Friday, December 25, 2015

The real reason why old school gamers are not so hyped about modern games

Hey folks, I wasn't going to write today (just after Christmas), but while playing Dark Cloud (the PS4 version) I realized that all this time I have been analyzing and ranting about the old school vs new school topic in a very superficial way. First, I am going to shoot down all my own misconceptions and then I'm going to explain my new point of view on this subject, so let's get busy and start this up. Keep in mind that the phrases that are bold and underlined will serve their purpose on the final explanation.

Warning: This article came a little longer that I expected so I hope you like reading

Yes, it is incomplete, but it takes a while to get to the end.

Misconception #1: Modern games are smaller in scope.

This one has been going around my head for a while now. Some gamers say that modern videogames have become smaller in scope, but the advent of open world and sandbox games beg to differ. The truth is that if we take some exceptions out of the equation, games seem to be getting bigger, for example Metal Gear Solid V even in its incomplete state is still bigger than the previous installments. Now let's be clear about something. Modern games have become bigger and have more stuff to do, but bigger isn't always better, keep that in mind.

Once again glued to a game that has the same simplicity as some of the modern ones.

Misconception #2: Modern games are too simple.

In order to debunk this failed hypothesis, I had to look back at some of the games that are considered classics. Take Dark Cloud for example. The premise of that game is really really simple and although the game is really good, it is basically a dungeon crawler that tried to have a Legend of Zelda vibe (Sony even dared to call it "The Legend of Zelda Killer" at the time). It is quite safe to say that if it weren't for the re-building towns element and the interesting weapon system it had, the game would had passed under the radar at the time and to be frank, the first time I saw it I wasn't so moved by it, mostly because I was accustomed to other types of JRPG and was not into their simpler brethren called dungeon crawlers. What I mean by all this is that modern games are not necessarily simpler in nature when compared to old school classics, so that means that simplicity is not the problem, but the overdoing of simplistic ideas.

Sometimes it is just obvious, but oh well...Keep reading.

Misconception #3: Modern games always hold you by the hand.

This one is half true, but only on certain games and some limited aspects. Don't get me wrong, I am pretty much against games becoming casual oriented, but I have to admit that many technical fixes that have come to pass are really good. From been able to skip cutscenes, smarter save game schemes, been able to continue from more reasonable points when losing (avoiding having to repeat all the story cutscenes and build up) are nice fixes that eliminate some of the annoyances that we used to suffer in the past. The problem begins when developers try to fix what it's not broken.

Repetitive is one thing, but zombified in front of the screen is another.

Misconception #4: Modern games are mindless.

This one is one of those complaints that gets repeated over and over again over an old school vs new school argument, but if we take a look at the classic games we still enjoy and defend so much, we can see that this statement crumbles beneath its own weight. Many of the games we see as "heralds of a better era" can be pretty complex, but also many of them are quite mindless. In fact, some of them actually rely in the repetition of actions (like grinding) and design patterns that follow a loop, which are things that we mostly blame on the modern era, but were there from the very beginning. Now with that out of the way we can state that the level of "mindless gameplay" is not a defining factor and that the real issue is how they handle that mindlessness, because a game can be monotonous and fun, but only if doesn't make it a vain and pointless process.

What we old school gamers really think then?

That is a question that has a really simple answer and while it may look as if I am criticizing my own way of thinking as a gamer, believe me I am not, as this is perfectly o.k. and I even encourage it so bear with me. The real thing about us old schoolers vs modern gaming is just one thing...

We don't want to compromise our gaming experience

You may be asking yourself what I meant by "compromise" so I will explain. By "compromise our gaming experience" I meant having unwanted mandatory changes that feel like baggage in the mind of any old schooler who values a simple, but solid gaming session. For example:

  • We sometimes resent and classify a certain game element as unnecessary because it becomes a hassle and it feels like it's been force fed to us. 

  • On other occasions we see how the developers took a familiar sense of simplicity and exaggerated it exponentially to a point where we feel like we wasted money on the game. 

  • At some points we may even feel that all of our efforts in a game have no real value because we are only catering to a network structure that aims to keep us playing for years (mmorpgs don't count for this statement) making it all feel like a chore or like a mobile game on steroids. 

  • Last but not least, we sometimes feel like a game tried to be so big and open that each objective feels like a mile away with a path filled with pointless filler content. It's like having to go to the grocery store to get some supplies, but having to talk and do some favors to each of your neighbors before you finally get to the place you wanted to go on the first place. Some games do really good at this, but then companies start to imitate the trend and quality is lost. This serves to prove that not every game is meant to have an open world. 

For us, some modern elements that have become standards are just extra weight that we don't need. We feel that resources could be put to a better use and that we should go back to having games that are dualistic in nature (main game + extra stuff) rather than a merge of "one size fits all" features. Some modern games still do the right thing, but many don't, and we don't understand why they become hits in the gaming scene. It is quite complex to say this, but although we were raised with old school games, we feel like we are actually regressing to the days of Atari instead of the modern gaming perfection we expected. Maybe this is because most of us were raised in the 90's so we didn't lived those rudimentary gaming days in the 70's/early 80's so our school of thought is in the middle of gaming history (for the time being).

gaming industry today
This is the gaming industry as it stands today (minus a few exceptions)

In summary, we just don't want to compromise our gaming experience for the sake of others (mostly the game publishers out there). We don't think that the gaming scene has changed so much from the days of old, but we feel like it is out of balance and 100% profit oriented instead of been something that really caters to everyone (they use that phrase a lot these days, but we all know that most of the time it is not true).

Now that all the explanation has ended, tell me what you think. Is this is the real reason why old schoolers are skeptic about the future? Is it selfishness or only a set of high quality standards? Is our gaming taste just too expensive to make? Reading about your thoughts on this subject would be awesome.

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