Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed more and more complaints cropping up about simply not having the time to play all the games we want to. The source of the “problem” is easy enough to identify: more and more high quality games are being produced, coupled with the NES generation finishing up college and going out into the real world. Maybe I’m simply more sensitive to these complaints because I find myself facing the same problem. My time now split between work and home, adjusting to not having that freedom to stay up until 2am playing games or having to forego playing something altogether so that I can spend time with friends was, frankly, annoying.
[[image: ar_012309_old_01.jpg:I Gears of War 2 are moved to the top of my heap because we can play them together. (Side note: regardless of your opinion of the game, Gears of War 2 deserves praise for how well balanced the story mode is when two people are playing on two different difficulties.) To this end, I dug into my backlog and restarted a game that fell by the wayside about a year ago – Trauma Center: New Blood (forcefully brought to you once again by our good friends at Atlus).
I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say the game’s a good fit because it’s much, much easier with a co-op partner. Noticing how much easier – and in some ways, more fun – the game is with two people has had me reflecting a lot about the industry’s recent push to cater to Nintendo’s new “non gamer” crowd. In some cases, I think that it’s possibly nothing more than pure coincidence that design choices appealing to those people are appearing now. Just as I grew up playing games and am now dealing with balancing the hobby in an adult life, so, too, are more and more people roughly my age entering the games industry and probably doing the exact same thing. (Look no further than Talking Time for proof of that!)
[[image: ar_012309_old_02.jpg:Unlimited continues aren’t manly enough for this game!:center:0]]
Granted, as development studios have spent the last couple decades making games, they’ve learned how to make better games, how to smooth out the bumps from their earlier efforts. We’d probably be seeing overall higher quality games either way at this point. However, I’m positive that we’re starting to see the fruits of a generation that grew up playing home consoles. Not only do we get things like Bionic Commando Rearmed or Contra 4 – games clearly designed by players that mastered and deeply loved the originals, and understand why they were so good in the first place – but we get things like the new Prince of Persia, games that seek to eliminate frustration so I can have a good time whenever I find the time to play. I could even argue Persona 3 and 4’s day-to-day system was designed with adults in mind, as it offers the convenience of letting you spend as much or as little time playing as you can afford.
Will this phenomenon alter the industry and ensure that the type of great games I like slowly go the way of the dodo? Probably not. In fact, I kind of feel better about growing older now. The developers we grew up loving – Miyamoto, Kojima, and the like – won’t be around forever. They’ll grow old, retire, and eventually pass away, and while they’ll never be replaced, it’s comforting to know that more of us – people that truly love those games – will be there to take their places. I’m not naïve enough to think video games aren’t a well-oiled money machine, and it’s easy to be very cynical about them sometimes, but there’s some small comfort in knowing there are people climbing the corporate ladders out there that grew up doing the same things I did, that understand what a great game is, and what a great game can be. Yeah, I’m definitely ok with that.