Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the Verge of a Gaming Revolution

Something's about to give. I can feel it. After all my blathering about remakes, the difference between modern and retro games, and franchises that last too long, I think we might finally be on the verge of an era I can be proud to support.

I recently read two angry reviews on GameCola, one for Rocket Knight and one for Metroid: Other M, both of which are continuations of very solid, respectible video game franchises.

Both of which ruin the integrity of the entire franchise. Or so say the reviewers, who are big enough fans of the series to have enough ammo to support that sentiment.

What stands out about both reviews is that neither game is an awful, horrible, avoid-at-all-costs type of game simply on its own merits (or lack thereof). It's what the games stand for that makes them so egregious. It's the complete disregard for history that warrants such ire.

I recognize that these are but two peoples' opinions, and shouldn't be taken to represent the opinions of the masses. But they're not the only naysaying GameCola staff members. There are multiple people who are concerned about an upcoming Back to the Future game. And I've heard plenty of discontent over major sequels to games people loved, not just from GameCola but from all over.

There will always be whiners and complainers, and there will always be bad sequels. The real issue is that I'm hearing about fewer and fewer games where there's a consensus among fans about the greatness of a game. Chalk it up to diversifying tastes, if you will, but I think it's suspicious that fans who can agree about the merits of earlier installments in a franchise can become so divided over literally everything new that comes out.

I look at Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Online, and I shudder. My heart sinks a little every time I sit down to play a game that requires touch-sensitive or motion controls. And I know I'm not alone. But I also know there are people who are rabid for more.

That's why I think we're on the verge of a revolution: Many of the people of my generation grew up on what is now considered to be retro. The video games of our childhood have shaped our preferences and opinions on modern gaming. We have strong memories of the games we loved and hated. We retro-influenced gamers can't help but compare now to then, if only at a subconscious level.

As members of the gaming community, we show our support and disapproval of the latest trends with our wallets. We write reviews and make videos that make some kind of impact, large or small, on anyone exposed to them. We use social networking to express our glee and disdain at whatever we play or hear about. As a group, we have a real sway over the future and legacy of any given game.

Some of us retro-influenced gamers hold jobs and companies that design and produce video games and game-related technology. Over the next few years, several such people will rise to positions where their opinions and decisions have some actual clout, if they're not there already. That's when we'll look at the gaming landscape as it is today, think about what's possible, get filled with nostalgia for what we grew up on, and return to our roots while taking full advantage of the knowledge and technology at hand.

We're already at the point where the motion control craze is wearing off, its must-have novelty being transformed into an option that developers can take or leave. So many of our favorite franchises have just been rebooted, remade, rereleased, or ruined, and the potential for quality innovation and expert continuation has seldom been greater.

Modern gaming is becoming progressively more disappointing and distateful to me. I'm holding out for post-modern gaming. Fingers crossed.

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