I hate that term, paradigm shift. It was so overused by PR folk and fanboys at the beginning of this generation, but luckily it has died down quite a bit. Wikipedia gives this definition for the term:
representing the notion of a major change in a certain thought-pattern — a radical change in personal beliefs, complex systems or organizations, replacing the former way of thinking or organizing with a radically different way of thinking or organizing
With that definition, I think it’s wholly possible that 2009 gave us a game that will actually be far more significant than we realize. The game I’m speaking about is Borderlands. For those that played it, they found out that RPG elements could be successfully infused into more genres that we originally realized, and it could be done without majorly interfering a game’s flow or design. You couldn’t safely call Borderlands and RPG, but you also couldn’t label it an FPS game, it was something new. It wasn’t just a game with some RPG characteristics, it was two genres so intricately intertwined that it was both, but neither. This is starting to sound crazy, but what I’m trying to say is that Borderlands is a game that will be looked upon years from now as a title that had as much influence and weight as games like Mario 64, Grand Theft Auto, or Halo.
Maybe it won’t happen in 2010, at least not in the first half of the year, but in the near future you’re going to see more genres, especially shooters successfully integrate RPG elements into the mix just as Borderlands did. Characters in gaming are going to become more dynamic, even in the most one dimensional genres. Much like Modern Warfare’s perk system (which is being copied or adapted like crazy these days), Borderlands will be the starter’s pistol for a major new trend in gaming.
Moving forward, RPG elements will no longer be the hook into a good game, they’ll be the backbone. And years from now, when we trace back the jumping point, Borderlands will be identified as the first game to make that leap.