A quick game ?

There’s a report over at the BBC – though it is mentioned in many places – that the games industry is ignoring casual gamers. True, but maybe in different ways.
I’m not talking PC games here, just consoles. Some games – such as the Final Fantasy series, Morrowind – have many many hours of play in them, but the effect of this is you can’t really sit down for a ‘quick blast’. You really need to set aside some time, because you’ll end up being dragged into the game. Other games, typically the FPS types, need you to have as many fingers as buttons it seems, but again the levels tend to be be sprawling affairs and time is again eaten up. Whatever happened to a simple game ?

I’ve got Mame on this machine (full .73 minus the CHD’s) so I’ve got all the arcade games (4,119 in that version), and these are games you can just sit there for 10-20 minutes playing. No need to devote hours and remembering which button does what – you literally just press the button to start – why have console game makers forgotten this ? There are dozens of games they could release which might not only drag people into the world of gaming, but also give established gamers that bit more choice when they’ve only got 30 minutes and want a game. Okay, so they have released things like Midway’s Arcade Treasures (Robotron !!!!) but that’s not so great a way to do it is it ? There are much better games they should and could have included. Not everyone wants the latest CGI intro, better graphics, morphing whatever’s and Dolby sound – they want tp play.
Not that the hardcore players should be neglected – games like Half-Life 2 will always have an audience, but aren’t they tailored more to the younger end of the adult market ? I’m 40, I was a teenager when the first Space Invaders machine came to Britain. I was good at Galaxians and Phoenix and was the Defender king among my mates (all in Mame) and they were games for games sake almost. Take arcades now. A lot of the games you have to do something physical – Dancing Stage, Snowboarding / Motocross / Skiing / Horse Riding type things, and you won’t get a lot of people playing them, people who may want to, simply because it is so public. Watching someone who is damn good at one of the Dance games is a wonder to behold, but watching someone bad ? It’s embarrassing – and funny. Bigger isn’t better. Why no lines of original games ? If they were such a success back in the early 80’s, they would be now – and surely that is how you hook people into gaming ?

Games now are on a learning curve, and for some games, it’s a very steep curve at that. But it doesn’t say that on the box does it ? The person over the counter won’t advise you that you really should have some gaming experience before you go tackling Civilisation III or that RTFM should be listed in the system requirements. Where have the games gone that simply by looking at the attract screen or watching another gamer it gave you enough information to try playing yourself ? Hey, here’s a thing – why have the YetiSports games (No.6 is out !) been such a hit ? Because they are easy to understand, because they are quick to play and because they offer a diversion. Okay, so luck plays a role in them, but look at that last bit I mentioned – diversion.
I don’t play games to get annoyed at the controls (/me spits in direction of xbox), I play them for fun, to enjoy myself, to take my mind off something that may be stressing me. Sometimes, sometimes that may indeed be a game with depth and longevity, but other times I just want to play – but where are these games ? If you have grown with and into games, then the stress / tension / frustration with a game such as Half-Life may well be fun and a diversion for you, but if you are new to gaming, it very probably will not and it may even work to put you off.
The game companies need cash to keep going, but it seems to me that they are missing many opportunities to grab future gamers.

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5 thoughts on “A quick game ?

  1. I think you’ve got some really interesting points here. I think what’s really required is balance in a game…and not just between a good storyline or theme, and an arcade-style spin-off or quick version of the same.

    When thematic progression games like Quake and Doom introduced arena-style quick-fix add-ons (from memory the original, linear Unreal‘s arcade-arena was so good it spawned the Unreal Tournament series)

    I think the success of the Yeti series is that most people play them at work…so the diversion is one hell of a lot more engrossing and welcome than at home, when repetitive and luck-based games become almost sisyphusian in their gameplay.

  2. Ra! I totally managed to miss out the middle of that comment.

    I meant to go on about how the linear FPS’s arena stuff was the first attempt to widen the opportunities for brief diversion in games, but they’ve leaned on it too far in typical exploitative style.

    *gets off soapbox*

  3. I just had to look up that word ! 🙂

    I think what’s also missing is the Hi-Score.
    Where have they gone ? Part of the attraction of the arcade and ‘quick go’ games was getting better, and that was measured by the high score, or in HyperSports, the fastest time, longest throw, highest jump.

    What many new games have – according to the blurb – is ‘immersive gameplay’. Wrong. That means “RTFM, master the controls, play, RTFM again, read an online guide, realise what you are meant to do, start over”. That is not gameplay. That’s an education !

    Gameplay is that intangible just-one-more-go quality, that ‘thing’ which is not defined by graphics or the lastest Radeon.

    That’s what is missing.

  4. I appreciate the dreaded trial and error factor. That’s kind of what I meant with the Sisyphus thing.

    I rented ‘DRIV3R’ over the weekend. Much as it was well presented, the graphics, design and everything were cool, I got frustrated with the repetition element. I played it a lot (as you do when you have a free weekend and you’ve paid £3.75 for the rental) and in one of the later levels it was a case of ‘oh, I wonder if I have to do this…oh, obviously not. *pause for reload* oh, how about that? Ah. no….’ and so on.

    It takes the magic out of it for me.

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