As a gamer I often wonder why the oldies were so much more clever and addictive than the new titles on the market today, when games where innovative and designers and developers had to rely on their creative cunning, and story to present their world, not just on the latest graphics capabilities.
Remember when you where playing that adventure game and found yourself saving before a choice with branching results and then reloaded it just to see what happens in all the different scenarios? Why is it when you play a game now you can hardly wait to beat it? Why the hell am I stuck in a 15 minute traffic commute in a game where I really looked forward to shooting up the police station and running over my girlfriend? If I want that type of realism I’ll go right now and drive to LA during rush hour.
People used to play their games to death. Hell, I did. I memorized every glitch and exploit. The old snes and nes games are still cult items, and I am hard pressed to believe it’s because of childhood nostalgia (adults don’t go back to high school when they feel sentimental), games had humorous, immersive and thick stories that kept you coming back for more… why is it that we used to re-play games in those days, but often find playing the next-gen games the first time around a chore? Why are we stuck on the good-old games and look upon today’s titles with frustration and sarcasm? It appears that games have come to a stand still, and it is an obvious conclusion that technology has made the creative department lazy.
A good example would be Bionic Commando Rearmed (the pre-game) vs. the actual release of Bionic Commando. Many of my friends played rearmed to death and found it more than addictive. Every area had a unique boss-monster, there where tons of fun and humorous weapons, tricky levels, the characters where wacky, colorful, and involving… Playing through it, I was filled with anticipation as to the release of the actual game, if the pre-release was this good the real title will be seriously awesome. About thirty minutes into playing the actual release it started feeling like an extended tech-demo. I could go on and on about any major series.
It seems like the only people that really get it right these days are Valve. Take Left for Dead or Team Fortress 2, you play one out of a group of well developed characters, and instead of forcing the player to fit into the character, the character is flexible enough that it fits the playing habits of the gamer. It’s a relief to find games that actually let you play and not get in the way of you trying to play your way or play at all. Instead of seeing more inventive weaponry, mechanics and stories, gamers are becoming so desperate for content that you’re now looking at a crowd that’s excited at just about any feature as long as it stands out just a little from the rest, like giving your co-op partner a high five (Army of Two) or higher-res bullet holes. What happened to humor? Wasn’t that one of the defining factors of the gaming culture? The odd-ball characters and wacky scenarios? Instead of inventing humorous mechanics and immersive stories and using technology to enhance these ideas and push the creativity to unexplored levels the biggest focus is to make a more realistic AK47.
I don’t want realism. The fundamentals of games (like cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers that kids play in RL) are to let you be something that you’re not. Barbarians, necromancers, superheroes, monsters, not an errand-boy for your cousin. It is only natural to ask; what compelled a person to invent a platformer, why did shooters come about, what inspired the adventure game? Where did all these genius genres come from and why aren’t we seeing totally new and unexplored genres surface? Things were new. Now they’re commonplace. With the mass of possibilities technology has opened up, why aren’t we seeing even more new and involving mechanics no one has thought of before? Where did all this creativity go?
Thanks for listening!