Friday, December 3, 2010

They nerfed it, now it sucks

Special thanks to for the passive inspiration for the title of this post and to my buddy Rob for the topic suggestion.

Something funny happened on the way to our adult years, and really all along the way to the modern day as a whole. We've all become very, very bad at gaming (relatively) since we were but wee lads and lasses. I can remember playing games like Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and (Mike Tyson's) Punch-Out!! at the tender age of 5 and playing them WELL. Now...I don't know about you, but I've seen kids these days (oh my god I just said kids these days non-ironically) playing games and, comparatively, they're absolutely horrible at it. You know what I'm talking about, right? Tell me you haven't watched a child playing a video game recently and witnessed them repeatedly screwing something up so simple in your mind that you get so irrationally angry you have to REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE ROOM BEFORE THEY RUIN YOUR SUPER MARIO GALAXY SAVE FILE AND YOU'RE FORCED TO THROW THEM THROUGH A WALL.

That's not pressure, kid, that's drywall.

Then you sit there and think about how you used to blow through Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man or how you got so good you didn't even need the Konami Code for ANYTHING anymore. It was like you were some kind of 8-year old who had gained the ability to manipulate assembly with their minds, karate chop arrows out of the air, catch bullets with your teeth, and emit a strange golden glow from your skin. It's not every day I get to set up an image from Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon so you gotta go with me on this one.

I up-up-down-down Leroy.

More, post-jump.

What happened to us? What happened to the industry? At first, this might come off as an anti-EZmode modern gaming piece, but it's really not. There are enough suitable nods to the past still hanging around. Ninja Gaiden (for Xbox) was a throwback in difficulty as well as name. Platforming games like 'Splosion Man, Super Meat Boy, and the continuation of the classic Mega Man series are still being released, albeit as bargain titles, oftentimes even with graphics, effects, and sounds hearkening back to the 8-bit era and this is great. As I touched on in my previous post, the plethora of easy-to-use digital distribution platforms makes access to old school games perhaps even more easy and affordable than when those games were at the forefront of the gaming consciousness.

The gaming mainstream has moved AWAY from such titles while shifting to come more and more inline with the entertainment mainstream in general. Whichever side of the fence you're on, you have to admit it makes good business sense. In those early years, the motion picture and television industries vastly out-earned anything video games could hope to bring in. The solution? Grab some of that monetary pie by creating games that incorporated more and more elements of movies and TV as the technology progressed to allow you to do so.

Okay, so, your mileage may vary.

Where are we at now? In many ways, it's a total role reversal. Think about this: in 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV was released and earned a mind-destroying $500 million during the first week of availability, handily besting Spider-Man 3's opening weekend take of $382 million worldwide. In fact, GTA IV was expected to do so well at launch that rumblings got out suggesting Paramount was concerned its release would harm the numbers for Iron Man's opening weekend. The film industry had arrived at a place where they were scouring video game release schedules to reduce head-to-head competition.

It was a simple progression, slowed only by the rate of technological growth making possible the advances needed to tell a compelling story.

In short, I don't think it's a matter of the games actually becoming more easy. I simply think there are a lot MORE games out there and that the ones becoming insanely popular are those that skew more heavily toward the cinematic rather than gameplay elements. As for the lamentable erosion of our skills? We've fallen out of practice. When I was 6, I would play the same game hour after hour, day after day, until I got a new one. In that situation, it goes without saying that the specific skillset needed to master a particular game would improve to near savant levels.

Video games AND Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I'll take 240 hours, please.

Now there are limitless options. I'm okay with that. I like to think that I'm pulling a Switzerland in the debate. I could play nothing but Super Mario World, a straight-forward platforming paradise, for weeks straight. From the modern era, I have a great love and appreciation for the Silent Hill and Mass Effect series, two properties renowned far more for their story-telling and cinematic capabilities than anything else.

There's no right or wrong, just a lot of angry fanboys. But god damn, kids these days suck at video games. In MY day, etc.


  1. Battletoads should be a rite of passage for new gamers.

  2. I don't think it's a coincidence that beating that speeder bike stage in Battletoads as a kid is one of my proudest achievements in gaming. In retrospect, it seems scandalous that any video game would throw in a difficulty bottleneck so early in the game. What was that? Level 3?

    Goodness gracious.