit that "gaming needs saving" wall is really to do with the age of the gamer and the feeling of being either left out or cast aside. The 30-something gamer still enjoys his games, but they do often seem rather tinny. The amateur-hour writing grates more than it used to, as do the blatantly stolen pop culture references. The pace also seems a little less comfortable, and perhaps the wandering mind becomes that bit more keen on strategy games as part of a search for sophistication. Or perhaps something creative like FarmVille if you're a mid-40s housewife.
Here's the thing: I don't think gaming needs saving, but rather that the older gamer market (which is still emerging) is simply underserved. I also think that the phenomenon of Kickstartered games is largely being driven by so-called "graymers" who either want to set the world to rights ("Adventure games aren't dead!" etc) or are simply missing an old love and want to relight that flame.
There are plenty of 30-50 somethings who had consoles back in the day, are fluent in gaming and games, but for whom the tone of modern games is skin deep. Games always were, but the graymers are older and wiser and would like more. Just as the same type of person saw Star Wars when it actually came out, but does not expect all movies to be Star Wars today.
I hesitate to use the words "adult" or "mature" because both sound a little bit like porn, and "senior" sounds like games for 70 year olds to stave off Alzheimers. Instead I think I mean "middle age games". Games for the veteran players who've seen much and would like to experience more, but for whom maybe the idea of a game based on Apocalypse Now would be awesome as-is rather than dressing it up as something else in Spec Ops.
And the interesthing thing is: This graymer market has much more disposable income than the usual console kid. In other media, the middle=aged version is often called something different to the juvenile version, like "graphic novel" instead of "comic", "cinema" instead of "movie", "computer game" instead of "video game" or "literature" over "novel". It reflects a distance, a difference of maturity and awareness. This kind of distinctive addression of more developed tastes is what the graymer is looking for.
Can we serve them better?
(By the way: There is a phase after the "saving" phase. Give it time.)