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Why Old Games are Superior

I had a nice little idea for an article gestating in my head an hour ago -- something to do with spears and ice cream and rampaging mutant bears and whatnot. It was going to be awesome. Then I got the news. Larry Laffer is getting a remake. And it's none of that fake Larry bullshit that's been coming out for the past few years, either. This is a real, honest-to-god remake of a real, honest-to-god adventure game. This is big. This is earth-shattering. This is how the story of my article about the spears and ice cream and rampaging mutant bears became doomed to spend eternity in writer's limbo, fated to spin aimlessly and inertia-free in a colorless void amidst shapes that follow non-Euclidean geometry.

I got so worked up that I emailed Al Lowe right away to gush like an epileptic hemophiliac in a Gillette factory. He hasn't replied yet, but I'm waiting. I'm so excited.

There's one big thing that games from the past decade had that we don't get much of today, and it shall be revealed after the jump:

HEART!

And before you accuse me of being a nostalgia-fueled fanboy who can't get with the times and lives in the past, I'll save you the effort and admit it now: yes, I am all those things. I am an angry old man in a [slightly] younger man's body.

Let's play a game. I'm going to throw out some nouns, and you tell me if reading through them momentarily transports you back fifteen years to a simpler, happier time. Ready? Mordavia. Thri-Kreen. Lumbago Lemonade. Cacodemon. Derceto. La Costa Lotta. Genestealer. Zanthia. Hans Grosse. Ghost Bear. Zrbite. Metavira. Chelsee Bando. TriOptimum. Svetlana Lupescu. Lytton. Winthrop Mansion. Malia Gedde. Arcology. Iolo. Tiger's Claw. Land of the Green Isles. Ransom Stark. AM.

And Superfly Johnson? I can't leave without my buddy who is him. Obviously.

There's a story behind every single one of these words, and there's an entire world that contains each of those stories. And all those worlds are the product of a development team's imagination, dedication, and -- yes --

HEART!

I'm perfectly aware that I'm simply a product of my time, and that kids today will see games like Call of Duty and Dragon Age as the Dooms and Pool of Radiances of their era. I do have a right to shudder at the thought, so I will. There. Brrr.

It's not just that, though. Some people will argue that there's no better time to be a gamer than today, and in some ways, I agree. We've got some amazing graphics and sound technology going on today -- stuff that will put you right in the middle of the action, provided you have the right hardware. We've got force feedback. Racing wheels and pedals. Head tracking. Body tracking. Motion tracking in general. We have the Internet, for crying out loud. Surely that by itself is worth more than a few precious memories of rainy weekday mornings, when school got called off and we all miraculously shook away our feigned sleepiness to play a little more King's Quest VI?

No. Of course not. Never in a million years.

It all depends on what each of us expects out of playing a game. A lot of people today play for the fun and camaraderie that playing as a team provides. Even more play just for the competition. Some just want to let off some steam. I also play for those reasons, of course, but above all else, I play to escape. I play for the same reason that I read books, or watch movies, or write about rampaging mutant bears spinning around in a sea of null-colored nothingness. For a few hours out of my whole day, I'd like to be somewhere else. Someone else. Something else.

Funny thing. Those old games are better at the escapism thing than what we have today. It was the Wild West back then -- there wasn't any real winning formula to adhere to, and developers were coming up with very unique and outrageous ideas.

Bloodnet is a cyberpunk game where you play as a hacker-type who gets turned into a vampire and battles a futuristic Van Helsing in a Blade Runner-esque world by investigating locations, recruiting allies, and levelling up his stats. Under a Killing Moon puts you in the role of Tex Murphy, a hard-boiled private eye in the post-World War 3 world of San Francisco, 2042, where you solve your neighbors' everyday problems AND save the world by navigating the 3D environment, finding clues, and manipulating everything from drawers and keypad locks, to your allies in the police department. The Legacy casts you as the sole heir to a sprawling family estate which of course contains a gateway to a Dimension of Unimaginable Horrors that you must seal by exploring the house, reading journals, and solving puzzles, all while keeping your sanity (an actual stat in the game) intact.

These games let me escape with glee. Never mind if that "escape" meant getting chased by an axe-wielding maniac down a corridor in an asylum built into a secret floor of a creepy old mansion. At six in the morning. On a Sunday. I had some memorable experiences with those old games because of one thing.

HEART!

You can probably tell that I'm none too pleased with the homogenization that the industry is going through nowadays. Games are designed by committee based on an existing framework with a proven track record. This year's games are last year's games with a couple more questionable features and an uglier menu design. And everything is turning into a shooter. It's common sense from a business standpoint. It's horrible for creativity and innovation.

I'm not saying the Good Games (my definition thereof) have totally disappeared. Just look at the indie movement, where all the crazy off-the-wall ideas that used to be commonplace have converged. Even mainstream gaming has its moments. We've got games with fascinating settings like Portal, and Assassin's Creed, and Mirror's Edge. Sadly, rarely do I discover any new games these days that don't thematically feel like a bad rehash of something that came before it.

I love old games. That's never going to change. What happened, Gaming Industry? Where did the

HEART!

go?

And why haven't you replied to me yet, Al Lowe? Why?

This has been part 1 of a 2-part series. Tune in next week for part 2: Why Old Games are Inferior. See you then!

Do you love old games? Do you hate them? Do you think Al Lowe will ever reply to my email? Leave a comment in the forums!

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