Yet More Thoughts on Simplicity and Era Contrasts

Yes, yes, I know—at this point, it’s almost like beating a dead horse.  Still, considering how many gamers are to some extent interested in older gaming, the comparisons between retro (and retro-ish) games and their modern counterparts come up often.

I play modern games as well as older games, and I recently realized something—modern games seem more insulting.  The tutorials are sometimes forced, cut-scenes unskippable, all of which force you to sit through the same drivel no matter whether you’ve played numerous times before or just couldn’t give a toss about the story.

It’s insulting because a game that forces you to sit through a tutorial assumes you’re an idiot who couldn’t figure things out on your own, and it always assumes the current play-through is your first one, and, thus, need to have your hand held through every bit of game play.

If video games had sentience and personalities, some of today’s games would be the condescending jerks who are mildly surprised you can breathe on your own, much less anything more mentally taxing.  Try and list games put out in the last few years that don’t always remind you what buttons do what when the situation comes up.  Then make a list of the recent games that can’t let you go two steps without telling you what the buttons can do at that moment.  See which list is shorter.

The personalities of older games would be like ‘Fifties “rebels”—popped collars on their leather jackets, a cigarette dangling from a corner of the mouth, a palpable air of indifference surrounding them.  You don’t want to read the manual and know what the heck to do?  Not their problem.  You figure out what you need to do on the first try—what, you want a cookie?

Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t reward you for figuring anything out; the closest thing to a reward was the chance to not die.  These days you can get a shockingly large number of achievements for completing a tutorial.

Really?  I’m getting rewarded for getting my hand held?

I was reminded of my Let’s Play for Captain SkyHawk.  If you didn’t read the manual or remember what button did what, you had about five seconds from when you were handed control of the plane to figure it out before you started meeting enemies.  You either knew what to do or you were killed.

Now, I have to admit that there is some temptation to shake my virtual cane at modern games and their players and use phrases like “back in my day”.  There’s even a bit of the more dangerous temptation—the temptation to think that older games were “better” than modern games.  It’s tempting, but ultimately it’s specious at best.

I look around at reviews for modern games—and I noticed that, generally speaking, the older the reviewer, the lower the score, again generally speaking.  I’ve seen quite a few reviews for Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed II and a Third and Assassin’s Creed II and Seven-Eighths—sorry, couldn’t resist—from older reviewers that were various flavors of “not good; stay away”.  Younger reviewers tended to like the series, again just speaking generally.

As we discussed before, one of the difficult things about being an older gamer is realizing that we aren’t the target audience anymore.  As we grow and our tastes change, and/or as the business end of gaming shifts its focus toward what its target audience wants, we see how different modern games are to their older counterparts.

Ultimately, there are two main reasons for the difference in games—technology and demographics.  You can do more with games because the relevant technologies have progressed, expanded, and evolved.  The target audience want different things than now-older gamers did when they were the target audience.  Those are really the only real reasons for the differences in gaming eras.

It’s sometimes difficult to keep that in mind.  We older gamers sometimes have a similar mentality as when a previously-only child learns they’re going to have a new brother or sister.  We used to be in the spotlight.  our desires and needs were tended to—and now they aren’t.  Most older gamers can remember that, but the temptation to fall into thinking we should still be the target audience is, really, a strong one.

And with some of the games I’ve seen recently that sold disgustingly large numbers of units, I think I can sometimes see why it’s such a strong temptation.

Now get off my lawn before I shake my cane even more vigorously at you.


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