Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Playing it Old School

I am an old school gamer. I was reflecting on games, trying to see what stood out for me last year and it dawned on me that I am an old school gamer.

Thinking about it some more I realized all my favorite current gen titles are old school.

Like Dead Space, that's pretty much Doom with fancy weapons. The core gameplay is the same as Doom. You find switches, open doors and kill everything in the way.Yes you fix things here and there and solve puzzles but at the heart of it Dead Space is Doom.

Dark Souls has to be the most old school current gen game ever. It's entire principle is based on the old "risk/reward" philosophy which governed early game design. And in true old school fashion the game trains you through clever level design and enemy placement then tests to see if you were paying attention by throwing a boss at you. Dark Souls is the bastard child of titles like Castlevania and Ghosts n Gouls. It prides itself on being hard and that's what the allure is for a lot of old school games. Beating that challenge.

Lets do one more.

Borderlands one and two. They are Diablo with guns. You kill hordes and hordes of enemies and then rejoice in that sweet sweet loot.

Old school.

Do you know what these games have in common? They are all fun to play and they have absolutely fuck all story. Yes Dead Space has an interesting back story, but in the narrative of the game it takes a back seat to the shooting and bodily dismemberment.

But this is ok because these games aren't about stories. They are about the gameplay. I love these games because of how they work and play.

Now why does this make me old school? Well because in this day and age these kinds of games are very few. Aside from indie titles the majority of the gaming scene is dominated by "new school" games.

The Last if us, Bioshock Infinite. Uncharted, Assassins Creed. Mass Effect

What do these games have in common? Well most fans will tell you that they have a great story.

"I love the story!" "I played it for the story!" " o the story!"

Too bad that these games have the worst fucking game play.

No... stop. Really... think about it. What do you do in Uncharted that's so fucking amazing? Explore? There's barely any exploration as you progress through a mostly linear  path. Platforming? You climb and jump off highlighted areas.

What do you do in Assassins Creed? The combat? I played Black Flag half way killing every guard in sight because all I had to do was push two buttons. Counter and attack. Is it the platforming? You hold down one button and move... the rest happens for you. Mass Effect? Aside from the speech wheel that lets you fuck everything what is the draw in that gameplay wise?

What about Bioshock infinite and The last of us. Hailed as the greatest games of 2013. Hell Last of us has been hailed one of the greatest games of all time.

What do you do in them? What is the innovative gameplay feature in The Last of us? And don't get me started on the shitty gun play in Bioshock. I think if Bioshock deserves any award it should be for being the most over rated game of all time. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. While most gaming sites have been taking it up the ass for this game there are some game devs that have come out to say: WTF?

But it's ok... because these games have a great story.

Since when is the story the main draw for a video game? Since when does gameplay and function take a back seat to story telling? You think up every single game that was popular before and you will find that the awesome story was usually a bonus. Old school games were built on gameplay and the story complimented that. Now days it's the other way around.

I know that in this day and age the video game medium has come a long way from what it used to be. It's not just something that performs and functions for kid, it's a major market that caterers to all walks of gamers. And that's why I'm an "Old school" gamer... because I can not for the life of understand the appeal for these "new school" games.

It's not all games mind you.

I'm very thankful for Indie developers that are making a killing with their brand of retro "throw back" games. Titles made popular through game play not just story like Mark of the ninja, Super meatboy and Spelunky to name a few.

There are big titles that have not forgotten what it means to be a video game. Games like Farcry 3, Crysis, Battlefield, Halo (most shooters in fact), Skyrim, Fallout 3, Splinter Cell conviction, Dishonored, God of War, Devil may cry, Portal. All of these titles have awesome gameplay features that are expanded by the story. These games also have "so so" stories which can be forgiven because of the gaemplay... that's how it should be.

 But that's how things are these days. "Play it for the story" one of my buddies will say. I've got one friend who will cheat through through some games because he hates the gameplay but wants to know the story. Hell I'm guilty of it to some extent myself with games like Allan Wake. 

As a game maker isn't that kinda shitty? That someone glances over your gameplay for the story? What the fuck are you making a video game or a movie? Don't ask Quantic Dream that, their head will explode.

But I guess the rebutle here could be that for some people loving the story is a very important part of video games.

Remember how people would justify shitty graphics by complimenting on the solid gameplay? Now days people push the story to make up for shitty gameplay.

And most gamers seem to be ok with this.

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