Friday, November 13, 2015

Why Do Video Games Stink Today?

I used to like video gams. When Nintendo came out I bought each new console and my children loved them. They used to have a lot of games that the whole family could play. I was watching some videos on YouTube and was reminded of what it was like when Nintendo resurrected the video game industry. Then something changed and it got expensive to create video games, the graphics got better and the games were not for kids as much as they are now for people in their late teens and twenties.

Video games used to have more variety with funny games and adventure games. They don't even make adventure games anymore, now everything is a shooting game. Adventure games were basically puzzle solving games where you had to figure out a mystery. The last big adventure game was called, "Grim Fandango". It was fun, funny and any age could enjoy it.

One of the reasons kids could play video games was because they were simple to control and often were side scrolling where your path was predetermined and the issue was how you dealt with the challenges along the way. One of my favorite games was called, "Pilot Wings". It was a flying video game with really pleasant and calm music. It didn't matter if you won or not, it was just relaxing, not frantic like the shooters. Heck, I liked some of the shooters and really enjoyed Grand Theft Auto - Vice City. It was like travelling back to the 80s.

Here are some of the things destroying video games. Firstly, the cost to create them. The early games were easier to make because the animation was less complicated due to the restrictions of what the computers and consoles could reproduce. If you played Donkey Kong and look at any game today you can see how much the graphics have advanced; but, the original Donkey Kong is still a fun game. Games used to be made by small teams of a dozen or so people and finished in a couple of months. Today it is tens of millions if not more and can take years, literally some games took ten years to produce. It is big business and one game can make or break a company.

I have to say that I have been writing about politics and economics a lot lately and this post may seem like a puff piece; but, I think there are still some insights to be found. Did you know that Atari both popularized and destroyed the play at home video game business. Sometimes success is proceeded by suicide. Atari's success led to them selling garbage games, things they didn't care about and churned out in weeks. They concluded that as long as there was a brand to tie into, the game could suck. That proved wrong and led to the video game "E.T." (just like the movie). The games was rushed out, had nothing interesting about it and they ended up burying untold copies in New Mexico (pretty sure it was New Mexico; but, you can look it up online). After that fiasco video games just stopped being popular until Nintendo came out. Nintendo introduced us to Super Mario Brothers and arcade style Donkey Kong on your television. The complexity of the games and story became important. You didn't have to have a great story, more of a theme. The super Nintendo pushed the envelop even further with creative and interesting worlds and things to do. Games were still pretty inexpensive to design back then and chances could be taken by developers.

With every success comes new challenges. I was just wondering, why can't they make cheaper and easier games for kids and families? Why is the industry only interested in "serious" gamers? Well, the reason is simple. The video game industry is focused on online games that are massive multiplayer games and that requires you pay money. There is one place where there is still innovation and that is games that are played on your phones. Those games do not cost a lot to make and are still varied which is why I believe there is still a niche out there that is not being met and that is simpler video games that can be played at home. Look at the enormous success of some of the phone based games and it is clear that people don't just want shoot em ups.

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