Have True Video Games Died?

A True Classic

Having grown up with games for the duration of my life, I can’t help but feel that gaming has lost its way, and has gone off-track. Long gone are the days when gameplay – not the high-end, multi-million dollar companies who published them – mattered, and carried the game’s reputation. I remember – and still have – hours upon hours of nostalgic fun whilst reliving some of my ‘childhood classics’; ‘Final Fantasy VI’; ‘Secret of Mana’; ‘Pocky & Rocky’.

Even now, 20 years after the release of these Super Nintendo games, they are immensely enjoyable to play; the gameplay is simple, they aren’t complex, and they’re accessible – something I feel most modern video game creators fail to think about when they are brainstorming their latest hits.

The 8-bit graphics were adequate and easy on the eyes. The polyphonic audio was memorable. (I would find myself whistling some tunes around the house!) The games tempted you with new stages and bragging rights against your friends and fellow players; there was a need to keep playing just so you could knock off a friend’s high-score, or get to more difficult stages before them. A great deal of strategy and quick reactions were needed to maneuver your little character round the almost-impossible levels on a rigid D-Pad whilst ghosts, ghouls and all sorts of enemies flew from one side of the screen to the other at wicked speeds. When the players finally finished that one level which they’d been battling on for so many hours, an enormous sense of achievement overcame them.

Pocky & Rocky

Sadly, however, it’s become much less common to see modern video games with TRUE gameplay qualities. In the past 5 years, video games have become much more focused on mindless violence, sex, guns and drugs, and less focused on skill and decent gameplay.

Gone are the cute raccoon avatars that threw leaves at sinister looking matryoshka dolls; instead, being replaced by the Grand Theft Auto-styled ‘catch a whore, throw her in a car and drive it into a the nearest lake’ gameplay. It’s no wonder that children are growing up swearing and being much more violent than they ever used to be when certain game makers are allowing unrestricted access to ‘hyper-violence’ in the form of titles, such as Man Hunt, Mad World, and Call of Duty; one of the more memorable scene included engaging in a game of Russian Roulette, only to graphically behead a Vietcong soldier.

I feel that the video game industry should take a step back and identify what made gaming enjoyable; how they could improve how their finished products play, in oppose to furnishing them with as much violence, gore and expletives as possible. After all, it’s most definitely gameplay that matters most.

How do you feel about modern video games? Do you feel that the themes that are becoming ever present are acceptable, or should manufacturers return to their less violent, fictional roots? Are Apple’s iPhones and Android devices bringing old, true games back, through the creation of casual games, such as Doodle Jump and Angry Birds?

Please let me know your comments.

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About Adam Fearn

ThursdayNightRants@gmail.com @ThursNightRants View all posts by Adam Fearn

9 responses to “Have True Video Games Died?

  • Inny

    Saw your post on the forum 🙂 I’m not really a gamer, but I get what you’re saying. I used to love PC games, and the Playstation 1, Med Evil was my favorite game 😀

    I’m only new to this myself, so I’m not sure how to give (or get for that matter) feedback, but I will say that you write very well, hold the audience’s attention, and have personality. Great blog!

  • outdatedreviews

    The thing about today’s gaming scene is that many of the most prominent games are huge multimillion dollar games. And because of this many people now expect games to be as such. So to compete with the games that sell the most (those million dollar titles) the publishers that care more about money (which sadly is most of them) have their developers make those massive games. They have the consoles pushed to their limits because that’s what’s impressive, and impressive sales. And those simple and pure, gameplay-fueled experiences don’t always push the systems to their max. At least that’s what people think, but that’s not true. Nintendo makes millions of dollars every time it even says Mario and those games are completely based around gameplay, so much so that they’ve been rehashing the same story since the dawn of time. And even though the don’t sale as well indie games are were its at for more oldschool style games. Games like Super Meat Boy and Limbo hark back to the olden days with their simplistic but rewarding gameplay.
    I still love games that are huge and complex, but playing games like Super Meat Boy, Limbo, and Duke Nukem Forever are just fun, even if the aren’t as huge as GTA.

  • Mommy Kate

    I agree, most of modern video games nowadays are becoming more violent while becoming more exciting and addicting. As a friend used to describe, he loves killing people~ ain’t this scary! Definitely a big no-no for kids.

    By the way, I like your post, you write well and I think you’re blog theme is great. I’m also a newbie at blogosphere so I can’t say much. But you’re in the right track. Keep blogging 🙂

  • technogazette

    Awesome post man!!
    And your views about the current position of video games in our lives are superb and accurate.
    Keep up the good work. 🙂
    I really look forward to read your next blog.

    Regards and best wishes.

  • chunkee2na

    Hey, thanks for leaving by that awesome comment.

    Games have definitely changed. And sadly, it’s vastly different change compared to other industries throughout the years. Movies, books, and music still have that indie scene that contains heart and soul and is still able to turn in a modest profit.

    Publishers and media are the two of the biggest culprits. I don’t live in a first world country, so we don’t get game ads at all. But from browsing on websites, you see adds for what we would technically count as blockbusters (Call of Duty, etc). Around here, that’s all you hear anyway. Which leads me to the third and most important culprit. The consumers. No one wants to sit down and play something that is not a sport or doesn’t contain explosions of some sort. You could argue that we need to vote with our wallets, but we aren’t enough. If it keeps making money, they’ll continue making those types of games. Just look at the Top 10 games that are on torrents, most if not all are what we call blockbusters.

    I wanted to end this comment here…but I just remembered GTA4 and Mass Effect 2. The former decided to go for a more realistic story than previous iterations (however, the story did get in pretty bad in some spots, especially the ending). It was lambasted for losing what made GTA fun.
    The latter, ended up having refined shooting at the cost of several RPG mechanics (which are debatable). This may or may have not been due to EA’s influence.

    I’m glad there are games like Limbo and Super Meat Boy out, if only people would be more open-minded.

    • A.L.F

      Hi Chunkee,
      Once again, it comes down to education; modern day players seem indoctrinated by the shooters, and are too closed-minded to experience much niche genres; e.g. Japanese RPGs. It’s quite saddening, as a multitude of classic games are being missed due to their companies not being as well funded as Activision or EA.

  • TouchGamer

    For a while there it sounded like you were describing “true gameplay” as the difference between hardcore titles from back in the day, and some of the more casual games of today (like plants vs zombies). But a few hardcore titles are still being released in modern day, but are usually labeled as “Indy.” As @outdated reviews mentioned, games like Super Meat Boy and Limbo come to mind. Both starting as Indie and small developer titles. As it’s been said above, it’s the multi-millionaire companies that are making those mass produced game series like CoD and GTA. And the small-time dev’s are the ones still making games with value, and engaging gameplay.
    I think you might see iPhones to be bringing back that old school gaming experience, because the app store is becoming home to increasing amounts of indie developers who want to start off small.
    At this point I wouldn’t include angry birds as one of those small-time developers, and I didnt enjoy that app nearly as much as less popular mobile games (League of Evil for example).
    The modern and larger gaming industry wants to see how they can push things to the next level, while these smaller indie developers are drawing from what made gaming in the past an incredible experience.

    • chunkee2na

      I disagree about iPhones bringing back that old school gaming experience. What you are seeing now is just a limitation of current hardware. As soon as it becomes possible (and feasible) to produce more 3D games, you’ll see that happen a lot more often. Remember the beginning of XBLA? Look at what it has grown into. They might be pick up and play for us, but the general public isn’t so tuned into games and may have other hobbies that suck up that little free time they might have.

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