Nostalgia is one of those things that you just can’t beat. It always seems to be indubitably correct, missing all of the negatives in the process. However, there are times where it is hard to deny that things weren’t just a little bit better in the past, a sign of changing times that we may not all agree with. Hopping on to that train of thought, I present five things about gaming that aren’t around much anymore, or have disappeared altogether.
Local Multiplayer/Bots - Perfect Dark, Red Faction 2, Time Splitters, what do these games bring to mind? Shiny graphics? Top-of-the-line particle effects? Textures that pop right out of the screen? No? Well, that’s because they weren’t known for any of that. These were games you could rent with a friend on a weekend, grab some two liters and chips, hook up some remotes to your console of choice, and game through the night together; be it the campaign or with some good ol’ bots in the death match.
These things aren’t entirely absent from modern games, but they aren’t around half as much as I would like them to be. With developers worried more with pushing the consoles to their limit graphically, it prevents them from including these beloved multi-player features. Rendering some games twice on one screen would grind them to a halt because they are already squeezing so much juice out of the console for just one player. There has been more than one occasion that I wish I could play some Uncharted with a friend sitting next to me.
Health Bars/Health Packs - I know I might ruffle some feathers with this one, but the fact that a large portion of video games nowadays have recharging health can really sap the tension out of them. Shooters, for example, have gone from tense, dare I say, atmospheric experiences to what can best be described as pure spectacle. All Michael Bay and no Alfred Hitchcock. Health packs may be looked at by some as annoyances, and I can sympathize with this point of view. There’s nothing worse than reaching a boss with too little health to beat it, setting you God knows how far back. However, this made games something of a slow burn; each corner turned with care so as to preserve health. I could also mention how this speaks to the problem of over-linearity that plagues many games this gen, but that’s another article altogether.
Lightheartedness and Character - With graphical technology constantly being pushed to its limits on the latest gaming PC rigs and a gaming community that is more concerned with visual fidelity than ever (sites like Lens of Truth provide all the evidence you need), this seems to have bled into the nature of games. Now more than ever, save for a burgeoning indie scene, developers seem really concerned with making it “gritty” and “hyper realistic.” The problem is, we are surrounded by reality every day. Games are there as an escape, and the obsession with simulation, especially in the realm of FPS’s, has kind of taken some of the fun out of it and made a lot of games look samey in their realism. Ever wonder why games like Timesplitters don’t exist and why platformers are seeing a very small presence this generation? There is your answer right there.
Unlockables - Speaking of Timesplitters, remember when performance in single player actually mattered? Getting through levels on certain difficulties, completing challenges, or getting a certain number of kills all meant you might unlock a new map, weapon, hidden campaign level, or multiplayer skin. Now, it doesn’t seem that these aren’t really a priority of developers unless we’re talking about fighting games. It’s all about the persistent online leveling, but where does that leave those that don’t want to compete in the hostile online environment? Nowhere good. In an age where many games are being criticized for their brevity, it would be nice to see a developer take the time to put in some extra unlockables that don’t require a digital transaction. Speaking of which…
ALL of the Features - I’d like to think that there are very few people on the face of this planet that would design a technology specifically to hurt or make worse people’s condition. In the case of console online compatibility, this was designed to bring gamers together. Online communities were formed for a variety of titles en masse, friends were made worldwide, and small bugs that slipped into a games code were able to be patched. While it worked great at first, it would seem that this generation developers and publishers have become both sloppy and parsimonious.
Games are shipping with more bugs than ever, and micro transactions have started to take over. Wheres that weapon pack and those character skins may have been unlockables in the past, now players are being charged for them. Sometimes, there is content on the disc that you have to pay to unlock. Serious bugs, especially in the case of games such as Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, are breaking games and making certain parts unplayable. When I purchase a game at the store, it would be much more comforting to know that not only will I be getting everything that the developer intended me to see, but a finished product as well, as free of bugs as possible.
I leave you, dear reader, with a caveat. I’m a relatively young person, as you will see in my bio below. I have only been playing video games since the 64-bit era. What this means is that, obviously, there will be features from games long before that people must miss as well. If any of these come to mind, let us know in the comments below!