Ahh, how I miss the good old days.
The gaming industry has seen a meteoric rise over the last few decades, once catering to a niche market of arcade dwellers and the musty scent of a basement where socially inept geeks would whittle the hours away in front of their Amigas.
Now, it’s a multibillion-dollar empire, and gaming is practically everywhere. On your phone, on your Smart TV, in Japanese urinals — you name it, someone has probably played something on it.
For many people, gaming has never been better. Consoles that feature high definition graphics and cinematic storytelling, mobile games with accessibility and immediacy, PCs that are stronger than Hercules himself –it’s all quite the spectacle, to be sure.
But there are two sides to every coin. And on the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find the greying hairs and squinting eyes of the aging veterans, waggling their fingers in disapproval and threatening to bop you with a walking stick should you show them any sass.
Which is funny, since most of us aren’t even 50 yet.
Bemoaning modern gaming is sure to prove divisive. For that matter, critically analyzing anything in gaming is usually going to result in endless vitriol, whether it’s the original Pokemon games, Nintendo Switch Online or functionally useless umbrellas.
Saying things just makes people mad, it seems.
But you know what makes me mad? Microtransactions. Incomplete products being rushed to market. Overblown cut scenes and frequent hand holding that minimize the time spent actually playing a game. Men with long hair.
At some point, gaming shifted radically from its core fundamentals, and as consumers, we really just sat back and let it happen.
Microtransactions, fortunately, took a step back in blatant application after the whole thing burst like a pimple in 2017, aka the year that EA wanted your money and more of your money and your parents’ money and your neighbor’s money and your great aunt Margaret’s money and your very soul… so that it could possibly be sold for money.
But some of the pus remains, and will never be wiped clean.
We’re talking about ‘deluxe’ editions, season passes and hard to acquire in-game currency, the latter of which can be expedited by simply exchanging actual legal tender. Once upon a time, if you wanted to unlock something, you had to earn it. Now, success can be yours for an additional $49, and it comes with an exclusive steelbook.
Which moves us onto the subject of incomplete games being pushed to launch. The fact that day one patches even exist is surely an indictment on the product, but it’s treated with a degree of normalcy.
Have you ever handed in an assignment, then when the teacher went to mark it, given them additional content that should have been present in the first place? If so, you’re a terrible student, or at the very least, studying at a very suspect school.
Alex has recently gone at length to explore how Anthem was guilty of this, and his piece comes highly recommended for an informed, objective look at the issue plaguing the industry as a whole. It’s a stark contrast to what I offer: bitter anguish and pimple analogies.
More than anything else, though, gaming ought to be fun. My idea of fun may differ wildly from yours; you might get a sense of satisfaction from laborious grinding, or multifaceted control schemes that span across several pages worth of instructions.
For example, dunking in the NBA 2K series requires you to to hold down a turbo button, modify the shot button and shot stick, approach the basket, tap the stick, have a clear path to the basket, own a high enough dunk rating, undergo an ancient Pagan ritual, and then maybe, maybe dunk sometimes.
I liked it when the basketball player dunked in the video game because I pressed one of the two possible buttons, and that button happened to make him dunk.
Sure, once you’ve acclimated to the controls, it becomes second nature. You’ll be Eurostepping and finger rolling and James Harden flopping with ease. But time economy is scarce when you’ve got commitments like a career and petunias to be tended to.
I only have enough mental space available for one complicated control scheme at a time, and to be honest, I’m probably going to dedicate that to Fire Emblem instead, because that’s life or death, dammit.
In all seriousness, for many of us, video games have had to take a backseat, and the newfound shortcomings have become amplified as a result. It feels more oversaturated, less special, and will doubtlessly continue to drift further from our interests with each year that passes.
Are we outgrowing gaming? Or has it outgrown us? In a sense, perhaps both are true. In the same way that we idolize television programs and movies from our childhood, we will blindly upraise games of yesteryear to a near untouchable status.
Was Sonic 3 & Knuckles really the pinnacle of the series, over the more robust Sonic Mania? Can we continue to claim that Final Fantasy VII will never be bested as an RPG? Is vanilla World of Warcraft truly gaming nirvana, woe betide any who praise the expansions?
…In my opinion, all three are true.
Again, it comes down to just that. Opinion. No one stance is more correct than the other, and doubtless the moment this goes live, someone will meticulously point out all of the flaws in games from older generations. Therein lies the fun; one person’s gospel is another’s slander, and it will continue this way for decades to come.
For now, it’s my platform. And my general stance is, the dilution and commercialization of gaming is deplorable and wrong. Should you disagree, feel free to vociferously rant in the comments. Just know that I’m an old man, and not only will I not be swayed by your argument, but I’m also liable to fling a deck chair at you.
These old bones have still got some fight in them, you punk kids.