Wild Wild Tech with Mark McDonald

Video games have come a long way since the days of Pac-Man, Galaga, and Space Invaders. The arcades that used to be so prevalent have become increasingly harder to find.  As people migrated towards the use of home consoles for gaming, the arcade industry just couldn’t keep up. The days of pumping quarters into a machine for days just to beat one more level have passed in favor of a more engrossing, cinematic experience.

In many ways, video games have advanced far beyond what we could have imagined years ago. Storytelling and graphics have become as integral to games as they are to movies. The differences between movies and games has blurred to the point where they are beginning to merge, a far cry from the games of our youth. The industry has grown and grown, and production costs for games have become astronomical in order to create unprecedented levels of immersion for the players.

While these new games have translated into big sales for companies, I can’t help but feel that the true experience of gaming has failed to translate into this newer generation. I’m not opposed to a good story or high-quality graphics; I just want a game to be a game. 

I recently began to play through the critical and commercial hit game Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game looked amazing, the voice acting was perfect, and the story was engrossing; it was easy to see why so many had fallen in love with it. However, after only an hour of play I was compelled to put the game down.  Not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it wasn’t fun.

The game felt more like an interactive movie than a game; all I needed to do was press a few buttons to keep the story going. The game was hardly a challenge, and seemed more like pressing the play button on a remote than actually playing a game.

I still cannot believe the overwhelmingly positive reception that the game received, although I have come to understand it. The industry has changed, and traditional games are going the way of the dodo bird. Somewhere along the way, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with gaming.

In the late 1990’s, Final Fantasy VII changed videogames forever. The game’s gorgeous cinematic cut scenes, epic storyline, and endearing characters became the standard by which all other games were judged. This game is a favorite of many, including myself. I love this game, but I loathe what it did to the industry.

I don’t have anything against games having storylines; I just think that the industry is becoming far too concerned with the aesthetics of games and forgetting to make them fun. Games have lost the sense of timelessness that once surrounded them. Super Mario Bros.and Pac-Manare just as playable today as they were twenty years ago, but games from just a few years ago are already forgotten and discarded.

Movies are great, but I want a game to be a game. I love that games have stories and can rival the experience of big-time Hollywood productions. But no matter what, I don’t want games to lose the experience that makes them such a unique form of entertainment. If the future of gaming strays too far from its origins, an entire industry will become nothing more than a Hollywood knock-off.