It’s unwise to say that technology is cyclical, every day we can see how a rather large number of tech companies are putting out new products every single day to make life easier. Hardware-wise is just plain foolish to compare the power of a Nokia 5120 to a Samsung Galaxy S9. When it comes to video games, thing certainly gets weird because in this niche it’s where this sentence lose all sense.
Let’s take a look at the current state of the market: 2019 is just beginning, and there is not big news coming out of any of the companies, so we have to look back at 2018. Sony and Nintendo made waves with their current consoles and certain masterpieces that are sure to become representatives of this generation of gaming. The Switch has managed to be a successful product, and the PS4 has at least three more years of life until Sony unveils a new console.
We have to make a stop here to appreciate the fact that the biggest news from the two main players of the market right now where the re-release of old classics of yore. The SNES mini and the PS1 mini took by storm the video game scene. It wasn’t the first time this happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. Even with the limited scope of the companies owning the IPs, both Sony and Nintendo managed to make a lot of money out of their old consoles, especially after the big fiasco of the NES classic in 2017.
The message is very clear: Old-school video games, the most popular form of entertainment created by boomers are making a huge comeback. They have been for some time now and is just now that the biggest companies are taking notice of this.
Asking the Hard Questions about These Occurrences
Why is this happening? Why are video games going cyclical? As hard as it is to admit, it probably has to do with the fact that modern video games are full of sparkle and lack substance. It certainly doesn’t have to do with technology or graphic outlook at all. Video games have never looked better than they do now.
This is has been the trend for most companies since video games evolved from 2D to 3D perspective in the third generation (PS1/N64/Saturn). The surroundings of a modern video game certainly make you feel you are in the place where the game intends you to be, just take a look at the latest Zelda game on the Switch, or any of the Black OPS sequels in the PS4.
No, the problem is not technology. The problem is the writing, or to put me more bluntly: The story of most modern video games plain sucks. The worst part of this is that most developers know it and they are getting rid of the story mode on their most popular IPs in favor of online features. For the modern casual gamer, this is no significant loss, and it probably means nothing.
For the hardcore, longstanding players this is a knife on the back, and most of them are well aware of it. Just take a look at any Assassin’s Creed game. Sure the game certainly has improved since the first chapter debuted in the PS3 all those years ago, and the cinematic scenes lead you to feel like you are actually solving a complex plot. Now think how many missions are centered on killing someone, stealing something or guarding somebody. See a pattern there? We certainly did a long time ago.
Taking a Look Back to Appreciate the Present
Old-school gamers have also made sure to let newcomers know about the challenges posed by old IPs. There are a lot of legal ways to play old stuff, but even more, if you go the illegal route using emulator hardware. It’s funny to see a 10-year old handle a lot of kills in Fortnite, but it’s even more amusing to see how they can’t even pass even the first level of Contra III: The Alien Wars, one of the hardest games ever produced by Konami for the SNES in the ’90s. When any kid gets a hold of this experience it can only go two ways: they either discard the challenge, or they face it head-on.
For old schools gamers, the realization wasn’t really hard to figure out: Modern games are designed to drain money to the last cent. There is not a single company selling you a complete video game in the industry anymore, and that’s just plain sad. Games don’t measure their success by numbers of units sold anymore, the number of add-ons bought in-game determines their success of the game since they are used to increase your level on never-ending scenarios that only pose a passing challenge but offer no real end to it.
Just ask any player of World of Warcraft about the main plot of the game and they are very likely to get lost. Ask and old-school gamer about the plot of the first Ninja Gaiden trilogy, and he will tell you the story by memory.
Modern Video Games are not About “Playing” Anymore
At some point, developers lost their way. That much is true. The internet certainly changed the way players approached gaming and developers just went ahead and took advantage of the worst parts of it. Long gone are the epic adventures of Battle Axe, Street of Rage, Final Fight, Ghosts N’ Ghouls or Castlevania. While most of these games had basic beat-em’ up mechanics, players had to rely on their skills to finish them, and they were justly rewarded with an ending story that matched their efforts.
As a gamer, you were buying a fully finished and tested product, and you didn’t have to put down more money on the game to get some joy out of it. Mastering the game was your reward, and after you were done, you would go on and play another one.
Now it gets easier with each new release. Each game tells you how to play from the start. All of them have to be paid for, and after that initial investment, you need to put down more money to get anywhere or devote an insane amount of time to get in-game currency and upgrade your character.
The worst offenders are those who are offered “for free” since they are the ones that will ask for more money to equip your character with every single thing you need to advance in the game. Old school games take you away from all that. They are the modern venue to be entertained with the greatest hits of the past and to learn how to be a truly skilled player.
A kid born in the 2000s who can master a game where he has to rely on skill and the ability to stay alive and face a true challenged it’s certainly winning a new perspective in gaming as well as life. That’s what made past generations successful, while new ones are centered on milking the player dry with no added value.
That’s just out two cents on it. Feel free to comment your toughs below.