I remember a time when gaming was some vast and verdant landscape of plenty where the promise of every game born would be one of pink cheeked wonder and curly haired delight, each fat little ankled faltering step one of deft exploration and obtuse defiance as podgy round hands pounded away at the boundaries of expectation.
And as if in homage to Ole Father Time each new generation has been greeted with the birthing of yet another mewling example of defective birth control, celebrated by the consumption of the previous generations offspring in the form of lessons learned and benchmarks set and possibly some Hundreds and Thousands on top.
So having to witness the vision of a self delivered, half formed still birth decomposing on the veranda choke hopelessly for each painful breath makes me wonder if it isn’t time to Google up a nice deep river and invest in a big brown sack and some bricks. It started when someone approached the head of Nintendo Japan with a redesigned Gamecube and a TV remote and a dozen eye witnesses just in case, and so far just about everybody has jumped on board the Gravy Train of All and Sundry and headed straight for the dining carriage, forks at the ready.
With a few bits of Lego, an internet camera and some technology borrowed from the Ark, Nintendo now stand proud as the real-world example of the old adage of fooling some of the people all of the time, with the Wii’s instinctive control method and sugar glazed colours rewarding the player with each skilful manipulation of its thyroid suffering characters. Having a library of titles predominantly filled with mini-game marathons has certainly served them well in the charts.
For some, spending the thick end of thirty quid on a game they can finish in one sitting may not seem a wise investment, but for others perhaps less skilled it could be seen as an encouraging act of fostered nurturing, Nintendo being like unto the Sheppard who herde’th the sheep unto the fields. And as patronizing as they may seem, it is but of a nothing compared to the total lack of credence developers are giving people who own either of the other two platforms.
Who the hell thought it was a great idea to invent ‘achievements’ for games? Maybe I’ve missed the point somewhere, but isn’t the achievement in completing the game? More and more games are coming out filled to the gills with rewards and achievements for the most banal of things; each time you finish a level and are rewarded with an unlocked achievement its almost akin to giving the retarded kid in class a star for going the whole lesson without choking on his pencil case again.
I always understood it that by me buying the game I was obviously showing some kind of interest in seeing it through to the end, and even though that hasn’t always been the case, I never felt that what a poor game needed to keep me playing was a shit load of useless unlockable ego candy that adds absolutely bugger all to the game itself.
This shameless fashion of rewarding the player every time they finish a level or find a new room or take the controller out of their mouth is a cynical yet effective way of hooking the causal gamer and encouraging bragging rights within the twelve year old demographic on message boards. Every game is starting to feel like it was given to the local A.D.D. sufferers centre for testing, with the number of achievements in some games taking more than a 2 litre bottle of Coke and a party sized bag of Cheetos to ensnare.
Little wonder, though, when the main game itself often feels like an afterthought, a rushed hotch-potch of ideas written on the back of an unfurled toilet tube one painful and damnably uncomfortable lunch time. Making a game that takes less time to complete then it did to open the box has meant just about everybody these days can get from opening cinematic to ending credits in a heady rush to bathe themselves sultry in the feeling of self induced endorphin tasting glory.
Quick time events, infinite retries and levels that practically give you a piggy back to the next stage in a Snuggie have all seeped between the clenched fingers of developers as they squeeze the age of universal interactivity dry of its contemporary juices.
Appearing like the final pustule that marks the difference between infection and infested the latest Alone in the Dark went further than any other game in offering everyone a chance to see the end, featuring the novel ‘skip to the last bit of the game’ option. Given the murderous controls and Asperger’s game play, it felt like some silent admission of guilt on the developers part that someone, somewhere had played the final code of the game and realised nobody was going to put up with that shit for umpteen levels for a sixty second cut-scene, so kindly offered up the chapter skip option.
Invariably it would have been sold as a startling new and ingenious device, no doubt favouring the ‘games are art’ Veil Of Credibility mantra, opining a brave step was being taken in bringing games into the twenty first century, and that it was singular in its design yet all encompassing in its execution. And so were all the other four billion achievements they came up with when they were supposed to be actually making the game.
Living in a time where the alphabet has been taken over by retards and the minutiae of everyday stupidity can be read the world over in second by second updates has bred a new generation of people with no specific age range or grasp of the real world, where everything they want is theirs by some divine right, their patience and humanity offered up on the sacrificial alter of the Id (ironically, the id Software company has been noted as being one of the most generous to gamers in the shape of free downloads and updates, so yay id!), in their self destructive march through life.
Having to actually put some effort into anything seems beyond these people who have tainted the waters so, and it is to them I point a shaky, nail chewed finger of fuming accusation and demand in my best Farmer Giles ‘Get orf moy larrrrrnd!!!’ (translation: ‘Please vacate my personal space and place of ownership for I fear your company is no longer desired.’)
After buying a 360 I noticed a worrying trend in the games I was playing to be rather simple to get from A to B on anything but the harder of difficulty settings. Given the years and money I’ve invested on various systems and games maybe one could argue my skill levels have simply got better, and I’m more adapted to the environments I find my pseudo-self’s in. But when games boast a completion time of 8 ‘whole hours’ on the back of the box you get the sense that any skill you may have had is firmly in the passenger seat for this one, indulging in the brandy and thin mints as you’re gently guided to the end.
Don’t try to appease me with offers of insubstantial Pyrrhic victories every time I complete a level or open a door or simply not die, give me my bloody rocket launcher! Achievements and trophies help promote the longevity of the game only if the game itself is worth playing in the first place; throwing these things at me every step of the way smacks of desperately wanting to be my friend and leaves me feeling rather cheap and soiled, like a hug from a creepy uncle that goes on for that bit too long. I would rather have more game to play then be forced into a Pokemon style scenario of O.C.D. just to glean a moment or twos more pleasure from the game.
Two words; Pop Cap. If you want to play at being a gamer without actually wanting to sit down and play a game, or are so insecure you need a digitized voice or on screen quote of confirmation of your worth every thirty seconds to stop you breaking down into tears and hugging the carpet then go and download some of their re-imaginings of games so tired you start looking to see if there’s a defibrillator nearby.
They’re pretty and colourful and I hear they even let housewives play them now, so imagine how easy they must be, right? More than simple enough for your differently intelligent mound of mis-firing synapses, I’m sure, with their quirky Manga inspired characters telling you you’re ‘Awesome’ every thirty seconds in teeny tiny nerve grating voices spurring you on to retard glory.
Then the rest of us can leave you gawking at the lilly-li-lo’s and get back to rolling up our sleeves and buckling down and beating games with grit and flair big huge guns, for no other reward then ending up with a game we no longer want having completed it. Give me my secret weapons and mis-matched outfits, my level skip and boutique key, rent unto me the alternative ending, my concept car and B.F.G., for with God Mode protecting me and Infinite Ammo switched on, all shall fall beneath my Giant Mode big boots, until I stand aloft, atop a mountain of skulls, joypad uplifted and head thrown back, screaming into the dark skies that have clouded our lands; ‘The cake is a liiiiiiiie!!!’