The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Recently, and by recently I mean it is still going on as I write this blog, me and a couple other GIOers were talking on Twitter. I was strongly dissatisfied with Kingdom Hearts so far, and so we got into a little discussion on it. After I zoned out, they continued to banter back and forth, and said a couple things that really intrigued me. First, Sora3Ben brought up the fact that I was probably using today's standards as a measuring stick with which I then judged the game by. True, true. But then iDreamRunner brought up an even more interesting statement in a conversation that branched off from it. "In-game tutorials have spoiled us." And as these two ideas began to coalesce in my brain, I realized that that's a sentiment that has become increasingly vocal amongst some older-school gamers. Games are spoiling us. Tutorials have replaced manuals, innovations in design and graphical display have made certain older games increasingly unpalatable, and even the way we play games has become markedly different in the expectation of online multiplayer and achievements placed on each and every title. And you know what? It's true. Gamers are a spoiled, entitled lot. But, with all said and done, I wouldn't have it any other way. Read on.
The issue with this sentiment, first and foremost, is that these are innovations. There's a reason people have begun to expect a higher standard from their games. Like the example up there, manuals. These described what controls did what, so you could thumb through them whenever lost amongst how to perform a certain action on a title. Quite frankly I haven't paid attention to these in years. In-game tutorials have replaced these for a reason, namely the fact that you learn the controls whilst immersed in the game themselves. It's the difference between reading chemistry theory and actually appearing in a lab with a professor. You're open to learning by doing, not by studying. Yes, we all know they can get a bit tiring to gamers who already know how to walk and control the camera, but it more than makes up for it by dispensing little granules of info on controls you might not have known existed. And even aside from that, society as a whole is moving away from a paper-guzzling orientation, and games reflect that often shipping with flimsy, thin manuals that barely cover the basics. You have digital downloads as well that don't come with manuals at all, opting instead for in-game tutorials. And as for used games? Don't even get me started on those. Currently, Kingdom Hearts doesn't have an official retail release of the first game that's still being manufactured. Which means you're left to scrounge around for secondhand copies, and if it's a manual-reliant game, you're left to puzzle and struggle it out yourself. My copy of TWEWY...used. But it contained a much more creative method in providing little in-game notebooks explaining everything. Does that make me spoiled? No! Well, actually a bit, yes, but It also makes me a more knowledgeable consumer.
Let's take one more aspect of games as an example. The difficulty. Old-timers scoff and say gamers have been spoiled to going through them too easily. But here's the issue, that's an innovation too. The "pure" way to play games from ye old NES and arcade games was, in the case of the NES, to pad out game time and give gamers something else to do to avoid the complete lack of compelling stories and cinematic scenes. As for arcades, punishing difficulty got you to lose your quarter faster. With the advent of modern technologies and stories, they actually pad out their games with content, even if it is just cookie-cutter quests. There's nothing special about bone-blistering difficulty, it's merely a callback to a time where that was actually relevant and necessary to the perpetuation of the market.
Let's look at another market we can draw some allusions to. Take...TV for instance. Are we spoiled for not watching in black or white? Maybe spoiled for retiring our antennas, our VCR's, or our SD viewing habits? Nope. Let's bring up another, movies. Are we spoiled for these newfangled picturemabobs suddenly being able to move? Maybe for these being able to talk?! Or play music synched with the movie?!?! Madness, I say, utter madness! But you get the picture. These are all innovations brought on by time progression, consumers and corporations getting savvier and managing to make these cutting-edge technologies cheaper and cheaper until we begin to accept them as part of the normalcy of everyday life. So why, for the love of the Light, can we not manage to carry over this sentiment to the gaming industry? Many of us have instead been calling newer games soulless, perhaps, or maybe too bombastic, or a cash in on a general market, often for no better reason than they've progressed from the games of yesteryear. Change is our friend in this market, and I can honestly speak from my own firsthand experiences. I've went from blowing through Sonic 2 on Genesis to moving into the 3D realm with Mario, exploring the wide expanses of Vvardenfell to watching Nathan Drake crack wise outside a Buddhist temple in glorious HD. And, for the most part, these improvements are just that, improvements. Issues come not from the enhancements from the long-used formulas, but when something or other doesn't work out, some sort of experimentation. Most of the other is just sour muttering about "When I was a kid..." type quips like you're some sort of aging man.
Coming to my other point, we also have the fact that we shouldn't judge games by today's standards. Yea...no, that's a bunch of baloney. We've moved into higher standards, and we should see other games in that light, which separates the wheat from the chaff and provides us with a more complete view on what games have really been timeless classics. Chrono Trigger? Loved it, just less than a year ago when I first played it. Metroid Fusion? A great title for GBA, and ten years old. God Of War, I popped that sucker in and the game still was thoroughly enjoyable for the time I played before getting sidetracked, and those are all with my standards of today. Kingdom Hearts, not so much, I had several issues spanning a full gauntlet from camera and platforming to menu scrolling and worlds looking clearly like skyboxes (Honestly, if I didn't know better I'd swear the game came off the Sega Saturn). If a game is truly timeless, let it be judged by the standards of the day, and avoid fanboy nitpicking when you find out the title feels painfully antiquated when someone else plays it one, or two, or ten years after you did.
Maybe I digress. Maybe I go too far. Maybe I'm just talking out of my ass. But the fact remains, no matter how much people complain and call us gamers entitled, it holds no water. We don't carry a sense of entitlement, no, we just expect what every other medium expects, to enjoy the games that are still enjoyable in modern times, and be allowed to look at older games with a more critical eye when they're lacking features that have become a mainstay in the modern gaming industry. I Love Lucy is still one of the darlings of the television networks, Casablanca still gains droves of fans, and the Beatles still remain a best-selling artist forty years after they disbanded. But much that was popular gets looked at today and is recognized for what it is as being more of a period-type creation, one that doesn't hold up to modern scrutiny. So is it entitlement? Is it really no more than a gamer acting like a spoiled petulant child? Or could it be...gamers have simply taken the innovations for innovations, and continued on with their daily lives of enjoying the new masterpieces and realizing what was once unseen in games has now become a mainstay? And at the end of the day, that's all it is, moving forward with our industry as any other does. Gamers game, and most continue to expect to enjoy the game they want to enjoy and can still enjoy for what it is, not what it was, be it a new release or a classic, and if that faults them as spoiled, entitled, and selfish, well, you can consider me that right along there with them.