Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trying to play videogames, as an adult. [huge rant]

So I had a bit of nostalgia kick in. It had been years since I really sat down and played a videogame (well other than Street Fighter 2). Something I used to be really in to as a kid, the hobby vanished once I became a real workin' man.

When I was a kid, I took pride in my endless patience, skill and intuitive conquering abilities when it came to any game, at any time.

Surely videogames nowadays are no different, right? Better graphics, big deal.

My girlfriend has a polished Playstation 3. Something I never invested in myself. It's slick like steel, cool looking. A symbol of technology passing me by.
The games she has all look intimidating. So much time and effort goes into every detail, even the cover art is overly epic. Over the years, game design has been taken more and more seriously, it seems.

I pick her crisp copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and go to play it. But then confusion kicks in.

How do I turn this on? There's no buttons on the console, just like, touch sensors or something. I put the disc in, there's no tray, it just swallows it in digital silence. The game doesn't start right away either, instead there's this homescreen with 50 icons floating around.

The controller doesn't work. There's no wire connecting it, I panic. Then my girlfriend touches the Power button on the controller for me with a sigh. Now it works.

I can't find the game among the icons. So she finds it for me. Then hands me back the controller again.

Explosions and lasers occur, extreme music blasts MARVEL VERSUS CAPCOM FREAKIN 3! BOOOM!!

Then more explosions and lasers and colorful flashing bits. I fight through the fanciness, dodging pop up messages saying I have no internet connection so I "can't play online"

I didn't even realize that was a problem. Can't I just play alone?

I select "Offline mode" and the game sort of snickers at me. Who's this loser, it thinks.

Finally, the character selection screen. I pick a super extreme looking Spiderman, Ryu, and Akuma. Characters I remember from childhood. Fond memories of whooping on games with these guys back in the day. Should be a piece of cake, I got this.

More explosive menus occur, I don't understand them so I just tap buttons until the first fight starts.

Then this happens. ^^
I have no idea what's going on.

Things are moving onscreen like a MMA fight during a rave, while on acid. My mind quickly recalls the complex moves from a dozen years ago. Ones that would crush any opponent.

Well these didn't work.

I was trying too hard. Trying to time things, implementing strategies that are no longer needed, for patterns that no longer existed. Instead of 50 perfectly-timed button sequences to pull off a cool move, you just press one button and BAM the world's aflame. I can't even begin to comprehend the constant seizure of lasers and fire and bullets and screaming onscreen.

So I stop playing.

I feel old. I feel like a defeated moron. What the hell happened to videogames?

I know! I'll play Megaman 2. Now THERE'S a game.

Firing up my ROM version for the PC, I'm excited to finally be in control again.

Then I realize all I can do is jump, die, and shoot little white dots. I'm cute, tiny, a pipsqueak. The enemies are all bigger than me, all cooler and stronger than me.

Megaman is instantly and always a very obvious underdog. He can't do shit. It's all on you, the player, to win anyway. This will require patience, dedication, timing, REAL skill.

After just 10 minutes, I can't take it anymore. This game is so hard. I can't DO anything but die, it seems. This cute little game is RUTHLESS.

My thumb gets tired, I can't think fast enough. I want everything now, I don't want to wait. Megaman's impossible odds bother me, unlike before. "Megaman, you suck."

When I was a kid, I could blast through this with ease. Now I have zero chance of success. Why?
The game hasn't changed.

I have changed.

Is it just me? Or has society become this way, as a whole? I'll argue it has, by simply looking at videogames from today.

Here's a fine example of what's out there now.

God of War.
In this game, you're immediately a badass named Kratos. You can slice and dice enemies with violent fluidity. Some of the bosses are larger than you, sure, but you're still infinitely cooler than they are. You never feel small, like you do in Megaman.

You never feel threatened, like you can't win. There are a few moments where you might have to try more than once to succeed. But you'll NEVER have to throw your controller in 1992-like rage. You can save whenever, have endless lives, and a million spectacular moves right off the bat. As Kratos, you're a god. No one can stop you, and then it ends when you destroy the hell out of everyone.

Instant gratification, overwhelming explosive visuals and sounds. No need for the player's own imagination, no need for any real dedication to win.
Not to discredit the brilliant artists and engineers behind these new games and effects. Even the 'average' games now blow my mind.
But what does this all boil down to?

It's not the extreme videogames' fault. Naturally as technology advances, things will get bigger and badder. The games only reflect what people want. And that's more of everything, right now.
This results in a generation of jaded weaklings, with only immediate gratification on their menu. When these kids meet difficulty in the real world, they'll crumble.

They'll be an entire mass of people that won't go out and build things, or know how to fix things. Widespread lonely depressants that never meet their neighbors, but have a thousand distant online acquaintances.

Then again, I don't know.

Maybe this is just a misguided rant. Maybe this is just me feeling old at only 26.

Or maybe I should just try playing Megaman one more time :)


  1. Poignant Andrew. I don't like games so the whole addiction is hard for me to understand. Heck, I don't even like sports. (Yes, I said it.) My kids do though (esp. my boys) and I hope and pray to God that they don't end up lonely souls because of Nintendo DS. Hope and pray.

  2. Your kids are darlings, I think they're the exception :)