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.Next
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.Previous Next
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.
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.Previous