Despite the fact that I could not be called a serious gamer, I think I could be described as an occasional serious gamer. This would differ greatly from an ‘occasional gamer’ which I would describe as someone who would play World of Warcraft or Solitaire for a few hours every couple of days.
That’s not me. Just like the classically thought of serious gamer, I’ve played a very large variety of games and have anticipated some of their releases. I played the first Warcraft soon after it came out, I had an illegal copy of the first Starcraft’s Bata, and I’ve played all the premier shooters like Wolfenstein, Ultima Underworld, Doom, Duke Nuke’em, Quake, and more. A short list of my favourite games would include Super Mario, Tetris, Black and White, System Shock, Legend of Zelda, Metriod, Sims, SimCity, DX Ball, Descent Freespace, Get Medieval, Lemmings, SimTower, Terminal Vilocity, I could go on and on.
But the major difference between me and a real serious gamer is that if you were to average out how much I actually play in terms of hours per day, I don’t play very much. Maybe it would be in the micro seconds range.
While I really do love games, though I love watching others play them even more, I become board with them very quickly. After I’ve beaten a particular game or I’ve unlocked all of its content, I really don’t want to play it any more. There are of course exceptions to that rule and there is a handful of games I play repeated, if infrequently.
Games that are basically open ended, like Spore or WoW, I’d play until I’ve experienced all the different facets of the worlds but then soon become bored. World of Warcraft is a good example of a beautiful game that I just have no desire to play, it’s simply repetitive to me.
But that’s not the topic of my blog today. While I don’t want to play WoW I think it’s a fairly good game with lots of updated content. If someone wanted to, they could play unendingly without repeating previous goals.
What bums me out about the games being released now, is how poorly most of them compare to the older games. Think of Secret of Monkey Island and LaChuck’s Revenge or the first few Final Fantacy games. When was the last time you saw a game of their calibre? Even the later Final Fantacys don’t compare to their predecessors,
But a hint as to why the new games fall rather flat is hinted at in the programmer’s commentary for LaChuck’s Revenge. If you’ve played it you’ll remember the bouncer on the other side of the gambler’s door and his finger puzzle. The programmer’s said that the puzzle was left blank for weeks while they figure out how it would work and that today it wouldn’t have been impossible to leave it for so long because of the need to record voice talent and to maintain schedules.
Tight timelines, voice recordings, and complex graphics have all conspired to make new games lame compared to their predecessors. Black and White is a good example of this. The first B&W was an amazing and complex game with a fully adaptive AI, while the second was an amazingly gorgeous empty world. I waited weeks for it to be released and upgraded my video card to play it. I finished the game in two sixish hour sessions. It was wholly disappointing.
System Shock 2 was one of my all time favourite games, I loved SHODAN completely, her every creepy distorted belittling line was incredible. When they announced a spiritual successor to the game I was filled with anticipation but when I actually played it, I found it very disappointing. A lot of System Shocks elements were there and the plot elements seemed to be compelling but the story line itself was rather lacking and the game focused more on fighting then puzzles or item collation. It just didn’t have the same kind of spark the System Shocks had.
Those are just the glaring examples to me, or at least the ones that let me down the most, but in general I find most games just really have no soul to them. Recently I got one of those tycoon games to waste my time with. The manual was a joke, it didn’t even tell you how to build rooms or what those rooms did. There was no tutorial and the campaigns just threw you into the game. It took me a few hours to figure out how to place rooms, how much space to leave between then to allow access, and how to meet the needs of the characters. That was the only challenge and after figuring out how to actually play, it was easy to max out the available space and being receiving enormous incomes. There was no challenge at all.
I could just go on with examples but I won’t. Since gaming has moved away from being a challenging quest to more of a Hollywood movie, which is another bummer, it’s lost all of its depth. For god sakes, to appeal to new players the creators of Metriod basically rapped Samus of everything that made her great and an appealing worrier and just turned her into a thin unexceptional anime character. She was conceived to be an over six foot tall, two hundred pound muscled Amazonian, now she’s the lowest common denominator. It just sucks so much that her original look was changed to give her Barbie appeal, which is exactly what programmers are doing with their games.
To me at least, Samus has become the mascot and the victim of modern gaming trends.