Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Gaming Curmudgeon Lashes Out

My mother once called me a 'high tech bum' for spending too much time playing computer games and not helping around the house. Once, during a month-long Civ1 odyssey, I would rarely bathe, My days would consist of getting out of bed, powering on the PC, and playing Civ. Numerous times I would miss dinner with the family to play that one extra turn that would enable me to wipe out those evil Aztecs from the map. I used to come home from high school and spend hours playing Ancient Art of War, Lakers versus Celtics, and King's Quest. I would hang out in the computer and video game shops in Virra Mall just because it felt good to be around there.

I also binged on the Nintendo Famicom. I was hooked on Tecmo and Kinikuman Wrestling, perfecting my style so I could beat my brother. I have fond memories of Punch Out, Contra, Rygar, Excitebike, and Mario. So many games, so little time.

Then by the mid 90's, I lost track of the games. I was still a bum. Just no longer a high tech bum. I would only infrequently visit the computer game shops, which didn't hold my interest for too long. My brother though, kept playing, kept his gaming skills intact, while I languished. During this period, there was only one game I kept playing and it was Civ2.

A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to start playing games again. Not just Civ, but even some of the newer console games. My brother had a Playstation 1 and Sega Dreamcast which I wanted to try out. I told him "I want to play games again." So he handed me the controller and handed me a couple of games (I think it was a couple of 3D platformers and some of the Final Fantasy's) for me to try out.

My first thought upon seeing the new controller was "What's with all these buttons?" There were four buttons in the front, a gamepad, and two analog directional sticks. I was used to the Nintendo which had only two buttons, A and B, plus one directional pad. To add to my confusion, each of the four buttons in the Playstation Controller had a different function depending on which game you played. You push one button to jump, another to slide, another to duck, etc. "There are too many buttons" I told him, "I can only handle two buttons, A and B." Of course this was before I realized there were actually two MORE buttons in addition to the four. The controller actually had a left and right shoulder button that did different things.

My brain too was struggling with the 3D. I was used to dodging turtles and fireballs in 2D space with Mario. But this time I had to contend with the added dimension of depth. My character would jump in the air and I was too dumb to control where he landed because it was 3D. I couldn't handle 3D space, it was embarassing.

And the games were a lot harder too. My character kept getting killed over and over again. My pattern would be: Start level, Encounter obstacle, Get killed, Restart level. What's worse is my cousins who I used to make fun of when they were little, would get by the levels with ease. Games had gotten too complicated, too physically and mentally taxing for me.

Last year I got a Gamecube and tried my hand at gaming again. This time I actually finished a modern hack and slash game (LOTR The Two Towers, which is actually one of the better games available today). It was more of an exercise in frustration and patience than fun. My hands felt numb after the marathon sessions it took to finish a level. My brain too felt numb from the endless repetition of movements, repeat the same thing over and over until you get it right. Frequently the screen was filled with enemies which I couldn't defend against. Just repeat the combo, hack, slash, repeat the technique until you finish the level. On some levels I was almost in tears as I would be chopped down so close to the finish line.

First Person Shooters for the PC were no better. They make me dizzy and I get lost in the 3D walls and mazes. And it seemed to be endless repetition. Where's the fun in this? I was like a tired old dog who was helpless in the newer stuff.

All I ask is this - give me simple, fun games. Give me more creative gameplay, new concepts, rather than rehashing the same old FPS Shooter/Real Time Strategy/Hack and Slash/Action RPG that we have been force fed all this years. I want my games to be cool, inventive, and interesting. I applaud games with original concepts such as The Sims, Spore, Black and White, The Movies, SimCity, Animal Crossing. Give me more of these. Games today have become more of a manufacturing business, producing box after box of pre-fabricated products that add no new value, but which hardcore gamers continue to buy. Let's make games fun again please.

I want my games back.


rmacapobre said...

cool read. i never attempted to crossover to the console.

rmacapobre said...

with first person games. i had a difficult time playing it at first (this was at fujitsu) but you get the hang of it ...

Matt said...

Rob, if you liked King's Quest, you'll want to check out the Save King's Quest IX site.

It's a fan game that just got shut down. Some folks are trying to save it.