Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old Gamers Never Die

They just blow on their cartridges a lot. I have to admit that I never was a hardcore gamer, but I was a fairly serious recreational gamer (and have the Mario Kart 64 skills to prove it). I also did die quite often, though it was great fun. However, I left that lifestyle behind me, for the most part, when I was at my undergrad; perhaps not so much due to my diligent studies (unless you happen to be one of my parents), but more because of the many opportunities to engage in fun activities with my peer group. This is of course how I gained my crazy boardgame addiction.

Here in Michigan, where the boardgames do not roam as freely, I occasionally find myself with an abundance of time. In light of this I am returning to my roots and, once again, hoisting the controller aloft, this time to a new generation of games. This post is to say, I am not impressed.

While graphics have improved with the time, the essence of the game has, in a word, atrophied. I would separate the games I have played into two broad categories. One includes games with wonderful gameplay but no overarching story, or at best a weak facsimile thereof. While enjoyable, keep in mind that they are competing with MS Hearts. The other is characterized by a deep, even enthralling, plot line, which tragically is supplemented with an actual game that is indifferent at best.

Into this category I place Mass Effect and FF XIII, although they are engrossing to watch, and I intend to finish them at least once, I am somewhat dismayed at the lackluster game beneath the lovely story. As a DM, I believe that my appreciation for background information ranks up there with two year olds and people who have actually read the Silmarillion, but when I buy a game I hope to feel like I am playing something. Honestly, FF XIII comes on three CD's, if I had that kind of time I would read the Silmarillion. While in Mass Effect I at least get the feeling that I am making decisions and entering a role, in FF XIII I feel like I am watching a stunningly gorgeous and stunningly long movie.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on these games. The measure by which I judge them has been set by Chrono Trigger, FF III (6), Earthbound, and Secret of Mana, which may be an unbeatable standard. Even if we cannot exceed the games of our ancestors, I would ask that we at least produce games of a similar quality, worthy heirs to the legacy.

In other news, I think that, in addition to my Friday philosophical post, I shall try to put up a post, or even two, midweek on a lighter note. So all my friends out there see how absolutely glamorous my life is.


Kenny. said...

I think that your life is only abundantly glamorous.

Nicholas Graham said...

I like to use the Mass Effect and Final Fantasy series as analogies for how US society and Japanese society view "fantasy".

In Mass Effect, you take the role of an individual who must make tough choices to save the world. Essentially, the player is "reborn" into this new role. This is an American fantasy: a new life, a new person.

In Final Fantasy, you take on the role of multiple characters who must follow a path to save the world. The player has the feeling he is part of this group of heroes, yet distanced from the pressures of actually role playing. This is the Japanese fantasy: a new world, a new personal path.

I share your feelings about FFXIII. So, why are your listed old Japanese RPGs more fun than the current generation? I believe you nailed it on the head, the basic game mechanics have been lost under the glitter of HD. Perhaps there are economic reasons for this, I am not entirely sure.

However, I feel the Mass Effect franchise is evolving into the new standard for modern RPGs. The game is story heavy, but also filled with action. I recommend you play ME2 so you can see the changes the development team made. While there are still some parts of the game I didn't enjoy (the same gravity on all the planets, the lack of a feeling of exploration), at least the game feels like its dev-team is trying new ideas.