Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thoughts On... Video Games

My relationship with video games has become somewhat tenuous. It seems that all the things that have become popular don't appeal to me. I guess growing up during the resurgence of the video game industry in the mid-80s kind of defined the frame of reference I have for gaming, which affects how I react to the latest generation of video games.

Graphics do NOT impress me. I grew up with 8/16 bit games. Games that are STILL legendary today, and their fame has NOTHING to do with their graphics.

Difficulty is important. Most games today tend to be obvious/dumbed-down. There's no difficulty in gameplay, so the challenge becomes getting a bunch of awards or achievements. I don't care if I unlock the "X" costume for "Y" character. I care about finishing the game. If I can beat the game with little or no effort, then it's just a waste of time. I remember playing Gradius III for the SNES, which ironically was an easier version of the arcade game since Konami WANTED you to finish the game at home, and having my sister walk in during one of the levels and she gasped in surprise to see me fly my spaceship through what looked like an impenetrable wall of bullets and lasers. It took me days of trial and error to find the exact path to take, but once I figured out how to do it, I felt like I had earned something! After a series of levels like that, when I finally beat the game, THAT was the accomplishment that made it worth playing the game.

Story is MOST important. Every game I enjoy has a story that appeals to me. From Super Mario Bros. to Prince of Persia:Sands of Time, from Gradius to Metroid:Prime. If I don't care about WHY the character is going through the events of the game, I won't care to play. From the simple, primal story of Super Mario Bros., to the more complex story of the PoP:Sands Of Time, you care WHY these people are doing what they're doing.

The latest generation of games seem to be focussed on bigger and better graphics and not on anything else. It's deeply discouraging. To be completely honest, I constantly ask myself why I don't just drop video gaming entirely.

The answer is that every once in awhile, there comes a game or a game series that redeems the industry. The last one in recent memory for me is the Prince of Persia Series on the PS2.


  1. I think you're putting the cart before the horse on this topic. Since you don't yet own any of the current gen consoles, you can't really say that these crop of games out now are not what you're into. I think you're only basing your opinion on what you see on the surface, but that you really need to play some of these to truly enjoy them.

    I agree with you on the difficulty aspect, though. Quite simply put, games ARE a lot easier now. However, I have only 1/25th the free time I used to have as a kid. Back then, playing 13 hours straight trying to master Ninja Gaiden and finally beating it after weeks of practice was doable. Now, I'm lucky if I get 6 hours PER WEEK to play games. I don't have time for Gradius-type difficulty in games.

    Moreover, like you, STORY is the most important aspect of a game to me these days. And, HOLY SHIT! are there games out now with some amazing stories! There are games that I literally thought of you when playing them and how much I wish you had a PS3 or Xbox 360 so that you could experience them. Games like Mass Effect, Uncharted, Heavy Rain, Bioshock, the 2008 standalone Prince of Persia . . . all these and more!

    So, yeah, don't write this current crop of games off just yet. I used to feel the same way as you, until I got better at picking those games that are true diamonds in the rough out there.

  2. I'm not writing anybody out yet. The next gen consoles, namely the PS3 & the Nintendo Evolution (I refuse to call it that stupid name!), have saved themselves.

    PS3: God of War 3, Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands

    Nintendo: Metroid.

    I don't have any use for Xbox/Xbox360. Nothing against the systems, it's just that they don't really have any exclusive games that I'm interested in.

    The thing is David, with all the check/save point features and the hard drives in the NextGen consoles, time shouldn't really be a factor. You get as far as you can, save and then come back to complete the rest. Lack of time is not a reason for dumbed down games.

  3. Actually, even with those things time is still of the essence. It takes me, typically, three months to finish most standard games with how busy I am with other things. For longer games like RPGs or sandbox games, it takes me even longer -- six months! With that kind of slow turnaround, if you threw ridiculous difficulty into the mix, I would just get discouraged and stop playing.

  4. Btw, I know for a fact that you would love Bioshock -- if for nothing else but the kickin Big Band jazz soundtrack playing on the various radios throughout the levels. Okay, not all Big Band -- some Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, and Billie Holliday thrown in, too. I love the radio selections they have for that game! Eveything's pre-1960.

    And it used to be exclusive to the 360, but is now available for the PS3, too.