mario fire flower power

New games these days are good and all. I suppose. Thing is, as good as games have gotten today, there are a few key elements they’re missing. Things we used to have. Things we still need.

I think it’s time for a gaming revolution; I think it’s time developers learn some lessons from the people that got the industry to where it is today.

Or maybe this is just a grumpy old man making a list of things he wants that has little or no bearing on how things should actually be. You decide.

No saves (and finite lives)

F6-F6-F6-F7-F7-F7-F6-F7-F6. That’s pretty much how people were playing games a few years ago, until autosave checkpoints became the new thing. Kill an enemy, quicksave.

You could judge a gamer’s skill by which button he’d hit more, quicksave or quickload. I used to check the wear on people’s F7 keys and give them the nod of respect when the print was still clean.

Now of course the games essentially do that for you; every time you clear a couple of areas of enemies, a handy “game saved” notification will appear. You’re free to bullrush a collection of enemy troops as many times as you like, and the eleventh time you recklessly fling three grenades while spraying your assault rifle wildly, it actually works.

So you pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and move on.

Well bugger that, I say. How cool would Call of Duty be if you died three times and you were done? Nice try soldier, kindly report back to level 1 and get your shit together.

I’ll never forget that feeling of enormous pride (and relief) when my brother and I beat Contra for the first time. You actually cared about dying, you actually cared about finishing a game.

I want that back.

One life already? Scrub.

One life already? Scrub.

Insults and mockery

Well, this isn’t exactly something we saw in all games. Okay, maybe it was only text-based adventure games. Whatever. Shut up.

Anyway, I have pretty fond memories of various Sierra titles (Police Quest, Space Quest etc.) being stupidly difficult and then making fun of me for not realising that two hours back there was a stick in the background that I could fashion into a catapult which I could later use to smash a mirror an hour on and collect a shard of glass which could reflect a laser beam three hours after that.

Of course, all of that wouldn’t be explicitly explained, Sierra preferred to just call me a moron.

You could save in those games, but it almost didn’t matter. If you missed something critical, you wouldn’t find out until it was far too late.

Games are too nice now. Hell, you get a tutorial to make sure you understand how to climb a ladder or crouch-walk under a low beam.

And they don’t even laugh at you when you get it wrong.

Yup, that game is totally making fun of you.

Yup, that game is totally making fun of you.

High Scores

Yeah, some games still kind of have this, but they’re mostly casual/mobile games. I think developers are seriously underestimating our addiction to the virtual wang-measuring that is high scores.

Do you think Flappy Bird was successful because of the gameplay? The graphics? Come on. It’s hard as hell and gives you a score at the end. That’s it. Now go code something and be rich.

There is nothing more compelling to me than a game that lets me compare myself to other people. I was a die-hard DotA 2 fan until I discovered League of Legends had a ranking system.

Can you imagine how good Call of Duty or Battlefield would be if you had a little badge next to your name with your exact ranking on that particular server/region? Come on, I know you want that.

Without that number, this game would be nothing.

Without that number, this game would be nothing.

General Insanity

Games make far too much sense now. It’s all about gritty realism or traditional fantasy tropes. Even the post-apocalyptic RPGs or hardcore fantasy themed titles are bound up within the dull, boring border of things that actually make sense.

Most of the insanely popular games of my childhood look like they were made after someone spent three days huffing carpet glue.

A plumber rescuing a princess that eats flowers to throw fireballs? Sure. Landscapers that decide that what would really bring this castle together are bridgeless pits of fire and death? Seems plausible.

We never questioned any of it. Why does this tropical island have platforms floating in midair? Not something I ever actually asked myself.

I want a big, AAA title that makes absolutely zero sense. With no explanation.