The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Honestly assessing games and historical context

by JayJaySut Tue Jul 23, 2013 7:27 pm

I hear sometimes people will say a certain game just doesn't hold up, which in many cases is true, but I will hear people say something like Super Mario 64, or Metroid doesn't hold up, and while it's true that to many people it isn't fun. I still enjoy games like Kid Icarus and The Legend of Zelda yet have no nostalgic connection to them. Maybe it's because they are a gateway into a different time or maybe it's because they have a certain kind of charm to them that I can't describe. The problem is I think people still see games as this objective thing that either is good or bad. People will say that Metroid is flawed because it doesn't have a map (and of course they'll admit that you couldn't do that back then) but the question is why would you want to play a lot of older games when they are obviously flawed? I think it depends on your definition of flawed. To me it's just the same thing as saying stop motion effects are worse than cg, yes they are less realistic but does that make them worse? A lot of the reason I play retro games is because of that retroness, what I like about Metroid is that you have to make your own map or find one in Nintendo power, it's exciting in fun. Just because a game lacks a lot of modern conveniences doesn't make it worse. Are silent movies any worse because they don't have sound? Not everybody likes that but you'll find that a lot of silent movies are still enjoyable (historical context or not). Honestly I don't think I would want to see a trip to the moon if it were some modern CGI movie. So what do you think?
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Re: Honestly assessing games and historical context

by Exhuminator Thu Aug 22, 2013 11:21 am

I don't think it's entirely fair to contrast old movies with old games. Movies are a totally passive experience. Even if they are silent and black 'n' white, you still don't have to do anything but sit there and watch them. However, games require interactivity to experience, and many older games are much more difficult to interact with than newer ones. Especially if you did not grow up playing the older games. So while you might be bored watching Die Büchse der Pandora, you certainly could get through it just by sitting there. Not so with Metroid if you were running around lost.

Metroid could have a had a map, even if just a rudimentary one. Remember the first Zelda had an onscreen map that helped you to realize your location in Hyrule. Metroid came out after Zelda, by the same company, so it's not like the map code couldn't have been shared between the development teams. Thus not having a map was a conscious game design choice, not a technological one. The point of Metroid having no in-game map was to make you rely even more on your own, to bolster the survival aspect of being on a hostile alien planet no human had experienced before.

As far as "holding up", I honestly believe that if a game is designed well enough, it will always be able to overcome its technical limitations, and remain fun for future generations who don't have the same frame of reference its contemporary players did. (Every kid I've ever let play Kirby's Adventure loved it for example.) Keep in mind many old games were intentionally made inconvenient or simply hard as hell to artificially lengthen the amount of time it took the player to experience the limited content. Oldschool JRPG grinding, three lives no continues, one hit your dead, time limit's up!, lack of direction, etc. Contrivances such as those that worked against the player's free time and patience were never a great thing IMO, and I don't blame younger gamers for being turned off by them. I enjoy Ghosts 'n' Goblins but I completely would understand why a 15 year old Xbox 360 kid would say, "It doesn't hold up." I wouldn't hold it against her. And if she couldn't stand Metroid I would totally understand her point of view, even if I didn't agree with it.

I used to be that classic gamer guy who would cringe when kids said stuff like, "Why can't Metroid crawl?" But then I realized I was being ageist and blinded by nostalgia. The cold sad truth is some of our personal favorite older games are simply not as fun or convenient as the newer ones. But that's not a bad thing, it proves the medium is still evolving.
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