When I was growing up I must admit video games had a very large place in my life and indeed my heart. This was mainly due to the fact that at around the age of 15 I probably had more PlayStation 2 games than I had friends. Surprisingly enough, in the concrete jungle that was my high school, traits such as poor co-ordination, hair that looked like it had been cut by a cross-eyed infant with a machete, an awkward stammer when I spoke and shoes that had more holes in them than the plot of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs didn’t make me Mr Popularity. I haven’t even mentioned that I liked Liverpool FC and when asked who my lifelong hero was I replied with ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’.
Due to the fact that I wasn’t top of anybody’s ‘invite to party’ list, our household internet could barely handle MSN and I was about as welcome around the fairer sex as a Lumberjack at a Green Peace rally I spent a great number of hours playing video game consoles. Indeed, by 2005 I was the proud owner of a PlayStation 2, an Xbox, a Nintendo GameCube and even a Dreamcast, which I bought exclusively for Shenmue and its sequel, a pair of games that I probably love more than I’ll love my future wife. I knew I was weird, I knew my school peers didn’t like me and frankly I didn’t like most of them either so I would often spend my spare time gaming for hours on end, completing games with the type of efficiency and routine that a professional fighter such as Mike Tyson used to knock opponents out with.
Back then doing this was so easy for the simple fact that the games were incredible. The console generation that spawned the likes of the PlayStation 2 and the one before it that gave birth to its predecessor had a few offerings that stunk more than a fart in a jail cell don’t get me wrong but when the games got everything right they were special. I feel a perfect example of this is Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation along with Shenmue for the Dreamcast, mentioned earlier in a statement that I’m sticking to. These games had a few flaws of their own but what truly made them incredible was their storylines, their characters that you actually cared about and the fact that they were able to immerse you in their own universe and forget for a few hours that you were a weedy 15 year old who resembled Vanilla Ice mixed with Harry Potter. Shenmue’s story of Ryu Hazuki desperately trying to avenge the murder of his Father at the hands of Chinese Crime Lord Lan Di or Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake infiltrating a military base in Alaska to stop his clone brother from launching a nuclear weapon was edge of the seat stuff that easily offered as much intrigue and plot development as any contemporary action flick I can think of.
This leads me to the question that inspired me to start typing in the first place, what on earth went wrong? Granted, due to work commitments, other hobbies and responsibilities and partly because somewhere along the way I managed to make a few friends I now game a lot less than I used to. I own a PlayStation 3 but it sits in my room acting more like a decorative item than a games console and as I guiltily stare at it from around my Laptop I realise that I haven’t used it in around 3 months. As said before I am rather out of touch with the world of console gaming but at the same time their just seems to be nothing coming out these days that really jumps out at me. I have attributed this to a few factors that I am not fond of but that are trending faster than the Harlem Shake, honestly just so 1981!
The first culprits on my list are sequels and by God are they multiple offenders, the pieces are their make a joke of it if you want. I understand that video games have spawned sequels ever since Pong but the difference between a few years ago and now is that most sequels were made with a purpose. Developers would slave over a sequel for years at a time in an attempt to make sure all of the flaws of its predecessor were rectified before releasing it, now sequels seem to come off an assembly line. Who can honestly tell me that there were really any drastic improvements, and I mean drastic enough to shell out another £50 for, made between the last few Call of Duty games? Granted, Call of Duty: This Time its Personal may have a larger selection of guns and a game mode that lets you shoot zombies that wasn’t on Call of Duty: We Hate Russia but is there really any huge difference between the two?
The Fifa franchise is another prime example. It seems that developers now create sequels for the purpose of creating more sequels, they probably always did but by-God now they make it obvious. The sequels tend to rectify enough of the previous editions flaws to entice their following but leave enough of the old flaws behind and create enough new ones to warrant releasing a brand new version a year later. Call of Duty: This Time it’s Personal may offer realistic particle effects but I can still poke my assault rifle through doors and Fifa 2013 might offer realistic rainfall but you can still play as Real Madrid and have Sergio Ramos get megged 5 times in one match by Pàdraig Amond of Accrington Stanley.
Which leads perfectly to my next gripe, most of the games that I’m expected to shell out £50 for aren’t even finished when they hit the shelves! It seems like in this generation releasing a patch that stops online lagging or rectifies the fact that the game decides to randomly crash as soon as you hit the halfway point as if it’s simply lost the will to live is enough to get you a promotion and get you labelled with the title of a ‘Development Genius’. Whereas a mere 6 years ago it was likely enough to get you fired for being careless enough to let such a glaring issue pass through the testing phase in the first place. Or my personal favourite, when developers decide to create ‘extra’s’ for their games such as new levels or costumes that really should have been there in the first place and then have the nerve to charge you an additional fee on top of the £50 already paid.
Perhaps the add-ons are a desperate attempt by developers to try and make their games stand-out. You can take Mr Ordinary, put make-up on his face, a flower pot on his head and dress him up like a clown but the fact is he’s still about as exciting as being in a coma. This is another issue; most of today’s games seem so similar. This is mainly because the number of innovative ideas and developers seems to have decreased and as a result a lot of the same stuff is getting through. The truth is that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen may have slightly differing strands of DNA but they both look the same, they both sound the same, they both came from the same place and their both about as irritating as pulling teeth. The same logic applies to the majority of FPS’s currently saturating the market.
My final grievance is that the majority of modern video games seem to offer very little in the way of reasons to actually care about what’s going on. I hate to reference Call of Duty again and you can call me old fashioned but I need more incentive to shoot a man in the face other than ‘he got in my way’ or ‘he’s a terrorist’. The writer’s, if you can call them that, have the nerve to tack on a plot that could be written in a crayon, by a 12 year old on a match-box about some terrorists wanting to take somewhere over and use it as the basis for a ‘story’ mode. Coupled with the fact that it’s essentially the same plot that gets used for the entire family of Call of Duty games and believe me those things multiply like bunnies in the summer and the whole thing just feels half-hearted.
I can’t even remember the name of the protagonist in the last game that I played; maybe he didn’t even have one, and due to the lack of a personal touch or any real connection with the player I find myself giving up on most games before the climax. It’s like taking a girl out that you have the hot’s for and then half way through dinner realising that her personality has less flavour than the measly salad that she ordered and as a result you just want to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, whether she follows you or not.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned, perhaps I take the gaming experience out of context or maybe due to my relative absence from the scene for a number of years I’ve missed a memo or two. Any of the previous is possible but for whatever reason I simply don’t enjoy modern console games as much as the older ones. There are occasional exceptions but they are few and far between. Ultimately this entire blog will likely be irrelevant in a year or so anyway because news has recently surfaced that with the emergences of the next generation of consoles, the option to purchase pre-owned titles is set to die out along with the current generation of hardware. As a result, people of my current financial status will likely be unable to afford the price of admission anyway and that is a shame.
Completely agree? Completely disagree? Want to put your 2 Cents in? Please feel free to leave comments and feedback. Many thanks for reading.