March 29, 2013

Dumbing Down of Games is getting ridiculous

One thing I think has been becoming predominantly bad lately is the fact that graphics have been overtaking gameplay in the modern game. Long ago it used to be about making fun, engaging games that players could spend hours playing, but lately the new thing is “revolutionary” graphics to cover up the shoddy gameplay aspects of the current generation. And I don’t say that lightly. Each new generational leap, especially in the console market, has been about pushing the graphical quality of the game while the gameplay quality has either been becoming dumber in the process or completely forgotten, and this is just terrible.

I think the evidence can speak for itself in this regard. When most people talk about gaming they typically refer to games that they use to play a lot of when they were younger. Games that had gameplay in them and encouraged smart thinking, versus what we have today which is either too easy to play or just has so much hand-holding going on that you spend more time screaming “Yea, I get it” at the screen than actually playing. The popularity of the retro market booming, I think, has more to do with the fact people are getting tired of the dumbing down or lack of actual gameplay in a modern game and wanting to have a game that plays, you know, like a game instead.

Let me voice my opinion of a recent retro game that is getting a “modern” update; DuckTales Remastered. Now I, like many people who played the original, was quite excited about this and it made me wish I still owned a console to take advantage of it, but as news started coming out about the game I started scratching my head. First thing stated, the game was made easier. Now for people who never knew that collective sound you heard was the fact the brains of a lot of fans just fell out of their head at how stupid this remark was. Why? First and foremost, DuckTales was not even a hard game, not even on the hardest difficulty. It was memorable and fun not because of its epic challenge but because of its gameplay and how fun it was. The most challenging part of DuckTales was just collecting the secrets which in themselves weren't terribly secret, or the fact the text from the supporting characters crawled slowly.

This is a game that on my first night owning it I beat it but I still continuously played over and over because it was fun. And the part that baffled me the most is how the developers actually think the average game player is so stupid that they can’t understand a concept such as “Down + B” to use a standard skill after jumping. Seriously? I mean this is how far gaming has devolved and that a graphical update to a classic, but albeit easy game is revolutionary, but the gameplay of said easy game was tough it needed to be made even easier? I don’t know how to rate this but it definitely falls within the ballpark of facepalm worth.

A lot of games, modern and retro refits, are being remarkably dumbed down lately for the sake of process, and through each dumbing down the identity of the game is being lost in the process. Hell, you can see such dumbing down in current on-going series games that exist today. A prime example, again pointing this one out, are BioWare games. Each successive game in a series they've developed is losing all the things from the original and being replaced by one button solutions that remove identity and in many cases, fun from the actual game all for the sake of making sure the developers perception of the average player is met. And do you know how the developer perceives the average player these days? Quite simply as a dumb sack of stupid incapable of understanding that “Down + B” lets you use the pogo jump ability of Scrooge McDuck in a DuckTales game.

This is insulting to the intelligence of gamers, and the sad part is, there will be a large enough crowd that applauds these things saying it streamlines things for the casual market. Seriously? Are you really going to try and call casual gamers retards and too stupid to tie their own shoes? Because that’s basically what you are claiming.

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is an often quoted thing from people who defend these types of decisions but there is a line that needs to be drawn. The constant pop ups explaining how things work, the ridiculous hand holding, and other things that just annoy people lately are becoming exceptionally more intrusive. The sad part is, the games of yesteryear could teach more with less without a visual pop up in an entire tutorial stage than the modern game can do in 10 tutorial stages that they often plug into the game making the game annoying and less fun for all. There's keeping it simple and then there is just calling you an idiot, and it often baffles me how many people want to be called an idiot.

There is a large reason that retro market games are picking up in popularity and it isn't just nostalgia; it’s because those old games were actual games, and even they could tell better stories than the current generation of games that exist today with less padding to boot. Most gamers are grown up, or pretty intelligent people. Many have been gaming for decades but it’s getting more than a tad insulting that we get treated more like children who don’t understand simple concepts such as “Down + B” to use the special pogo move. This is the reason people hate remakes, is because it treats the audience like a retarded idiots that shouldn't be near a toaster instead of intelligent people able to understand the basic concepts of movement in a game.

I recommend watching a very good overview of this very concept from EgoRaptor on YouTube called Sequl-itis here. It at least paints my view, using a good game, Mega Man X from the Super Nintendo as an example. Warning, NSFW.

But yea, words like innovation, graphics and even emotions *shivers at the David Cage stupidity of the century* is now trumping things like gameplay, fun and entertainment. It's gotten so bad that even gamers have been swallowed up in the river of stupid and actually believe that graphics are what makes games now. No, they don't. Not even close. Good gameplay, fun and entertainment is what makes a good game. If graphics are all you live for, then just go look at high definition renders with single photos, because there are your graphics, heartless, soulless and no inspiration.

Back to a previous point, people keep quoting KISS a lot, but the funny bit is, developers try to simplify things so much they make the damn thing even more complicated in the end. When half your game is bloody tutorials, it should be time to realize you fucked up somewhere. When you need to interrupt the flow and features of a game to have a pop up to explain to an FPS player how to aim and shoot a gun in your FPS game, you fucked up somewhere. I think developers and gamers need to take a step back and take a long look at why games today are no where near as fun as the games of yesteryear.

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