Sunday, March 24, 2013

Where have all the good games gone?

Years ago, we bought a Sega Mega Drive. It cost us what seemed like a small fortune at the time, and games were pretty expensive. We played maybe a small handful of games extensively - Sonic and variations, and Desert Strike was fantastic. Yes, we still have it, although it doesn't come out all that often.

My brother had a SNES. We borrowed it for a while, just to play one game - Zelda. This was in a completely different league. Not too long ago, I actually went out and bought myself a Game Boy with the rereleased Zelda, and considered it money well spent.

The next console was a PSone. This has been heavily used, but largely for one particular game. Spyro: Year of the Dragon is just superb. You just can't get better. The predecessors were OK, too, but Year of the Dragon was clearly the pinnacle.

We have a PS2 as well. Looking around, there's not much available. The Spyro game for it is dreadful, and there's little else. The kids liked the Eye Toy games, but they've outgrown it and it hasn't been turned on for ages.

The Wii was - and still is - tremendous fun. But largely for Wii Fit and the odd sports game, where the board and the controller work really well. I haven't seen a more conventional game that's generated even a flicker of interest.

To be honest, I don't see myself buying a new console. I simply haven't seen one game that I can see myself enjoying, so what's the point?

I've also dropped out completely from PC games. Years ago, there were wonderful games available - I found Pod addictive, lost too many evenings to Caesar III, Age of Empires 2, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Rise of Nations, and Zoo Tycoon. Some of the updated versions were pretty dismal - Age of Empires III and Zoo Tycoon 2 were shockingly inferior to their predecessors, and there's a whole genre of games that's largely disappeared. Not only that, getting them to work on a current system is at best frustrating, if possible at all.

(And that's without Flight Simulator, a franchise that has largely vanished without trace - it once had a vibrant community and lots of community add-ons, I even built some scenery myself.)

The console and PC games industry has largely got itself to blame; potential customers with considerable disposable income won't bother getting their wallets out for any of the current garbage that's on offer.

Nowadays, I tend to play lightweight games on my iPad. In many ways, the game ecosystem provided by small mobile devices and tablets brings you back to the earlier games - simple, addictive, and fun. (One thing I didn't mention above is that we've collected a fair number of original Game Boy games, some have aged extremely well.)

One of my favourites right now is Harbour Master HD. It's a very simple premise, as with all good games - send the boats into harbour and out again, without any crashes. Addictive as anything.

There are a lot of games on the iPad and mobile devices that are ideal for killing short amounts of time. Puzzles, various logo games, pattern matching, brain training, and the like. The ones that work well are ideally suited to the platform, and fit around a busy lifestyle.

Maybe I am looked at the past through rose tinted spectacles, but I still want to know where all the good games have gone.

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