Five Reasons There’s Never Been A Golden Age of Gaming
Today’s industry is nothing but first person shooters!
It’s hard to argue with this one, because there is some truth to it. Yes, we have way too many first person shooter games nowadays, and, I admit, I love shooters. I played “Doom” religiously and even purchased the “Demon Gate CD” which contained “666 levels.” In fact, some of those levels were adult rated and showed innocent me pictures of naked chicks. Yes, “Doom” introduced me to porn. But, whenever I hear this line, another one is usually added talking about how creative games were back then. By stating such an ignorant statement, I can’t help but say that these people simply weren’t there.
Back then, there were only three noteworthy genres; platformers, shooters (vertical and side-scrollers), and beat-’em-ups. Sure, there were other genres, like fighting games (“Street Fighter 2″ comes to mind), and sports games (anything by EA), however, in terms of quantity, they were eclipsed by these three genres.
Take a look at the platformers: a lot of them were used to promote company mascots and movie licenses. Beat -’em-ups were considered the ultimate co-op experience with your friends. And shooters were the best way to test one’s reflexes. Don’t get me wrong here, I love these genres, but to say that today’s industry is nothing but a handful of shooters and RPGs, yet preach about how great things were in the 90s isn’t going to garner you any respect.
Fortunately, with the introduction of 3D visuals in the mid-90s, games became a little bit more creative due to the advancement of a third dimension. But these games were still in their primal state, and saying they were “the best” due to being the first to pioneer the technology is a rather stupid thing to say (hi “Ocarina of Time” fans!).
Besides that, first or third person shooters are our new platformer. Back then, you were on a 2D plane, and saw your character at his/her/its side. Now, you are in a 3D environment and all you ever see your character’s ass, or through their eyes. In other words, the only major change was the inevitable evolution of technology.
The Nintendo Seal of Quality meant something.
One of the most common misconceptions about the history of video games was the quality of the games. You’ll hear phases like “It was about the gameplay, not the graphics” and “we weren’t so marketable so they had create unique games.”
This is an incredibly silly argument because it assumes that developers were intentionally holding back on graphics to make a good game. What really happened is developers had to work within many limitations, and were forced to work around them in order to create a profitable product. You’d think developers would still create games with a small number of sprites if the NES had no flickering issues?
As for creativity, again, that’s another myth spawned by people who weren’t even alive in that era, or people with their nostalgic glasses on too tight. Much like today, games in the past were knock-offs of one another; “Streets of Rage” was “Final Fight,” “Mortal Kombat” was “Street Fighter,” and the numerous animal-related platformers were “Sonic.” (I still remember the ad for the unreleased “Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill” starring the Clinton’s pet cat.) And, since we are on the subject of creativity, do you think a games like “ICO,” “Flower,” and “Shadow of the Colossus” would have survived in the early to mid-90s?
Quality is a subjective matter, but some of the key factors that make a great game are its length, design, and replayability. I’ve already explained that most games in that era didn’t last long and had no replay value, but design? One needs to remember, when talking about the games of the past, that the designs for most of them were simplistic at best. Besides the memory and hardware limitations, the controls themselves were rather limited as well. The original NES and Sega Master only had two action buttons, the Sega Genesis had three, and the Super Nintendo had six; which is one of the reasons why it wasn’t until the PlayStation when developers started creating more complicated games.
The reason I bring design up is because many retro gamers swoon about how great games were back then. When you look at them in more a subjective matter, one cannot deny that most of these games were pretty much just experiments for what the future might hold. Let’s take a look at “Mario 64.” Yes, it was one of the first well-done 3D platformers, and was, initially, the driving force behind the Nintendo 64’s sales. However, when “Mario Galaxy” was released, it refined the mechanics of the previous title yet “hardcore gamers” still claim that “Mario 64″ was the better of the two. As for “Zelda” fans, “Ocarina of Time” versus “Twilight Princess.” “OoT” started it, and “Twilight” improved it many ways, yet the nostalgic gamers prefer the older title despite the glaring improvements.
To even further prove of my point about the quality of retro games, just look at the Seanbaby.com, the Angry Video Game Nerd, and Spoony Experiment. If retro games were so amazing, why are so many people gaining Internet fame by bashing them?
Today’s games are casual!
I saved the worst for last.
Ever since Sony created their marketing blitz for the PlayStation, video games as a hobby has slowly become more of a mainstream activity to be enjoyed with friends. The old video game audience consisting of comic book nerds, social outcasts, and young kids has expanded towards teenagers, young adults, and even seniors.
You would think that with a growing audience, and more developers jumping into the market would result in a bit of happiness for gamers, right? Instead, they detest this. They view video games as their “turf” and no one should be allowed to set foot on their sacred ground. When Sony wasn’t trying to advertise a console but a “hip lifestyle” to the public, gamers everywhere were scared of the future of video games.
Why? Because they believe that games are going to become too “casual.” Slowly the enthusiast games of the past have become elitists, and look down their nose at anyone who was new to video games or didn’t buy the same games as they did.
I know what you are thinking: I complained about kids thinking they were hardcore by talking about games of the past, so I must be a hypocrite. Nope, I’m not insulting casual gamers, I’m insulting posers. A casual gamer sees video games as entertainment. He buys a few games, enjoys them for a few hours a week, and doesn’t waste their time posting on the forums. He simply views games as a toy and that’s exactly what they are.
Yes, this quarter-of-a-century-old writer who has spent too many hours playing video games admits he plays with toys. Video games are simply an entertaining distraction, and a way to kill time between waking up and going to bed. The only reason why people love ‘em so much is because they provide a level of competition and challenge that G.I. Joes or He-man figures couldn’t provide. They allow us to challenge the creators of the game, beat our friends, and see who is the best in the world.
But again, casual gamers see something we love as toys. They don’t like games that take 40 hours to beat, or games with complicated control schemes. Do I have a problem with this? Of course not, why should I? However, there is a group of gamers that feel the need to belittle those who prefer casual games over “hardcore” games like “Quake” or “Starcraft.” It shouldn’t matter if someone enjoys “Halo,” “Madden,” or “Rock Band” over “your” games; it isn’t your concern. If you are going to go completely apeshit over someone else’s taste in games, you have bigger issues to deal with.
The other reason why gamers detest the casuals is because they feel the quality of the games has been degraded because of them. They either complain about the short length, the difficulty, or the simple control scheme. They say these things, yet continue to talk about the good days with “Super Mario Kart” or how they beat “Starfox” within an hour. Worst of all, they either end up buying very little games due to their stupidly high expectations, thereby contributing barely anything noteworthy to the industry, or simply pirate them. Meanwhile, those shitty casual players spend hundreds of dollars on video games and give low budget developers an audience to sell to.
Oh the horror… video games are dead.
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