I love games, old and new. I even appreciate the bad ones, because someone took their time and created something for people to play. We live in an age where games are looking better and better, where the biggest developers are cramming as many pixels or colours onto the screen. Which is, frankly, amazing. But as I’m getting older (and more cynical), it feels like some of what made gaming great in the early days has been left by the wayside. Here is a list of reasons the games industry needs to appreciate its past.
1. The World Building
I’ve recently been on a CRPG binge, playing through Baldur’s Gate, Fallout, Icewind Dale, Torment etc. And the thing that stuck out to me the most? How immersed I was in those worlds. Baldur’s Gate has a colour palette primarily consisting of green, brown and grey. The main story is somewhat cliched (you’re a chosen one, unknown heritage), the voice acting is a mixed bag (it was the 90s) and the sprites are as animated as a statue. Yet I couldn’t stop playing it. I was completely hooked.
It was the combination of art style, music, sounds effects, and most importantly, writing. I really felt like I was in a worn-down tavern drinking what might be ale. Everything clicked and made sense to me, despite how weird it might get. I cared about the random people I came across because I cared about the world they were in. The world I was in.
2. The Freedom
Do you ever run into a problem when you’re playing a game where you just feel restricted? For example, in the Assassin’s Creed series, pre Origins, you would be basically guided exactly on how you should kill a target. Yeah fine, you killed them but you won’t get 100% completion because you didn’t hide in three bushes. Oh, you hid in a bush this time? Well, you didn’t do it in 37 seconds. Tough luck.
Older games, especially, but not exclusively, RPGs, seem to respect the player. They point at a thing and say “Go do it!”. But how will you do it? Gothic is a great example of this freedom. You are put into a world and told not to die and talk to a mage. Simple. But who will you side with? Will you fight or befriend? Steal food or hunt? The choice is yours and the world will react to those decisions. Go on, be free!
3. No DLC
One of the weirdest things about buying a game today is that most of the time, it’s not actually a full product. There are good modern-day examples, like the expansions for The Witcher 3 which were both great. But mostly, it’s not so great. I have to pre-order the deluxe edition of a game so I won’t miss out on a quest or some extra gear. No thanks. I can’t even unlock all of the characters in Mortal Kombat, I have to buy them. I’m not awarded for my skill, just punished for having a hobby.
Granted, a lot of developers of older games would releases expansions, but they were exactly that. Expansions. A whole new world with 100s of quests, or maybe they’d change up the overall gameplay. Half the time is basically a sequel in all but name. I want to buy a product and know that it will be a complete, fulfilling experience.
4. The Hype
Remember the Believe trailer for Halo 3? I saw that in a cinema and it blew my mind. I was so excited to play it and so were all my friends. A big part of that is because nothing was like Halo at the time. A few games tried to be a “Halo Killer” but they most definitely missed the mark. The biggest games of the year would feel like events, and they were.
Games had identities that felt individual and special. Now it feels like you know exactly what the game is going to be like after seeing a screenshot or a few seconds of gameplay. You know you’ll be collecting one hundred of this or killing a thousand of that *cough* Ubisoft *cough*. It feels like there is less and less to be excited about with the latest releases.
5. The Stories
Do you remember when you’d get into school after a weekend of playing games? You would have a bunch of stories to tell your friends. You would tell each other about the time you first came across a Hunter in Halo. Or maybe you finally did a 720 in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like people aren’t sharing stories with one another anymore, it’s more about people winning than actually experiencing the game. Roguelikes, although somewhat overabundant, make a valiant effort in creating unique experiences for everyone. I just miss that feeling of reveling in someone else’s tall tale of their gaming exploits.
There is Hope
The gaming industry is always exciting, and there have been plenty of fantastic games from AAA to one-man passion projects. There has been a big resurgence in CRPGs and older style games in general. Games created by smaller teams with an amazing vision and unlimited passion. This also seems to be influencing bigger games as well. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a big deal. We’re also getting a second Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines!
So those were my five reasons why gaming shouldn’t forget its past. What do you think about old school gaming vs modern gaming? Do you have any great stories? Let us know below and thanks for reading.