Too old for old school

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.

13 thoughts on “Too old for old school

  1. There really are too many good games these days. Take it from a loser who never did that “extended education, self support, life partner” stuff and is screwed when his parents die: I have all the time in the world and I’m still playing stuff from years past because there’s just not enough time for so much quality.

    But, you bring up an important point, which is that 2008 was so clearly the Year of Co-Op.

  2. I’ve always felt overwhelmed by the number of games out there. Older systems like the Amiga or Spectrum, or the PC-88 and MSX, I know next to nothing about. Plus there’s a number of arcade games I’ve missed. Actually I wouldn’t know hardly any of them without MAME, which is illegal, and the same goes for most old games. So I think growing up and letting go is just part of life. There will always be too many games out there. Right now for instance I’m psyched about The Dark Spire, which looks like Wizardry. But then I’m like, “well if I’m so psyched about this, why don’t I play Wizardry 1-8 in the meantime?” I think that’s why you see so many “Let’s Play…” and walkthrough-videos on YouTube: people just like to see the games in action as a kind of Cliff Notes. But think about how much some players played classic arcade games for high scores. They’re play those night and day, a single game. So I think it’s all a matter of honing in and finding certain games that you like the most rather than trying to play everything. There’s always movies and books too. Who has time to read all those books? Ever see that Twilight Zone episode, Time Enough At Last? heh heh it could be remade with a video game nerd instead of a bookworm.

  3. Dokapon Kingdom was the first game I thought of too, Nich. I’m playing it with my wife. I just can’t seem to remember which fine company publishes it though…

  4. This article kind of struck home with me. I’m not moved out into “the real world” yet, but I’m in my sophomore year in college. I do make time to play co-op games with my roommates and friends, but, obviously, game time is severely lessened than years before. Co-op or single-player, there’s always one thought that can nag at me – and always has, even in the days of elementary, middle and high school – the thought that you have something else you should be doing. Even when finishing the work you have that’s due for the next day. I still find time to play, but it’s definitely different than years past.

  5. My friends and coworkers are around my age — between 25 and 35. None of them are what Teh Web might call h@rdc0r3 g@m3rz who love Master Chief and GTA. But they’re not as crazy as I am — unlike me, they don’t obsess over Civilization or Dragon Quest or otome games. So what do we have in common? I share my 8/16-bit games with them, and they introduced me to this Guitar Hero thing. So that’s how this weird, aging fanboy gets to occasionally play games with other people.

  6. Trauma Center is easy anyway. What’s hard is trying to get a perfect score, which I’m not even going to try and attempt. Without trophies, that kind of thing doesn’t get me all excited anymore. :

  7. I got inspired by this article and actually brought my girlfriend into a Gamestop. She already knew about the Wii, but she was immediately enamored by the CSI game on the rack. I then showed her Trauma Center: Second Opinion and explained that it could be a multi-player game. We might be going halves on a Wii in the near future.

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