Saturday, 20 August 2011

“The only thing good to come out of the past is history”- Things that gaming is glad to be rid of

As with most things, aficionados of gaming often have a tendency towards an overly strong fondness for the retro. Hence the reason everyone still loves the original “Super Mario Bros”, why people continue to lament the decline of Sonic, and why people still punish themselves with the hideous difficulty of early “Castlevania” games.And I, for one, am most certainly a part of this dewy-eyed nostalgia, although if I’m brutally honest those games were not my personal “golden age”; rather, the N64 and Playstation were my generation’s console of choice. But I was still very familiar with those styles of games as a child, and I’m surprised to see the hangover of that period still having a strong effect on video game design today.

Admit it, getting a game over screen after getting to the boss of labyrinth zone is a kick in the nuts.

Given how often (particularly older) gamers lament how gaming has lost its way, and become a charmless,
homogenous corporate predictability, I find it strange how often people forget many of the more annoying aspects of older games. So as a counterpoint to this moaning, I’m going to try and remind people how much gaming has improved.
Firstly, save features and save regularity. Many older games do not have a save feature of any kind; you simply had to complete the game in one run, or if you were lucky got a password system. Do you know what’s great? Autosave. Been playing “Oblivion” for 2 hours without saving and it crashes? Sorted. And on a related note, respawn points in general are a massive plus. If I have proven I can reliable do a section of a game, I probably don’t want to have to play five more times just for another crack at the harder section that follows it. Everyone likes a challenge, and I would not want games to be toned down, but involuntary repetition is not challenge, just boredom. This next one may seem a little petty and irrelevant, but the normalising of wireless controls is criminally underrated. I am as guilty as anyone for taking this for granted, but the jump between Wii and Gamecube becomes painfully clear when I trip up passing dogs with my attempts to sit more than 3 feet away from the TV. Wireless controllers are tidier and simply more convenient, not least when you lose you rag, as you can throw them that much further.

Gamecube Wavebird Wireless Controller - Platinum
This wireless gamecube controller fetches $130 dollars these days. I can see why!
Removal of lives systems. I’m only going to try again, so unless there is permanent limit on lives for the entirety of that games life, it ain’t gonna work. And probably the biggest complaint I see from hardcore gamers is that games have become too easy. My first response to this is, quite simply, that they haven’t. You played “Super Meat Boy”? “Bayonetta”? Have you forgotten that they still make “Ninja Gaiden” games? My second response is that, even if they have, it is probably a good thing, as games were stupidly unfair at points. I also think that truly hardcore gamers should seek out and create their own challenges. The quote in the title of this article is from “Bastion”, a relatively easy action rpg, which contains so many optional difficulty modifiers it is possible for any gamer to modify the game to their skill level. Games like “Castlevania” and “Contra” just came with one mode; hard. We still have these difficulty levels, they are just buried behind the more welcoming aspects of games. And I refuse to believe gaming being more accessible can ever be a bad thing.


  1. I was thrilled to see the lives system mentioned. Game Over screens will always have a special place in my pointless annoyances.

  2. And I like to add that in the past you used illegal copies or used a lot of money for your games. Nowdays you can buy discounted games from Steam with almost nothing.

    So true. Started playing late 80's and played actively for 15 years. I started playing again about 10 years ago and found out that games are much more better designed and more playable than retro games that really are pain in the arse if you try playing them now. The only things good come out of the past is Settlers II and history. Why play the oldies when you can have modern quality games that has every aspect designed well.


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