I’ve been following modern game news more closely lately, especially considering Nintendo’s recent release of long awaited information on their latest console. From the Nintendo Switch to 4K gaming, I just don’t think I get gaming anymore. Now, this isn’t a knock on people who love the latest game releases – I mean I wouldn’t mind yelling “GET OFF MY LAWN” to a lot of you on social media – it’s more that I just don’t feel like I can follow where gaming is going anymore. It’s just not for me. I’m not the target demographic and it’s painfully obvious every time something new is announced and I answer the hype with a hardy “meh.”
Recently I sold my Xbox One. I had fun with the games I played for it, but I didn’t put the countless hours into it that I had with my trusty PS3. Half the games that I could play I had already played on the last generation. The other half were a mixture of first person shooters, racing games, crime drama sandbox simulators, and a plethora of other stuff I just didn’t care about. The games I DID want to play, and we’re talking a very small percentage here, are available on PC. Now I’m not trying to say “I’M PC MASTER RACE, CONSOLE BITCHES”, I’m saying that there was no point in me owning a console for the .01% of console exclusives I had interest in playing. But what about Nintendo?
I fell off the Nintendo hype train sometime during the Nintendo 64’s lifespan in favor of Sony’s PlayStation. While I owned a GameCube and a Wii, I was much more partial to the PS2 and PS3. I honestly sold my Wii before the end of the life of the system. Even my long love affair with the Zelda series wasn’t enough to keep me in. Twilight Princess was okay, and because of that I really had no real interest in playing Skyward Sword. Mario Games lost me around the time they jumped to 3D, and New Super Mario Bros wasn’t enough to warrant my continued support, so I jumped ship. Nintendo’s Wii U didn’t look interesting to me at all, but when some of really cool new games started pouring out, like Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros, Bayonetta 2, I thought maybe it was time to revisit the “Big N”. I wasn’t disappointed, and I’ve used the system a lot more than my Xbox One.
But the Switch? I dunno man.
The concept is really neat. A hybrid portable and home console system? What’s not to like about that? Ice cubes, man. Freaking ice cubes. Nintendo is pulling another dumb gimmick into play, just like the uninteresting and uninspired waggle remotes and the barely used incongruous gaming experience with the Wii U gamepad. I’m not saying that Nintendo is doomed, what I’m saying is that I just don’t get it. It doesn’t interest me. These extra features that Nintendo wants to include so that you don’t even have to look at a screen to play a game just scream “Bopit” to me. Novelty feature that we’ll see use for on a few first party titles early on and will eventually fade into obscurity. Maybe not.
My reluctance to buy into Nintendo’s latest offering has more to do with the fact that they seem to be trying to capture that gamer who loves handheld gaming experiences, and games that are VERY Japanese. The quirky “Japanese” feel that many modern RPGs and Nintendo friendly experiences offer just don’t really appeal to me. In the days before disk based gaming, graphics and sounds limited what developers could display on screen. The “Japaneseness” of games was kind of toned down due to these limitations. I don’t necessarily need dark and gritty gaming experiences, but I also don’t really care for these teenage soap opera JRPGs and silly ass costumes with giant hair that seem to be the only new popular thing releasing out of Japan these days.
Also, the new Nintendo titles are honestly not all that appealing to me anymore. They just don’t make me feel the need to go out and buy a new console, especially when the flagship game that I’m most excited about is coming to a console I already own. Mario games are fun, but they feel like a one and done experience anymore. They’re beautiful wonderlands of great experiences, but it’s hard to dive into a 10 to 20 hour Mario game a second time when I’ve already played the levels to death trying to collect everything once.
But my feelings on modern gaming definitely didn’t start with the Switch. No, the Switch merely hammered the point home that I just don’t care about modern games anymore. Nope, it started about….here.
Ubisoft released a couple REALLY cool games in their new series during the seventh generation. Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II were both really cool stealth action platformers. I love stealthy games, ever since my first foray into Shadow Moses with Solid Snake. Assassin’s Creed was a cool game with a great story and a fun, if flawed, game engine. The second Assassin’s Creed game fixed a lot of the flaws with the first game, and amped up the story and character development to an awesome degree. Then Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood came out. I liked the game, but it was very obviously a full priced expansion pack of ACII. The game engine, music, sound effects, animation, and other art assets were completely reused. It was a good game, but it felt like Ubisoft was doing everything they could to make an easy buck without giving us a completely new experience. Then Assassin’s Creed Revelations was released. I mean, the story is pretty good, and it wasn’t a blatant rehash of Assassin’s Creed II like Brotherhood was, but it was still pretty apparent by the game engine that not much had been changed. I finished the game, but was less than impressed by the effort. Assassin’s Creed III was more of the same. Assassin’s Creed IV was universally praised, but with my short time with the game, it still seemed like the same big map fetch quest simulator with an occasional assassination thrown in.
It became obvious to the greater gaming community at large when Assassin’s Creed Unity was released that Ubisoft was just churning their money printing machine anymore. They released a massively flawed game that spawned embarrassing memes throughout social media. It was kind of sad, but really just a side effect of the money behemoth the video game industry had become. First person shooters had been spitting out yearly updates to their series much the same way that sports games had been doing since the mid 90s. We used to make fun of EA’s Roster Update games, but it’s pretty obvious that they make big money, so the industry started applying the same money making tactics to other genres.
Video games are in the same boat that movies are these days, mass commercialization, where interesting and innovative ideas are squashed in favor of tried and true formulaic models of success…so I guess I just don’t care anymore. Every time I see a new game released, I think “wow, that looks exactly like the last successful game in the same genre.” And more and more, I start to think that genres are becoming increasingly homogenized, where everything will either be a first person open world shooter RPG, or a third person open world shooter RPG. Go to point A, collect or kill this thing, bring back to quest giver. Rinse. Repeat.
Additionally, game companies know that the money is in online gaming. Playing games with other people online is what EVERYONE does these days. I feel like I’m in a small minority of gamers who really prefer playing games alone, or at the very least, with someone else on the couch with me. I don’t really like having to COMPETE every time I play a game with other people. I’ve had an interest in getting into Overwatch lately, for instance, but all the talk around how competitive the game is and how people get so butthurt over having someone who doesn’t know how to play well on a tema with them really turns me off to even attempting. I just want to play a damn game, man. I work my ass off and when I get home I want to unwind, not get all caught up in a whirlwind of juvenile trash talk and highly competitive personalities. You know what would have been REALLY cool? A freaking single player campaign on that beautiful looking new Star Wars game that was released.
I know I’m generalizing here. Not everything is geared towards the AAA machine. And I’m not completely guilt free, either. I purchased The Witcher III for my PC after having previously bought it for my ill fated Xboner. It’s a fantastic game, even if it does fall in that homogenized third person action RPG genre everything seems to fit into these days. I’m also REALLY excited for Mass Effect Andromeda and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It just feels like beyond a few titles here and there, I just can’t really get excited about anything modern gaming has to offer these days. But I’ll be honest, this is a lot of cathartic writing from a grouchy ass old gamer who doesn’t like things that are fun anymore.
There are still plenty of awesome options for the old school gamer who still wants to play new things. The indie scene has all kinds of really cool games out there that not only harken back to the days of pixel art, but also do new and interesting things with gameplay. For a retro gamer like me, that’s probably where I fare the best. Games like Axiom Verge, Out There Somewhere, Gunpoint, Iggy’s Egg Adventure, Castle in the Darkness, Master Spy, and the upcoming Cuphead all get my highly sugared and caffeinated gamer juices flowing. And if I’m really itching for some nostalgia, there are a ton of old 8 and 16 bit gems that I still haven’t tackled waiting for me to pop in and play. There are plenty of options for me, but the big name companies and popular franchise titles aren’t where I’m at anymore. I’ll be hacking away at my backlog of retro games and indie titles, and maybe the odd Mass Effect, but I think I can safely say that I’m mostly done following modern gaming.