Back to the Classics: Why We Are Missing Out With Today's Games

The intelligence levels of today's games seem to be spiraling downward. What ever happened to the classics? And why are we letting our modern media system downgrade our game experience?

I'm going to level with you.I'm not much of a "die hard" gamer. My geek genes are more securely lodged in the realm of television, movies, or books. As a BFA Creative Writing major, I'm drawn to plots and in-depth characters rather than the mindless shooting that seems to come with most games today. I'm all for post-apocalyptic settings, but can we throw in something more than the sad excuse of a storyline that pops up between the mind-numbing plethora of zombie grunts or alien shrieks? I mean really, I wrote better stories in middle school.I understand these games are supposed to be frightening or action-packed, but I am dying for a game where my biggest challenge isn't making sure I turn down the right corridor. Seriously, I get eaten once and I know not to go that way. What ever happened to games with intelligence? I find myself more interested in playing my ancient Playstation Wheel of Fortune game than the newest hit. At least it keeps me guessing.I miss the days when Pacman was hot stuff. Granted, our entertainment today is force-feeding us this idea that we should get bored with something as simple as a yellow circle in a maze chomping on white dots, but why play games that resemble our standardized tests? Do we really want a No Gamer Left Behind policy? What ever happened to games that required more than just common sense?Maybe it's just the non-gamer side of me that is spouting out these concerns, but I'm tired of sitting in front of my console or computer and praying that I can hit the same button with enough speed to not die this time.Give me the classics any day!I can't be the only gamer who has been turned off by today's markets. It's time we stop expecting our gamers to be of a lower caliber. We have the intelligence to tackle smarter games. It might even be nice to play a game we can't beat in a solid 48-hour period because it is challenging intellectually, rather than having a brute force that continues to maul our characters.Am I the only one out there who's struggling to stay interested? Is anyone else ready for change or am I seriously missing the point of the "new and improved"? Let me know by commenting or sharing!


Published Jun. 5th 2013
  • Josh Avni
    Sorry, but I'm struggling to understand this article. You say you prefer games that are plot-driven and "challenging intellectually," but you use Pac-Man as an example, which, as far as I know, is neither of these.

    It's true that these types of games aren't the ones you hear about every day, like Call of Duty or Halo. But they absolutely are still being produced on a regular basis.

    Take the plot-driven sort of game. For that, I could recommend you anything from Mass Effect (2007, 2010, 2012), Dragon Age: Origins (2009), The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (2006) or Skyrim (2011) (I call these plot-driven because, despite relatively unenthralling plots, the fun comes from exploring the culture and mythology of the world you're thrust into), Heavy Rain (2010), Assassin's Creed (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012), and Bioshock Infinite (2013). Five of those games are so rich in their storytelling that they made my jaw drop at some point while playing.

    As far as "intellectually challenging," I'm not really sure what that means. Do you mean a game that relies on conscious deliberation as opposed to reflexes (as most shooters do)? Because there's no shortage of those either. Someone has already mentioned Portal (2007), which is a fantastic example of this sort of game. But you can find plenty of examples in the strategy genre as well. There's Fire Emblem (2003), Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (2005), and more recently, Europa Universalis III (2007). That's not to mention the classics that are constantly being reimagined and revamped, like The Legend of Zelda.

    If you ask me, these games are still around (even if they're not household names), and they're still incredibly lucrative options within the gaming world. I'll grant easily that these gamers are no longer the primary audience, but they're certainly still a large one.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Great points! Basically why I was confused too but I was in a different frame of mind when I originally read it. lol
    The "skinny" threw me off I think, I got defensive.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    You are far from alone, but I certainly don't join the ranks.

    What exactly about Pac-Man was so much better than newer games? By the way, the new Pac-Man they made is pretty cool and fun, love the new style they gave it.

    *Edit: I had to re-read your post, sorry about that. Did you ever play the original Resident Evil? That was pretty awesome and definitely not the typical zombie stuff like it is now.
    I suppose you're right, I never really looked at it that way because I still enjoy these games. They're entertaining and that's all I really want from them.

    I don't miss getting stuck at parts that should be obvious but aren't. =p
    I'll have to think more on this to make a better response.
  • blacksteelforge
    I would like to agree with the consensus of this article, but I'd also like to point out that the real problem lays far beneath what was truly discussed. It's all about industry dynamics. Games are expensive to make - especially the AAA games that everyone buys, like Call of Duty and the other super-high-selling products. They're really expensive. If you work in a game development company, trying to sell a completely new idea as a triple-a product is - buisness-wise - a nearly impossible thing.
    Call of Duty sells really well. This is a representation of what the public wants. If a game company tries to sell something else, there is a chance that it will tank terribly. This will put a company out of buisness. That's why you see, with each generation, an increasingly more simplified and more iconic form of mass entertainment game - the CoD, or any other dumb game that sells a lot.
    The real future of games lies in independent developers - small teams that don't have the restraints large companies do, but also don't have the resources. If big companies find ways to sponsor independent developers, like Steam's Greenlight program, the gaming industry will start seeing the releases of tons of new brilliant, truly artistic pieces of work (games) like Portal (admittedly not an indie game, just a lucky guess on Valve's part), Braid, Bastion, and the innumerable other number of truly amazing indie games.
    Oh, and that's my second point. The dumb games, the unsmart ones - those are usually the ones that show. But, if you really get into being a gamer and find the indie games - those are the absolute cream of the crop of the whole American lifestyle. Someone pouring their life and soul into a game, making it exactly how they would like to play it. Something they just consider completely fun. It's really what elevates making games to an art instead of a consumer-driven business model.
    Okay, my rant is over. Thanks for reading!
    tl;dr - The companies make dumb games because they sell, indie games are great
  • kdwill13
    I wouldn't say that Call of Duty is a representation of what the public wants, but it does have a large demographic, and that's what all AAA games strive for. As you said, AAA are expensive. In order to pay everyone fairly and still have money over for the company, they need people who aren't in a niche (small) market. Call of Duty doesn't just caters to shooters. With online multiplayer, it also gets people who like competitive gaming. With some games like Black Op II, you have your people who love the story telling and single player experience. With the game set up the way it is, you can also do a speed run through the game which gets another demographic. You have your teenagers and kids who want to feel more adult with this serious game. And the list goes on. Essentially, AAA developers need everyone to like their games in order to keep it going and making more money so it's like they are trying to make their own perfect game. But as Jim Sterling has said: "There is no perfect video game, only perfect video games."
    Games like Dead Space 3 (and plenty more) have shown that AAA games need a ridiculous amount of sales in the first few weeks (about 2-3) after its release in order to consider it a success. This failed to do so likely because 5 million sales in 2-3 weeks is ridiculous. But the main reason it failed (I think) was because they ignored the demographic of the first two games; people who like horror games. Dead Space 3 (for me) adding in a multiplayer concept (just to match the success of Call of Duty, which also has multiplayer and is successful) made the game significantly less scary as playing with a friend, I know we got each others back. Also, it felt more like a shooter action hero game rather than a horror game. Dead Space 3 abandoned their own original market in order to try and get the market of everyone. Too bad everyone did not want to play Dead Space 3 seeing as how the game was originally a horror game, anyone outside that market would not touch the third game thinking it was still a horror game. But then you have games like XCOM which they tried to make into a shooter but then made a spin-off turn-based strategy game (like it originally was) and it succeeded because there is a market for such games. Dishonored also succeeded because there was a market for sneaking games (also because they weren't on a AAA budget). And that's all Indie games are really, discovering a market for things people want but AAA games are too stupid to give. So we don't really need an Indie's market to save the industry (doesn't mean get rid of them, they just don't need the burden of being a savior) but what we do need is creativity, innovation, originality, and above all games that are willing to search for those untapped and overlooked markets (that also happen to not be AAA games, but that's not saying to do away with all AAA games because there are plenty that are good).
  • blacksteelforge
    Saying that Call of Duty is not a representation of what the public wants is true. However, it is simultaneously the top 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th top selling game ever. This WOULD mean that it is a representation of the public's desires except for the fact that the 1st place outsells it by nearly twice the sales of 2nd place.
    That's Wii Sports.
    Which brings me to ANOTHER point - The biggest market is casual, family-oriented games. If you've heard about what Xbox One is all about, lots of "hardcore gamers" feel abandoned - the system is hardly oriented to playing hardcore games. In fact, it's almost like an extension of the Kinect system. Why? Because Kinect also sold more copies than CoD.
    The fact of the matter is that AAAs are designed to get money. Solely. They miss out on a lot of the artistry of games.
    I'm also not going to talk about the actual competitiveness of CoD. That is a discussion for another day.
    The point is - all of those things you said that we need - are what the indie market distributes. I'm not saying they're going to save the industry (unless I did say that, in which case, oops) but I am saying that independently developed games have all of the things that this article is claiming the mainstream of gaming is missing out on nowadays.
    And this is absolutely true. Lots of money goes into crowd-pleaser AAA titles because, well, they please the crowd. Unfortunately, most of the crowd is not interested in an in-depth, intelligent experience, or any of the things this article is proclaiming the current mainstream has lost.
    Also, I count Dishonored as an AAA title. You say that it didn't have an "AAA" budget, and yet, the budget for designing the game was 25 million dollars. I think that's kind of AAA, personally.
    Okay, so, wrapped all up - AAA is not a bad thing. Not at all. But it does not have soul. It is a money machine. If the world wanted intelligent games, they would be made. Well, eventually. It would probably take the market a while to realize.
    Indie games, or even mid-level studio games, are where the real soul and artistry of games lie. In most cases. That is my point.
  • kdwill13
    Wii Sports is not fair because that came with every Wii. By that logic, if the PS2 sold a game with every copy of the PS2, then that game would be the most sold game. The reason I still say CoD is not representative of the public because if you go to most chat forums, there will be a lot of people who dislike Call of Duty. Also, if that game is the only game people know of, then their choice in gaming is not an informed one. When they were deciding to do the cover for Bioshock: Infinite, they went with the generic dude with a gun while his head is tilted down pose instead of having Elizabeth on the cover. This is because when they asked a bunch of frat boys if they knew Bioshock, none of them had heard of the game while all of them knew Halo, Gears of War, and CoD. Those games had a man with a gun on the cover and that's all they needed to buy the game (Bioshock had the dude with a drill for a hand, a little girl with glowing eyes, and they were underwater; can't gather much from what the game is about without doing some digging). While that is one demographic, this is likely also true for children most teenage and adult gamers, and parents who buy their children games without knowing what's in it. As such, I can't in good conscience say that the whole gaming public approves of CoD, only a significant majority and even they aren't that informed of other games.
    Also, the mainstream has improved lately. Again, with titles I mentioned and more, AAA games have gotten better. And we may have to rely on them. While the hearts and souls of games are in the lower budget games, the overwhelming majority of people are not smart. They will still blindly buy the next big title be it good or bad and stick to their CoDs because that's all they know. The Xbox One is likely to not cater to them and the Nintendo has always been its own beast. I doubt the the PS4 will be able to manage all of that untapped talent. So I think a combined effort on all scales will help things more than just one. If good AAA games keep being successful along with indie and games from small developers, I think the game market could prosper. Or we can have another game crash and a Nintendo like entity saves the day again.
  • kdwill13
    Time for a critique from your lovely senior and gaming expert. I don't know how many games you have played or how involved you are with the gaming world, but anyone who can see the decline of video games is taking a good first step. I will say that having a fresh perspective is refreshing, but that may play against you with some people (the gaming world is not that kind to anyone who talks negatively about their games). While I agree with you, there are many other games that far exceed your generic, mindless shooter (Bioshock series especially Bioshock: Infinite, the new Tomb Riader, The Last of Us, Journey, The Mass Effect Series, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, I can keep going). But when it comes to writing articles remember examples go a long way. Other than Pac-Man (which is only alluded to) and Playstation: Wheel of Fortune you don't mention any other games or how the ones today are like standardized tests (a good way of looking at them though). I do like the passion you bring into the topic and you're writing does strike a chord with me as I do agree with you, but I suggest looking into more games as I know you could write a lovely article on the topic if you knew a bit more about it. Also, I suggest looking at some other articles and vlogs on the subject to help you get to know more of where the game industry is heading. And I suggest watching the next E3 (you can watch a live stream this Tues.-Thurs. on as a lot of people will be there to talk about the next generation consoles and the game industry.
  • ErinV
    Your comment is so helpful and I appreciate your advice! It looks like I need to work on a longer follow up article based on your comments and the comments of others to better explain my point and why I miss the old games. keep an eye out for it and keep the discussion going!
  • Holly Dawn Hewlett
    E, I agree with this article...the problem is NOT the companies make games besed on what selllllllsss....and unfortunately, that means the lowest common denominator....which totally sucks...if it is any consulation...go check out Oregon Scientific...they specialize in thinking games...and find a game called Blokus!!! Great write, look forward to seeing more!!
  • ErinV
    Thanks! I've actually played Blokus and I love it!
  • M_4019
    There are definitely intelligent games out there... ever played Portal? Or it's wonderful sequel?
  • ErinV
    Thanks for commenting! I would love to get a discussion going about this. I haven't played Portal. What's the premise? And if you have any other intelligent game suggestions I would love to hear them because I am always on the lookout for them!
  • kdwill13
    Portal is a puzzle game where you have to use a portal gun and your wits to solve increasingly hard puzzles at the behest of GLADoS, an A.I. that hates humans.
  • ErinV
    Fantastic! I will have to check that out.

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