Friday, December 7, 2012

Gaming: It's Not Like It Used to Be


Lets all take a trip backwards in time, shall we.  All the way back to the first time we ever played a video game...

Well, I don't know about you guys, but some of those memories are the fondest that I have.  I can remember  my dad and I bringing out the good old Nintendo Entertainment System and playing "Sesame Street The Game".  I was two years old when I started playing it, and I don't think my dad realized what he had done with just this one simple game.

It may have been a childish game, but it got my feet wet, and most of all, I actually knew what I was doing (for the most part) because it was such an easy game.  The years passed me by, and I continued to play various games.  Super Mario Bros 3 ate hours and hours of my life away, and I also took a liking to Batman and Super Contra (even though at that time I couldn't make it past the first level with out being destroyed), and then the day came.  Another day that I remember quite well, it was the day that my grandparents got a Super Nintendo, the latest greatest gaming console from Nintendo, and damn was it good!

This console is highly regarded in my book as the greatest console of all time.  This console, quite literally, defined my early childhood.  The sheer amount of games that I would play every day, over and over.  All three of the Donkey Kongs, Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy III (VI?), Bomberman 2, and BattleToads kept me occupied for my entire youth.  But the best thing about the Super Nintendo is that there are so many lesser known games that are still amazing.  Aero the Acrobat, Earth Defense Force, Goof Troop, Mickey's Magical Quest, Uniracers, Toy Story.  These are all amazing games, even today.  The best thing about the Super Nintendo is how well it has aged.  The graphics may not be 3-D, but that doesn't mean they don't look amazing, even today.

Let's jump up to Christmas day, 1996.  My sister and myself unwrapped the biggest box under the tree, and from there pure excitement ensued.  We had been asking for a Nintendo 64 for months, and finally, finally, the day had come.  My first game on this console was Donkey Kong 64, but throughout the consoles generation there were plenty of others to help us out.  Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Super Mario 64 Jetforce Gemini, Pokemon Stadium, Bomberman 64, Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie, The Mario Parties, Paper Mario, Kirby 64, Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, and StarFox 64 helped keep us on our feet throughout this entire era.

The great thing about these days were that gaming was literally all about fun.  I would go over to my friends house every day, and we'd sit down and play all these games together.  It didn't matter if it was a one player game, or a multiplayer game, we could sit there and watch them play for hours, exploring every crack of the game looking for secrets, sharing our idea's with one another.  When we were told to "go outside and play", we would take our Gameboys and battle each other in the tree-house, using that good old fashion link cable.  These times in gaming were so much simpler, and it was all so new to us.  Being children and having such creative and naive minds only helped the experience that much more.  We'd stay up all night, our parents would tell us to go to bed, and we'd agree, but normally we would just wait a few minutes before turning the TV back on again.  These were great times in my life, one's that I sometimes wish I could revisit.  The sheer amount of nostalgia gets me all giddy just thinking about it!

The Gamecube.  A system that was released in my adolescence.  I still remember the day that I bought one.  I played Pikmin through the night, other games like Phantasy Star Online and Super Mario Sunshine, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Super Smash Bros Melee, Wind Waker, and The Metroid Prime series kept me occupied throughout the Gamecubes life, regardless of the bad reputation that it has received, it was a pretty handy little system.  But in the middle of this little cubes life, something happened.  The PS2 had already been released, and was wiping the floor with the Gamecube (and with good reason), it seemed to have everything.  But then something else happened that helped drop this little cube off the map: Microsoft happened.

The original Xbox was released, and with it came Halo.  Time's were beginning to change already.  You could see with the Playstation 2 that gaming was already becoming more serious.  Blood, guns, gore, more M rated games.  It was yet another era in the history of gaming, we were just stepping into the hardcore gaming era.

The Xbox introduced us to Halo, which was the start of it all.  Halo showed us how first person shooters could work on the consoles.  Sure, there had been FPS's on the PC for years, but no one had quite figured out how to perfect it on the console.  Well Halo did.  And while the original Xbox is by no means anything special, it did have Halo, and Halo was what made the Xbox.  Towards the end of this consoles short life, Halo 2 was released, and subsequently, Xbox Live was implemented along with it.  We had now entered the era of hardcore online gaming, and it wouldn't be long now before online gaming became a necessity, and even an obsession, when it came to developing or playing a game.

The next generation of consoles was released soon after.  I can remember going over to my friends house when he got his 360, it was new, it was sleek, the graphics were amazing, and it just felt right.

But times change.  Or more specifically, they don't.  What felt right six years ago, does not exactly feel right today.  The last six years of our lives we have seen video games evolve unlike they ever have before.  More people are playing games now then their has ever been.  But we've also seen video games evolve into something more; a multi-million dollar business.

Back in the day video games consoles and companies were about... Well, they were about the games.  And I'm not going to sit here and tell you that aren't anymore, however I will say this: Game's are not the same as they used to be.  I'm a gamer, I will always be a gamer, and I will always, always have an unearthing love for video games.  But lately I feel like they have been... Lacking.

It's as simple as this: I'm sick of shooting people.  Not to say that I don't love mowing down an enemy with a machine gun and watching their head pop, but there comes a point when it just gets to be too much, and I'm just plain sick of it.  Game companies are getting afraid to take risks at this point, they would much rather make a generic shooter that has no story and is solely based on multiplayer, then to make something new, unique, original, and creative.  Now you get mainly one type of game: First Person Shooter.

I miss the days when it seems like every game was new and unique.  Metroid was not anything like Mario or Zelda.  They were three entirely different games with entirely different gameplay mechanics to them.  Back then you still had your actions games, but you also had Platformers, Adventure games, RPG's, Puzzle games, Shoot em' ups, the whole nine yards. This year we've had Black Ops II, Halo 4, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution, Mass Effect 3, Sleeping Dogs, Resident Evil 6, and Max Payne 3 just to name a few.  And I am by no means saying that any of these games are bad, but each and every one of these games have two basic principles to them:

1.  Get a gun.  Shoot things.

2.  Make it realistic.

That's fine and all, but here's the thing.  Sometimes I want to shoot people.  Sometimes I want to use my brain and think about what I need to do next.  Sometimes I want to have turn-based battle with my enemies, regardless of whether or not it's "realistic".  Sometimes I want to side-scroll in a 2-D realm, jumping on enemies, taking leaps of faith between every gap, and having a nice boss battle at the end of a world.  Maybe I want to have a good old fashion adventure game, one like Banjo Kazooie.  One where I have to collect items in a very unique manner in order to proceed onward.  Or perhaps I want to challenge my friend to a fight, and beat the crap out of him in the ring.  Throwing punches, combo's, and shooting fireballs from my fists.  Gaming isn't like that anymore.  Instead, we get to shoot things.  To be more specific, we get to shoot things in a realistic way, with realistic looking graphics, in a realistic looking place.  Oh how bland that is to me.

I remember a time before we needed fancy graphics or a gun in order to enjoy our game.  We were perfectly content with our 8-bit Mario.  You know, the one who wandered around a completely fictional world filled with extremely unrealistic monsters, ate mushrooms to grow, used flowers to shoot fire, and touched leaves to grow a tail that allowed him to soar into the heavens above.  I remember when I entered Hyrule Field for the first time.  That sense of adventure, the idea of not knowing where you were going, or what was going to happen next, it is a sensation that I have not felt in years. Games simply don't have that kind of feeling to them anymore.  Instead they find themselves in an online world, one that looks just like our own, it has no story to it, no adventure.  All it has is death.  Whether it is you dying, or you killing, it is simply filled with death, and nothing more.

So whatever happened to that fantasy world that I loved so very much?  Why is it that all these game companies seem to think that it's essential to shape their game after the world that we already live in.  Let me walk on clouds, let me breath underwater, let me eat various items that give me abilities beyond my wildest dreams.  I don't care if it makes sense or not, all I care about is that it's fun.  Isn't that what gaming is all about?  To be able to set foot in a virtual world; a way to escape your own?

But realistic games sell.  First person shooters sell.  Game's with amazing graphics sell.  If you leave that spectrum, then you enter the area where your game might not sell.  And nowadays very few people are willing to take those risks.  The video game company has become obsessed with money, they have forgotten what creativity is, and they will stick to this formula as long as it continues to sell.  This is the biggest problem I have with modern gaming.

It's not that I don't like first person shooters, because I do, I've spent months playing some of them.  It's not that I don't like games with realistic graphics and a realistic feel to it.  I love that too.  What I don't love is that this is every single game today.  I want some originality.  I want something new, something exciting.  To put it simply: I like to have a little milk with my coffee.

So ask yourself this:  Are you truly happy with the way gaming is going today?  Playing the same game day in and day out, just in a new package.  Or would you, just like me, like to see a little bit more original content on the table?

4 comments:

  1. the macro-financial scale of things today has left the creativity department feeling rather bland... but to add to that, it takes a lot of money to create a game from the ground up. Most games now are built upon the same engine, and there is very little diversity from each of those types. UDK, Unity...etc. or other dev kits are so economically feasible that there is no way independent developers wouldn't nab that chance. It's up to game-developers that have the big monies to develop their own engine and "freshen up" the gaming experience.

    Back in the day, originality was easy and the cost--far less relative to today. If you look at successful independent dev's, the ones that construct a different engine gameplay-wise are the most successful. Just look at Mine-craft, Demon's Soul's, or Assassin's creed... each had a diversifying game-play gimmick that made their series successful and each was based off of their mechanics. Building, fighting or climbing... each core bolstered by an accompanying world to give spotlight to their key features.

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  2. I agree with you, games have changed, however I still see some hope in indie PC titles and Nintendo DS games.

    I am tired of people going nuts over every FPS title, I do not know many people IRL who even play any other games outside of the FPS genre, however I have hope that sometime in the future, this trend will die out, do not get me wrong I like FPS, I just hate when they make all other genres the minority.

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    1. I agree. At this point in time I pretty much only play PC games anymore. Especially with Steam now having the Greenlight feature, I feel like more and more unique indie games are breaking through.

      I want to believe that the console's will also have their time, but I'm fairly certain that 90% of the console market is solely FPS players (perhaps that's a bit high). It's just getting too repetitive for my tastes, and I can only take so many Call of Duty's that literally have no changes (or very minimal ones) to them, and getting billions of dollars because of it... It just puts a bad taste in my mouth, you know?

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  3. I go to an aspergers school, and thank fully Nintendo is quite popular, helps me bear the FPS market a bit easier. Atleast Nintendo keeps their games traditional, the way WE remember,know and want it.

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