My case for classic gaming
Yesterday, I became aware that Disney closed the LucasArts game studio. This represents pretty much the last of the good classic PC game studios whose games I loved as a kid, and made me more than a little sad. This event also brought my reasons for gaming the way I do into stark contrast.
I’ve been a gamer ever since I could play with my brother’s Atari 2600, but my obsession with it arrived when I first played Castevania on the NES at my friend’s house. I begged and pleaded with my parents for one, and my wish was eventually granted. This started an avalanche of gaming obsession that has lasted for most of my life…until recently. Going into the current gen of gaming, I was still pretty obsessed with gaming. Eventually, though, my interest waned substantially. When I noticed the change, I became curious about it, and really tried to understand it. I had a few realizations, and yesterday’s news gave me the final nail in the coffin.
My interest in gaming actually hasn’t gone away, per se, it’s changed. I’m much more interested in playing older titles than new ones. Right now, I’m playing through Final Fantasy 7 for the 12th time or so, though some of that is due to the fact that I can safely play it in front of the kids without CPS breaking down the door. At first I thought it was because of my strong sense of nostaligia, but I’m drawn to older games I’ve never played just as much. Many in the gaming industry may completely disagree with my reasons, so I’ll say right off that these are my opinions, not any sort of scientifically proven fact. There, that should keep the hate mail to a minimum…..maybe.
Anyways, current games just seldom have any real ‘spirit’. Triple A titles these days are developed more from a business standpoint, than from a love for gaming standpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that everyone has the business aspect in mind, even years ago, but it seemed much more fun back then. The bigger games could be totally wacky and goofy, like Leisure Suit Larry or Space Quest, and people still loved the shit outta them. I spent countless hours on games that, if sites like IGN and GameInformer existed back then, would have been reviewed horribly and panned. That wasn’t the point, though. We weren’t using review scores to tell them which games were worth buying, we chose games based on the description, box art, story, shareware demo, etc. If a game looked fun, we bought it. If it sucked, we still played it. These days, games have to be a home run. They have to have the absolute best graphics and sound, online components, etc. It’s become a cookie cutter industry based on formulas for “good games”. There are a few indie developers out there making some cool stuff, but they don’t get the attention they deserve and struggle.
OK, I’m getting off topic…classic gaming…right. SO, a big difference between then and now, is that back then it was all pretty fresh and new. People were pushing for cooler graphics and sound due to hardware limitations, and writing some really fun stories for these games. Some games, like Myst or 7th Guest, were more about interactive storytelling than high scores or achievements. I remember playing X-Wing for MSDOS for hours, because I was a huge SW fan and loved feeling like I was part of that universe. Nowadays, graphics are not really much of a selling point, since the games all look pretty damn amazing, and the majority of games and game types are pretty much the same old shit, just in a new box. Most gamers exacerbate that by shelling out $60+ for the latest Call of Duty or Madden, which is essentially last year’s offering with different boards, weapons, or players. Games these days, to me, feel tired and recycled. The few newer games I play or even get interested in, are interesting only because of the story. Lots of newer games I’ve played have had awful story lines, and I’d get bored and stop playing. Others, like Amalur, Darkness, Infamous, and God of War, have stories that I find cool, and take that interactive storytelling role, just with more evisceration.
Another issue I have with new games is that they’re rushed through development. They go to market with game breaking bugs, and are in constant need of patching. I’m not saying that old games were bug free, far from it, but the rushed dev cycle causes more potential problems and makes making games only about money, and not about producing polished products. If you want a good example of this, look at Skyrim. There were so many horrible bugs in that game that I’m glad I never bought it.
The other issue I have with development, is that games these days focus more on multiplayer than single player campaigns. This is a HUGE gripe for me, since I seldom feel the urge to go online and get completely pwned by people who do nothing but play online, while getting cursed out and mocked by 13 year olds because I suck (which is mostly due to the very steep learning curve for online gaming.). My most recent foray into online gaming was MAG for the PS3 a few years ago. I gave it a shot, and that’s just what I got….shot….repeatedly. I couldn’t even get 50 yards from the spawn point because the other team had snipers covering it. The aggravation drove me from it, and the only times I play online now are with a few of my closest buddies when we get pwned as a group in Halo. Single player story campaigns are where it’s at for me. A really good single player part of a game can easily demolish any online multiplayer. Try playing MAG for a few hours, then switch over to God of War 3, and you’ll see what I mean. Or, better yet, play Uncharted 2 multiplayer, then the single player campaign from the same game. Very different. Personally, I think game companies make multiplayer portions for their games in a vain attempt to provide some sort of replayability in an otherwise mediocre game. This leads me to my next points.
My last points are more a comparison of the times than anything else. Games used to be more about the high scores than just beating the level, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. I still love arcade games and pinball because of this. It makes the replayability of the game much higher, since I’m always trying for the best score to get my initials in the top 5. Finally, the difficulty. Most games on the market today are cakewalks, and can be breezed through rather easily. Try doing that to the original Donkey Kong, or Bionic Commando. Chances are, you won’t do well. The games were punishing, and required much more skill to play, let alone master. I know, this made games less accessible to the masses, but why can’t we have both? Make some fluffy games for nOObs, and leave the normal ones for us!
Still, I don’t see much in the way of innovation anymore. The last game I played that I thought was really cool, which I never finished, was Heavy Rain. That game is like a current take on the interactive storytelling games of old, and what little I played of it was excellent. Once I finish Aliens: Colonial Marines (I know, I know, but I’m a die hard Aliens fan and MUST play it since it’s canon), I’m going to revisit Heavy Rain and play through. Apart from that, I’m sticking with the games and eras of gaming that I enjoyed the most, and most of that is retro. I’d much rather play arcade games for 4 hours, than Call of Duty for 4 hours. If that means I’m no longer a “true gamer” or “hardcore gamer”, then so be it. At least I’ll be completely happy with my selection of games, and that’s all that should matter. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Lands of Lore…or maybe Galaga…ok, probably both.