Apparently New Games Suck
If you frequent The Escapist then you’ve probably seen MovieBob’s show, The Big Picture. He had a “junk drawer” episode last week where he talked about a bunch of random things, and there’s one thing he mentioned in particular that caused me to make the face you see above. And the pose. And the fire. Here, let me just quote him.
I don’t mind that Super Mario 3D’s version of the Tanooki Suit doesn’t turn you into a statue anymore. You know why? Because the important thing is that Mario is wearing a pudgy animal costume that invests him with powers having zero relation to the animal in question. That’s why. This sort of crazy nonsense used to be the bread and butter of video games, and it’s been absent for way too long as far as I’m concerned. You know how much better Gears of War would be if Marcus would put on a koala costume that shot a freeze ray at people? A lot.
I really don’t want to turn this into a MovieBob hate post (although he’s certainly given me many reasons to make one) but that statement of his really sticks out in my mind. In a bad way. And I know he’s at least partially joking about it, but it infuriates me nonetheless.
Throughout the net I’ve heard about a million different renditions of the argument “_______ used to be EVERYWHERE in video games, and now it’s GONE, and that’s why new games SUCK.” The mental image it always gives me is that of an old man tensely gripping his walking stick and lecturing the youngin’s on all the things that are wrong with their generation.
I think what MovieBob said deserves special mention because it’s probably the most bullshitty example I’ve ever heard, but you’ll hear shit like this everywhere. Apparently video games suck now because they don’t make you so frustrated that you want to break your controller in half, and because they don’t have confusing, unintuitive and obnoxious level design (okay, I don’t actually think that a shooter should use one long corridor as its level design, but having played games like Thief and Unreal lately I can testify that those games would be far, far better if they simply gave you a decent map to look at).
But I think the most egregiously stupid argument I’ve heard against new games, the one that enrages me the most, is the “handholding” complaint. Whenever I hear someone say “it doesn’t hold your hand” in defense of a game I just want to slap that person in the face. I think the Extra Credits team put it very well: “Game designers are teachers. If you can’t design a good tutorial, you probably don’t have any business making a triple-A game.” And yet when I don’t know what to do in an old game, apparently that’s my fault because I was expecting the game to “hold my hand.”
Whenever I hear someone say “This is a ‘read the manual’ kind of game,” to me that’s equivocal to saying “This is a ‘crappy’ kind of game.”
I don’t think old games inherently suck. If I did I wouldn’t be doing my whole ongoing voyage into old classics. But I don’t think they’re inherently better than new games either. Yeah, some old games are absolutely fantastic. Deus Ex blew my mind. But that’s not because it was old. It’s because the designers had some really innovative design philosophy. If that game was made nowadays it would probably have smaller levels, but I’m willing to bet they could still do all that gameplay-story integration that I loved so much, even with all the current-gen graphics demands.
And I’ve got to say, as fun as some of these old games I’ve played are, they really don’t hold up to some of the newer games I’ve played lately. Half-Life was undoubtedly an awesome game, but I’d choose Portal 2 over it any day. Stealing riches in Thief is quite exciting indeed, but not nearly as much as sneaking into a cathedral and assassinating a target in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. In my opinion anyway.
It’s fine to like old games more than new games. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But I’m really getting fed up with this notion that new games are always, always crap when compared to old games, because that mentality just seems rooted in arrogance and nostalgia.