3 Things This Gamer is Thankful We’ve Left Back in the “Good Ol’ Days”
Yeah, I know. We’re not supposed to say anything against the golden age of video games, especially during a time when retro everything appears to be in fashion.
But while I love the old-school games just as much as the next veteran gamer (I’ve got a SNES still hooked up in the bedroom that I actually use), we all have to admit that gaming has made some incredibly impressive strides in the past thirty years or so. Obviously, there’s no comparison between Pong and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt; we’re not merely talking about an improvement in technology but two entirely different entertainment experiences.
I firmly believe the reason why retro is so huge right now is simply because such games aren’t necessarily “inferior;” they’re just different in every possible way. Well, also, the digital download scene due to Steam, the PlayStation Store, etc. has also resulted in the explosion of indie developers and the chance for single individuals to prove themselves in the ever-growing world of gaming.
Anyway, the point is that despite the appeal and viability of supposedly “old-fashioned” games, we all know that certain advancements have been critical for the industry. And here are some of my absolute favorites and in point of fact, improvements and additions I feel I can’t live without these days.
3. Almost perfectly refined controls in all perspectives
If you’re old enough, you remember when control was a constant and often serious issue. It wasn’t as big of a problem in the very early days when there simply wasn’t much to control and there was only one perspective. Well, E.T. on Atari was a joke and a half but aside from that and a few others, it wasn’t too nuts. When we went 3D, however, it took developers quite a while to nail down the third-person and first-person viewpoints. I don’t think people quite remember the difficulties we faced when playing certain games back in the day. I’d recommend going back to the original PlayStation and N64 era and pick out a few 3D action games to play. For example, I remember adoring Fighting Force on PS1 and so, a few months ago, I grabbed it on the Store…and it was just completely unplayable.
Yes, we battled laggy control, totally batshit cameras, bizarrely mapped controls, etc. These days, even though some lower-end games still have a few control issues, the majority of well-produced games basically use the same first- and third-person primer, with logical, responsive, and ultimately reliable controls. I’m just so thankful for this and frankly, I think this has managed to spoil the hell out of all of us (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way).
2. Difficulty decrease
Call it sacrilege if you like, I don’t care. I never, not even when I was a kid, liked the impossible difficulty of older video games. I understand the root cause, of course; our home games were merely off-shoots of the arcade experience and as the arcade was a business like any other business, it wanted your money. So, the games were expressly designed to make you die a LOT, so more of your quarters would find their way to the slot. Yeah, well, I never really liked arcade games and at home, I didn’t like the idea of practicing for months on end just so I could beat a certain level.
The amount of hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing, controller-smashing repetition required was just insane. Yes, I did appreciate that sense of satisfaction upon finally reaching your goal and that did stick with me; I’m still proud of beating games like Ninja Gaiden on Xbox and Devil May Cry 3 (before it was re-released with Normal difficulty actually being Normal; it was originally released in the U.S. with Normal actually being Hard).
But I’m really over it. I’m older now and games need to be purely entertainment. I don’t mind a challenge but I don’t want to spend my precious few free hours trying to overcome one particular obstacle. I believe the difficulty level in most games today is just about right. Some of my favorite titles of the generation so far – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Dishonored, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Grand Theft Auto V, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, etc. – all had very appropriate difficulty levels, as far as I’m concerned.
1. Saving almost wherever and whenever I want, and frequent auto-saving
This is the biggest one. I liked the memory card days just fine; at least we had save points in big long games, even if certain developers would place these save points too far apart, in my estimation. But I’ve always loathed the “die and start over” mentality from the old days and while I perfectly understand those who say death should have a consequence, I simply don’t care. In great games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls, death certainly has a consequence and I understand its purpose as a mechanic. It works beautifully and there’s a reason why people love such games and really, any game that forces you to be cautious, to treat your virtual existence with care.
But I’m just not like that. If I screw up, I’m perfectly willing to try again, but I don’t want to retrace a thousand steps to do so. I fell, so what? Put me back on that ledge right there and I’ll just jump again. Now, I don’t have a problem with restarting big boss fights but if that fight has multiple complex steps, I appreciate being able to start at the latest step I’ve passed.
Having a hard drive and being able to save whenever you want in gigantic open-world games is such a blessing, too. It means I can turn off the system absolutely whenever I want, knowing I’ll be able to pick up exactly where I left off. This is by far and away what I’m most thankful for in this modern world of video games. 🙂