Perspective - Video Games

I was a kid during the best era of all. The era of Nintendo. Not Game Cube, not N64, not SNES, but the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Never again will it happen that it will be "cool" to play video games. Several cartoons came out like Captain N, and movies like The Wizard helped define, even more, the craze that was Nintendo. It was a time I look back on with great nostalgia. I say nostalgia because the games of today are a sad reflection as to what the games of yester-year were like.

My first take at video games was with the Atari 2600. Some of the games I played included Pitfall!, River Raid, Mega Mania, Missile Command, and Yar's Revenge. These were amazingly basic games, yet still fun for hours. Later, with Nintendo, I had games like Super Mario Brothers 3, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Contra, and Punch-Out!. These games were much more complex, with better graphics and sound. That, in itself, does not make a good game, but the games were extremely fun and exciting in their own right.

When Super Nintendo came out, I played the great ones such as Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana, and Final Fantasy VI. Even more complex games with better graphics and sound, and the games were still fun. After the 16-bit systems got old, a whole slew of other systems started coming out, but SNES was the last system I ever bought. Part of it was because I didn't have the time or the drive to play games as much any more. Part of it was because the games really started to suck.

I won't say that all the games from the 80's were great, because a lot of them were crap. I also won't say that all of today's games suck, because there are a few good ones still being made. I will say that once the polygon became a standard, the fun factor of games has dropped very low. It's not the polygon itself that has ruined the games, (Although the art in games really took a dive because of them) but that's when the change started. I also don't blame the systems that the games play on. I blame the game designers themselves for making a game so dull.

A major reason as to why games have slipped so much over the years is because Nintendo, who used to be the only big player, lost its monopoly in the video game industry. Nintendo's policy was that if you wanted to make a game for their system, you had to become a licensee and everything you did had to be approved by them. Everything, including the cartridges themselves had to be bought from Nintendo at rather high prices! Thusly, if the game sucked, the company would lose an obscene amount of money. This practically forced companies to make good games if they wanted to make money. Game companies hated this policy, but because Nintendo had about 90% of the market share, there was no fighting it.

Over the years Nintendo lost its market share due to legal issues and game companies no longer had to abide by this strict policy. So the companies could start making the games themselves for mere pennies per copy instead of the $10 per cart that Nintendo had. Now they saturate the market with their average quality games and can easily make their money back without having to sell as many copies.

The video game has become a multi-billion dollar industry in past two decades. When so much money is involved you have to expect companies to care very little about the customer, and much more about the profit. Thusly, it's the game players who suffer. I think the real problem is that companies no longer worry about if a game is fun to play. Now they they only worry about if it will sell. They have found that's much more cost-effective to make a game that everyone will buy and whether or not the players actually enjoy the game they bought is entirely inconsequential, provided they do not return it. The game companies are just rehashing old ideas, because they know they will sell, instead of trying to come up with new and risky ideas which made the older games so great.

This new business practice is really quite sad. For example, Richard Garriott co-founded the company Origin which was known best for creating entire worlds where their games would be set in. This created a massive scope to their games and really made them unique. Once Electronic Arts became the main share-holder in the company they began forcing Origin to release games before they were finished, they also didn't allow the company to create new ideas forcing them to keep pumping out cookie-cutter games. This ultimately cause Richard Garriott to quit from his own company. Now Origin has only one product left, Ultima, which is a mere shadow of its once greatness.

I hope that game companies will soon have to clean up their act and start making fun games again. I know I sound like a pathetic nerd, but I'm okay with that! :-)