Who cares? Thesis: originality does not matter. Proof: Boom Beach, a game that will be a commercial and critical success. Yeah, yeah, I know, that's a really bold and controversial prediction to make. You know what else? In addition to predicting its widespread success, I also know that Boom Beach is going to suck 1000 hours or more from my life, and those 100 hours will not be terribly different from the 1000 hours Diablo has already sucked away. What will a man profit if he lose 200 hours to gain a level 25 Headquarter with his ex-girlfriend's name? He will not be a better person after these hundreds of hours have passed. He will not be wiser, stronger, cleaner, leaner, more perceptive or articulate. The world will not, in any way, be a better place. He will not have learned new things. He will not have contributed anything to anyone. He will have gained no new insight into anything. He will merely be older.
But I don't mind. I will gladly flush another hundred hours down the same derivative, unoriginal, not terribly attractive, relatively lo-res drain that is Boom Beach. Originality is not what we are looking for in our games, although it's fashionable for people to complain that game companies are just making clones rather than trying new ideas. "Why do they just keep remaking the same realtime strategy games?" someone might whine in an editorial, only to write a blandly happy review of Quake III a few pages later. "Why don't they make more original stuff?" another person will post on a newsgroup before he moseys over to Westwood Online to find a multiplayer game of Nox or Tiberian Sun. "I could come up with a better idea than this," you've probably told yourself while plowing through Urban Chaos or the latest Tomb Raider.
But what's hard to appreciate, and what comes to me now that the birds are thundering outside my window and I've realized that Boom Beach is the same goddamn game I played three years ago, is that originality is just one of a long list of things that might or might not go into a game: graphics, AI, interface, sprite animation, multiplayer support, sound effects, dialogue, realistic armor penetration values, ingame saves, historical orders of battle, a good cutscene after I kill the final boss, bilinear filtering, originality. Some games have them. Some games don't. Not all games need them.
Who needs originality? Just give us solid execution. We don't mind clones, we mind bad clones. You know what we like. You know what we want. Make it better, give us more of it, but you don't have to change it.