How Video Games Have Lost Some Of Their Magic (or) Am I Getting Old?

D 640x360 How Video Games Have Lost Some Of Their Magic (or) Am I Getting Old?

Video Games have always been an integral part of my existence. I can still distinctly recall the feeling I got when I beat the first Legend of Zelda game like it was yesterday. Every single detail of that moment, and it was decades ago. I remember exactly where I was standing in my living room. I remember the way my house smelled like Yankee candles. I remember my hands trembling from the faux-adrenaline I felt. I also recall it feeling like an actual achievement. Like I had REALLY done something. In hindsight, feeling that much pride about a game may have hinted I was a major nerd more than anything else, yet I find myself playing and beating games to this day, and rarely getting that feeling anymore.

The games look great, and many play great, too, but it just feels more cold and less personal. Though technologically speaking, games have never looked, sounded, or played better, it all comes at a cost. It is the same feeling you get when you go from watching a movie like Goonies to watching a movie like the most recent Transformers. It feels dead inside in comparison. It may be shinier, it may be faster and louder, but it is vapid. It is empty. It has no soul. As big and impressive as it may seem, it all feels like shine and no substance. And it is for that reason that I feel like gaming, as whole, has lost some of its magic.

I’ve come to find out that more factored into that conclusion than just the games themselves. Seems I am not aging as gracefully as I would like to think, and gaming held me up a mirror and showed that to me, whether I was ready for it or not.


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I know that games like Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us are masterpieces. I know this. Let me get that out of the way, right now. Even a glitch filled game like Skyrim was the kind of game I was truly longing for as a child. From storytelling to scale, I recognize modern games are staggering, and they further the genre as a whole. Hell, some games even seem to be overtaking Hollywood in terms of scope and budget. But let’s dismiss the BioShocks and Red Deads for a moment and look at the bigger picture, shall we?

The main problem with gaming now as compared to gaming when the boom first happened in the 80s with Nintendo is, now, if your game doesn’t make hundreds of millions of dollars, it is considered a failure. Do you know how many GREAT GAMES you have all skipped over this last gaming generation, simply because they did not sell well or a magazine told you the game sucked? Games like Enslaved: Odyssey To The West or Shadows of the Damned. Games that were fun, fast paced, funny, and brilliant, but didn’t make Hollywood blockbuster size profits, so they got shuffled away, left to die in the Gamestop bargain bins. That is the first part of this all being not okay. The big stuff gets pushed, and the great, smaller products get ignored and inevitably become obsolete as a result.

We can also look at games like Call of Duty (bring on the hate mail) to see why video games have lost their souls. Whereas the best part of gaming for any real gamer should be in the act of playing the game, games like COD end up having this super-linear gameplay, squashed into ten minutes of what feels like interactive storytelling per “level”, yet very little of it is actual gameplay we control. You have these big water cooler moments, but it hits you within thirty minutes of the game that four of the six hours of this sixty dollar game is all non-interactive or quick-time-events, which boil down to a perfectly timed button push. How does THAT compare to the ten hours of exploring the world of Legend of Zelda, or the hours put into mastering any of the brutal Mega Man games?

The other problem this causes is that these huge games that follow this blueprint and sell well are FORCED to become series. Look at the above pictured Gears Of War for example. The first game was great, because we had played nothing like it before it came out. And the new generation was still new enough that the graphics took our breath away, which was a big factor in keeping people intrigued initially. But look at that series now? They are four games deep, and after you played through the first two, what did the other two have to offer that you felt like you hadn’t played before? I will answer for you after the jump.

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Nothing. They had nothing. All shine, no substance.

And all you need to do is look at Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed, or any other series that seems to come out with a new game every year to realize, gaming is in a far different state than it has ever been in before. Suddenly, if you are not a blockbuster game, you go bankrupt and your gaming studio closes. Trust me, you may not feel it now, but that will mark the end of cerebral, good gaming as we know it, mark my words.

But I also need to be realistic here when trying to assess why gaming feels so old and distant to me, compared to when I was a kid, and that in itself is the answer. I am no longer a kid. Not saying the medium is aimed at kids, because that is not the case, but the heart and excitement of an adult versus a child is very different. And it hit me. Something devastating. A realization and feeling I have yet to shake from my bones.

It’s not just the games that have changed. It’s me.

Holy shit, I’m getting old!

This is a feeling I first encountered when I played the recent, rage-inducing Dark Souls. That “Holy crap, I’m getting old” feeling, and boy does it suck. I swear, if I was still that little kid, full of piss and vinegar, I would have made Dark Souls my bitch. But now, I am kind of old, and I get mad very easily, and within ten minutes of starting this game I want to tear my hair out and fling my controller against the far wall like a child throwing a tantrum. For me, that is a terrifying feeling. It reminds me of being a kid, handing my NES controller to my Dad to let him try a game I was playing, then seeing him react with a slew of profanities, screaming something about how there were too many buttons and too much to do, and then saying he needed to go do something as he stormed out of the room.

The slow creeping realization that we do, indeed, become our parents, is a wholly unnerving yet inevitable one for all of us. And it is gaming that is making me face that right now.

Titanfall1 How Video Games Have Lost Some Of Their Magic (or) Am I Getting Old?

So I think the proper realization is that it is, indeed, a mix of both. Games have lost much of their soul, and I am old and jaded. I am an old-schooler, raised on Nintendo and pixels, and just like any generation tends to condemn the generation that comes after them, it seems the older I get, the less this all makes sense to me. But in the same breath, the companies are not trying to make games that impress me. They are trying to make games that impress seventeen year old kids, and I guess gaming is just the first thing that really reminded me that I am just not one of those anymore.

Man, it sucks getting old.

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  • Axl

    @King_Anonymous And they deliberately make tiny articles multi-pages so we can reload their ads over and over again!!

    • ShujaatSyed

      Yeah. Like the hell was up with that?

    • King_Anonymous


  • eric

    please put cheats back into games!!


    I’ve always thought its wierd that game makers started focusing on doing ”more realistic” games… Its like they don’t understand we want to escape reality, not experience a wierd simulation of it. The perfect example would be MInecraft.

    • Tarek Ghandour

      Luckily most of the indie community is trying to keep that magic and elaborate it, im one of them:)

      • DemonDen

        I dunno, the “indie community” is putting out far too niche titles. Games like Braid, Blocks That Matter, Home, Lucius, Rogue Legacy and Sequence are a number of indie games I played that I was ultimately quite disappointed in. A lot of these games are based around a single concept, tend to be quite short and often evoke a past game/era. I can’t really say these games are innovative, because they all seem to focus on faithfully reviving the past, with a little twist, and this is a formula that’s starting to bore me.

    • Lunastaria SpiritDiva

      I’m a huge fan of JRPGS… the last thing I want is reality in my games… I love anything cutesy and anime… even games with terribly low review scores are fine by me most of the time if they are from the JRPG genre… I don’t understand Minecraft, but Star Wars Galaxies had some cool features that I miss for placing your own guild cities…

    • rookie1024

      The issue is several major companies have found lucrative niches (e.g. Call of Duty or any zombie movie) that they are leeching as much out of as they can. These are the mass-appeal games, which are the ones that are generally getting more realistic-looking. Indie games, which are made because a small company has a big idea, tend to be much more “magical.” Minecraft is indeed an example of this (although it’s not completely original, as Notch has stated).

  • BulletProofRooster

    As my father once told me: “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” However games today give you pat on the head for knowing where the buttons on the controller are. Maximum reward for minimal effort. Sorta like how Blizzard treats WoW these days.

  • o3mta3o

    i’m very excited about the emerging indie game market. i’ve played some awesome and unique indie games that have held my attention for hours. on the other hand, i got utterly bored with bioshock infinite and couldn’t even finish. i know i know. start the hate mail now…. i’m not even sure why i was so bored with it.

  • Johnny

    You’ve obviously not played The Last Of Us

  • Doug

    All strength to your sense of wonder and imagination brother. I’ve been moaning about the demise of quality games since the 80s, but things are looking up.

    Where are Dune 2 and Hero’s Quest? They had soul. Corporations cannot manufacture soul (since they have none), so they trust to manipulation which they can manufacture in boatloads. But manipulation is expensive, so every title must be a smash hit, so games must appeal to the ‘average’ player and not deviate from a known successful formula. Games cannot innovate because they might fail. They cannot be quirky or difficult to figure out for the same reason. And ZOMG games cannot under any circumstances be platform specific, so they must accomodate the worst features of each and every platform. Rinse. Repeat.

    I am optimistic about what indie devs are doing and I am completely not interested in what big studios do these days – other than laughing at their DRM SNAFUs. Let’s not forget that Shadowrun Returns was nearly impossible to imagine 5 years ago when the big boys really had a stranglehold.

    Indie games are the future. I hope.

  • HeyJay

    Great article but the parts about getting old and changing completely lost me and i just skipped it. I wanted to read about games losing their magic not how you allowed yourself to become disinterested in games by feeling older. I still feel the excitement i used to have playing games as a kid but really only when the game is genuinely enthralling. which most modern games are not.

  • Some Asian

    Yea, I totally agree. I’m just not as hyped as I once was for video games. Most of my friends grew up playing final fantasy or donkey kong, etc. but I never owned a console until I was in middle school. My first real play and conquer game was Megaman Battle Network. It was the best feeling ever beating it after many tries. It wasn’t till high school I realized I had rage issues when losing too many times in a video game. I’m more of a calm level headed gamer now then I used to be, but what I look for in games these days are the custom creation types. These days I’m less interested in games that have a preset main protagonist or any thing that doesn’t have custom creation of any type much like the game pic in this article Enslaved, that’s unless I’m really interested in the story.

  • Yousef Alemiem

    graphics and atmosphere so fabulous !!

  • Logan Linn

    You probably don’t understand…game companies make games that seem like there’re empty because they’re just trying to get games out quickly so people don’t get bored.

  • drummond13

    There are great games with soul every year. There are also terrible games every year. This is the way it’s always been. Frankly, I think 2013 has been an excellent year for games so far.

    I do agree it sucks getting old…

    • stjimmyrulesx

      I was feeling the same as this author a few years back, but this last year or two has restored my faith in games. Yes some games have lost a little charm, but it’s like reading a book, you fill in the blanks in your head and make you use you’re imagination since they weren’t capable of doing giant movie like set pieces. but characters, atmosphere and storytelling are moving in giant leaps. look at bioshock, last of us, skyrim, gta5, mass effects, even journey. These are all pretty incredible games.

  • David

    You need to play persona 4, or persona 4 arena…or any of the persona games really. It has what you’re looking for, trust me.

  • The guy in your closet

    Yeeeeessss this is EXACTLY how I feel yo. All the time. I remember telling one of my friends this, things just aren’t same anymore. The passion in game creation is scarce nowadays.

  • Nick

    the real problem is you grew up, the kids today are getting the same waves of emotions you got back then. Same with movies, my kid feels about transformers the way i felt about Goonies when i was his age and no matter what we do to try and see the magic they see we cant because our minds dont work that way anymore. we have seen to much of reality to truly live in the fantasy like we once did. Video games haven’t lost their magic we just got to old and cant see the magic.

  • TheCastros

    Thank God we still have Nintendo and Shigeru!

  • Mazen K.

    Great article. this is exactly how I feel. I’m 27 and I wish I was a kid again. How sad!!

  • Saros

    I wonder if people who has reached the age of 20 and have played games from Super. Nintendo all the way to Wii-U,PS4,XboxOne and adding additions of Computer games feels the same way? The guy in his 40s who have played the Atari 2600 is probably way out of his (or her) league nowadays

  • Dankshasta .

    I thought the Arma 2 DayZ mod had quite a bit of that old school magic.

  • test

    One bugbear I have is that if a certain franchise is profitable, certain companies milk that cow to death. Yes a game may have a shiny lick of paint but its pretty much the same game. A link to the Past–>Link Between Worlds. Its the same setting same map. With Zelda games, some of the design is lazy. Nintendo is recycling too mcuh content. But they are far from alone: its like games are designed by a committee or an accountant now. The magic has gone and it’s being sucked up an executives nose. Gamers want originality and a solid emotional story not one with massive plot holes or no continuity.

    Another problem is games need bigger budgets, because designing something pretty in HD with sorround sound takes much much more effort than a 2D game with plip plop sound FX.

    Most gamers over 30 who have been playing since a kid have seen almost everything a designer can think up. We still want to escape from reality, so why make a game with ultra-realistic settings. I know that my reactions are a little slower so playing twitchy games I struggle with and tend to win through strategy and/or attrition.

  • William W.

    There are a few things that I see in gaming now that make me sad, because we were doing so well in the beginning. No matter what platform you’re on, the game is for the most part kill as many bad guys as you can. Game developers seem to equate bodycount with what makes you want to play a character. To me, the thing that almost all of these games leave out when it comes to the central character is the opportunity to be HEROIC, when it comes to the actual gameplay. In how many of this FPS do you actually save anyone? My favorite example is Halo Reach. You had the perfect setup to give Noble team a chance to go out fighting for humanity, but they took you into the city for like ten minutes and then you were just back to killing grunts. L4D/2 could have been setup even better by giving players the opportunity to save other survivors instead of just pushing them down a moving shooting gallery. It’s like they’re stuck on this one aspect of it, and won’t try anything else.

    And one other thing! I’m a Dad with a daughter and we like to game together. Yet it seems the whole of the gaming industry seems to think that you wouldn’t want to sit down and play a game with your kids Something where a parent could sit down with his 2/3 kids and play an adventure together. I’ve yet to see a game company yet that understands this.

  • The Merovingian

    The beauty of AdBlockPlus. What ads?

    Though it doesn’t cure the problem of multi-paged articles.

  • Remy Carreiro

    It’s called a business asshole, so stop bitching about the fucking free service you get here and go fuck yourself, or better yet, offer a better alternative, you whiny c*nt.

  • King_Anonymous

    They do that for page views.

  • King_Anonymous

    Or go fuck your mom. I don’t care about this website at all, dumbass. It’s redundant shit. The “free service” can go fuck itself, just like you.

  • Remy Carreiro

    I hope the bridge you live under collapses on you. That reference will be lost on you, because high witted references don’t really seem your strong point.
    Regardless, best wishes, you angry twat.

  • King_Anonymous

    Thanks for the wishes you bigger twat.