The Fall Of Gaming Delight

Clunk!

The door fastened shut, followed by the sound of footsteps. The usual sound of my dad coming home from work was no surprise.

Rustle rustle.

That’d be his coat being taken off, still nothing out of the ordinary.

Thump!

Hang on, that noise was new!

I shot up and out of my room and peered down the stairs, to find the outwardly striking box of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 staring back up at me. Not quite believing my eyes, I charged downstairs and picked up this piece of wonder from where it lay. A feeling of pure excitement and anticipation flooded through my body, something plainly obvious in my voice when I called up to my brother.

“We’ve got Sonic 2! We’ve got Sonic 2!” I yelled, though naturally he didn’t believe that such a stunningly fantastic event could have possibly occurred. “Well then, what’s this I’m holding in my hands?” I countered temptingly.

At that, he was down like a 10-tonne elephant and joining me in my astonished staring. Naturally, due to some circumstance or another we had to wait a while in anticipating agony before we played it, but when we finally did it was everything we’d hoped for and more. It was gaming ecstasy.

Now, coming back to the present from that little nostalgic remembrance from many years ago, things have changed. It has been a long time since I’ve felt something even close to what I felt that day, no matter what the gaming world has thrown in my direction. Halo tournaments and the like are always good fun, but never do they provide the unblemished excitement and continuing satisfaction that I’ve longed to experience again for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that many games developers have produced outstanding pieces of work over the years since, Resident Evil 4 and Shadow of the Colossus to name two of the most recent ones, so it’s not like developers’ ability has declined. Likewise, growing older has changed my reactions to new games, and the childlike thought processes that allowed me that ecstatic joy have long since been replaced by the stress of work and other distractions. However, it seems to me that many people have become too concerned with the technical achievements of games and scrutinising their numerous flaws rather than fully acknowledging the actual joy of playing them.

Take the FPS genre as it stands, for instance. Many players spend all their time improving their skills and sharpening their aim, with the result that they can slaughter all opposition and gain some mild applause from anyone who happens to be watching. The thing is, is this fun? Having no challenges will get monotonous, and any failing challengers will simply feel angry and frustrated. The enjoyment has been forgotten in place of skill, and this isn’t a good switch.

Keeping to the FPS theme, Halo 2 isn’t that fun. True, a sense of achievement is gained from completing the levels, and sure the graphics look swish, but in terms of fun it doesn’t rank so highly. To me it can often seem more frustrating than enjoyable, and that just doesn’t seem right.

This trend isn’t just confined to shooters though. Wherever you look, graphics and technical wonder are going up whilst enjoyment is often going down, with more focus being put on making sure the game looks the part rather than thinking how it can be made really enjoyable to play. The Gran Turismo series is a prime example, with stunning graphical flair in place of decent AI and a truly enjoyable experience. Reality isn’t needed in games, yet it’s present in most of them. Games are the most opportune way of escaping from the real world for a while, of being able to experience something like they’ve never experienced before, but this opportunity is being wasted on realism, and that in turn is hemming developers’ creativity in when their creativity should be expanding the games out.

Fun is fun. Something is fun when it can be enjoyed by the majority of people who try it, regardless of whoever that may be. A truly fun game can be enjoyed by all, children and adults alike, much like that old wonder Sonic 2. Surely the point of ‘playing’ something is to enjoy it, not to simply compete to be the best through hours of similarity and frustration, nor to admire the scenery. If the games industry saw this simple fact then perhaps, one day, I’ll be able to experience that long-lost feeling one more time.