Old-School Games vs. New-School Games

Posted By Zach Tugel

I have a confession to make. I used to be a gamer. And I say used to be, because as a gamer, you have to love the games you play. You have to invest time, energy, and emotion into them to get the most out of them. Over the past 4 or 5 years, however, I have lost that zeal for gaming. Not so much because I have moved past gaming as a hobby, but because there have not been any games that have captivated me in the way games used to.

Case in point: Starcraft 2. A gorgeous game with phenomenal playability, undoubtedly. But it’s hackneyed. There is nothing novel about this game that led me to devote hours, days, fortnights, or months to playing it. For an old-school gamer like me, I’ve run this gauntlet before, and I find nothing inspiring about this game. I understand Starcraft 2 was released over 10 years after the original, and should appeal to a younger set of gamers, but what about the legions of grizzled veterans who started out with “Hurt Me Plenty,” and are now up to “Nightmare!”? I sense the novelty in today’s games have been excluded in favor of yearly iterations (hi there, Call of Duty, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you over there doing the exact same thing you were doing in 2003 when you first came out) that generate profits.

I guess I can tell you a bit about myself: I come from the old school. 5 ¼” floppy drive elderly school gaming, son. I grew up on games like Wing Commander, Alone In The Dark, Rebel Assault, and Wolfenstein 3D. My games didn’t come on Blu-Rays, my shit came on 30 fuckin’ 3 ½” floppy disks that took almost 3 hours to install. But the vehicle is not the point of this argument, it’s the content. The games I just listed? New, fresh, engaging. Let’s see a show of hands of who spent over 500 hours playing Doom, Doom II, or Duke Nukem 3D?


That’s what I thought.

Why? Because they were fucking awesome, that’s why. They were challenging (well, except for the times we modded the WADs and used the no-clipping cheats), yet they were mindless. You shot the shit out of anything that moved and looked for a bigger gun in the process. Rebel Assault? Possibly the most challenging game I’ve ever played to this day. It was an unforgiving motherfucker. If you had one crash you started all the way back at the starting line of each level. That was some cruel programming by LucasArts. But you best believe I would not yield to that shit.

There were other games that defined my “golden age” of gaming, as it were. Diablo and Diablo II, Warcraft II and III. Everquest. Tribes II. Counter-Strike. These games, and to a much lesser degree, their iterations, found a way to draw in massive audiences with their “replayability,” the ability to hook you like a heroin addict. Why? Because they found a formula that introduced some new and radical way of gaming that kept you engaged.

Most games today are disposable. You plop down $60 and you get two months of a tired idea. The last two games in the past five years that have engaged me and forced me to get my money out of them were Batman: Arkham Asylum and its progeny, Arkham City. Those games were so wonderfully crafted. A new and fresh take on Batman, where he could roam freely, complete tasks at your own pace, oh, and there were the Riddler trophies. They were the heroin bindles you found that kept you going.

“But Zach, aren’t you going to defend your boys over at Blizzard?” No. I won’t. Diablo 3 is trash that takes money away from college students selling their gear online for cheddar and puts it deeper into their own coffers. Starcraft 2 is the same model, but with fresh balancing and new graphics. And World of Warcraft got old about a year after it dropped. They lost sight of what gamers truly enjoyed about their games, and became a profit margin instead. Thanks for the memories.

Perhaps I’m just an old gamer whose time has passed, but I truly believe that the games that are being released today are really just last year’s games re-dressed in a new outfit. I do enjoy playing CoD with my friends very much, however, in terms of personal satisfaction, I find little. Not like I did back in 2003 when some game called Call of Duty came out on 4 CDs and took me the better part of a month to complete. On Veteran.

Posted By Alex

I can see where Tugel is coming from. The astronomical cost of making new games with high end graphics, sound and story blow old development costs out of the water. Back then there was no voice acting and technology wasn’t what it is today. Because of this, we have day 1 patches (get it out the door ASAP, we’ll fix it later) and so much nickel and diming for crappy downloadable content. There are definite problems with gaming today and I make no excuses for developers who make gamers foot their bills. A good example that Tugel nails is the yearly releases for certain IPs. Call of Duty is a perfect example. Although I feel that they change enough about it to keep it fresh and fun, they are still bogged down by net code problems that we shouldn’t be having to deal with eight years later. Seriously, get that shit fixed.

Even with all of the current problems gaming has today, I’d take new games over the old ones any day. You see, old games were programmed with the “arcade” mentality. And that was to make their game so brutality difficult that you’d just sit there and feed quarters into their machine all day until you either ran out of cash or beat the game. Most of the time, you ran out of fucking cash. This extended to home console releases where games were not only difficult, but suffered some stupid game design. I don’t care what Tugel says, LucasArts designers sucked if their checkpoint was making you redo the entire level. Eventually, developers realized that the difficulty only had to challenge you and not piss you off. If gamers wanted a bigger challenge, they could change the difficulty to “Hard” or “Impossible,” thereby pleasing both camps. Those that want to finish the story or those that want to be challenged and break controllers.

And those games still exist. Try playing Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls and tell me your heart isn’t pounding as you face off against some of the most vicious foes I have ever seen in a game. From Software mixed in old-school game design with some new-school game mechanics and it worked like a fucking charm. Death in both of those games was so imminent at any moment that sprinting anywhere was almost always a goddamn mistake. The games were touted to be a 3rd person action game with RPG elements but nobody mentioned they were also pretty fucking terrifying. You try walking around a dark prison where these Cthulhu motherfuckers ring a bell as they haunt it. Or the swamps where most things kill you in two swings and mobility is nigh impossible. Fuck that, but I kept coming back for more because the game was brilliantly addictive. And the boss fights…wow.

Okay, so I’ve told you why I prefer new games vs. older games. This doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize the brilliance of older games either. To this day, my most favorite RPG continues to be Final Fantasy 7 followed closely by Shadow Hearts. Baseball Simulator 1000, Tecmo Bowl, Street Fighter, etc… all hold a special place in my heart. I recognize that gaming would be nowhere without its Diablos and Dooms but I feel like they have grown up significantly. Even if it means that they brought some bad along with them. But to say that great games are no longer being made is an incorrect assumption. Maybe you just haven’t played the right ones? I’ll give you some examples:

Mass Effect – This series continues to be my favorite of this console generation. I’ve played each Mass Effect about 2-3 times to see where different choices lead to and the story is rock solid. Part 1 is showing its age now but 2 and 3 are like Black Rob’s “Whoa.”

Dead Space – The original gave us what Capcom couldn’t deliver with Resident Evil 5 or 6. It was fucking terrifying without poor game design and shitty controls.

Dark Soul’s or Demon’s Souls – Honestly, just ONE of these games will hold you for a long time. They are difficult as fuck and there is only one setting offered to gamers: hard. If you play only one more game in this console generation, let one of these be it.

Portal – Who said games couldn’t challenge you AND make you fall off your chair with laughter? It sure as hell wasn’t GLaDOS.

Games today offer some amazing visuals and badass sound along with better game mechanics and great game design. Going back to play older games makes you realize how poorly designed they were. I’ll take new games over older games each and every time. It saves me money on broken controllers and time on unfair checkpoints/difficulty.

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6 Responses to “Old-School Games vs. New-School Games”

  1. wtg22

    I love me some old-school video games…those are pretty much the only ones I have the capability to play. However, when I watch Alex play some of the latest generation of games, I am blown away by the level of detail, design, and mechanics. If I wasn’t such a newb, I would love to play some of these games myself. Unfortunately, I tried once and failed. My attempt ended tragically when I couldn’t even maneuver myself up some spiral stairs. I just kept walking into walls. So yeah. I’ll stick with the Super Mario Bros.

    • alex

      Games are definitely more complicated now than they were back then but I’m sure you could figure it out if you played a bit longer.


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