Wednesday, November 2, 2011

RTFM: The Legacy of Misinterpreting Modern Game Design

This is floating around the internet today:

It's gotten hundreds of thousands of views. It seems to have struck a chord with a lot of FPS fans out there, judging from a lot of the comments and subsequent "Likes" it's received.

I think it's idiotic.

I think it shows a deep disrespect for video games and gamers, and I think that it shows a serious misunderstanding of what it takes to design a good game that's both fun and substantial. I think it makes fun of a straw man that exists only in the minds of gamers that is perpetuated by exactly this kind of sentiment, and it's exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned this offhand discrimination against FPS that pervades gaming culture.

This is bullshit.

But the saddest part is that even the people who disagree are disagreeing for the wrong reasons. They seem to think that the counterargument to this is to simply say "games change. If you don't like it then too bad." This is just as reactionary and idiotic as the stance that the video is taking. It's classic Internet: idiots battling idiots.

I'm really, really upset.

I'll be the first to admit that games "back in the day" had a certain kind of quality to them that many games today don't. I'll be the first to admit that that quality was in fact good. But what I won't say is that quality is the same thing that this anonymous internet dweeb seems to be implying. Old games weren't good because they were hard, or because they threw you into a situation without any prompting or hand-holding, or even because they gave you unlimited customizability. Old games were good mostly because the people who made them were much more intent on making them so.

What's in this video is so very, very wrong. In every possible way that things can be incorrect. It's like inventing robotics and then using it to create android donkeys to draw carts on unpaved roads instead of using that technology to MAKE BETTER ROADS.

How do I know this? Because all of the crap that this video seems to imply is wrong with modern shooters EXISTED IN THOSE OLD GAMES. Holy hell, this is what burns me up. Quake had a manual, remember? Not only that, Quake II, III, and EVERY OTHER ID GAME EVER had a manual. What the fuck do you think that is? It's a handhold. You know? It's a manual. And you know what the manual says? IT CONTAINS EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID MAKES NEW GAMES SHITTY.

It's actually for the better that it's placed in the game, because god knows that much of the reason why games were inaccessible for much of their history was the need to read the fucking manual. The problem isn't that though, the problem is the thoughtlessness with which modern developers implement the learning curve into their games. What this has done is completely distort what the real problem is and instead incite and ignite this pointless flame war on the internet that doesn't produce any informed or real, useful discussion about how to help make better video games.

And advanced techniques, high-level, complex gameplay, and mastery? All of these things exist in great abundance in a number of FPS, most of them modern. The irony is that the expertise in Quake's gameplay is not innate, but actually a result of players systematically breaking the game and discovering exploits. Customizable graphics? Quake barely had graphics to begin with, and real customization required tweaking INI files. Are we really trying to say that those are the better days?

And what's wrong with puzzle-based boss battles exactly? Do we honestly prefer bosses with impossibly huge amounts of health which forced the need to stockpile items and then find the most secure corner to pop in and out of while pecking away at his health in a war of attrition? Of course, neither one of these is the best choice, but displays like this would have us believe that. And god, so many people will believe that.

Ah what the hell, the truth is is that I know where he's coming from. And to an extent I agree. But this is a sad and self-attestingly misguided attempt at criticizing modern FPS. Any and every point made in this video is undermined by its pointless, masturbatory, extremist stance on what he thinks makes games good and not what actually made them good.

Really, what makes me the most sad is that things like this get 200,000 views and things like this and this go totally unregarded by the gaming public.

I hate gamers.