It’s the Age Thing
July 11, 2012 15 Comments
Some people chalk up my site’s growth to what is called “The Girl Thing.” I don’t agree with that, because I don’t really play the gender card too often. And when I do, it’s usually self-deprecating and done for laughs. I’ve had a couple of people tell me my site’s name is cringe-worthy, or “atrocious” as one fan described it. Yikes. Look, it’s really simple. We came up with a list of names, and Indie Gamer Chick seemed like the most memorable. That’s all. It was almost Indie Game Stuff. That would have sucked. So would have Random Game Crap. Indie Gamer Chick was catchy. That’s why we chose it.
I’ll admit, people might be more likely to give my writing a look over because of The Girl Thing. But landing a long-term reader requires more than that. It takes a unique point of view, and I’m not really interested in looking at gaming from the point of view of a female. But gaming from the point of view of someone from my generation? Now that is something I want to communicate. I turned 23-years-old today. On average, that’s eight to ten years younger than my typical reader. That doesn’t sound big, but in terms of how far games had progressed from their childhoods to mine, it’s humongous. My average reader grew up in the era of Atari or the NES. I grew up with PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast. While your teen years were spent with Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, I spent my teens on PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox. Needless to say, I think that gives me a different perspective.
My older readers had it easier than me, because gaming evolved with them. They were there as games transitioned from large sprites to complex open 3D worlds. On the other hand, I have to look back on gaming’s history without the benefit of nostalgia. Thankfully I did have a Game Boy Advance, and as everyone knows, 90% of the really good games on there were just ports of SNES games. So I don’t go into shock every time I play something from gaming’s past. In fact, I’m quite fond of several Golden Age coin-ops. But, I do have to admit that I can be mortified by some of the games you guys consider classics. I also can’t put myself in your shoes and try to picture a game like, say, Manic Miner, at a time when it was considered good.
People get weirdly over-protective about nostalgia. Some people have told me that when they have kids, they won’t be allowed to play modern stuff until they learn to have an appreciation of their classic games. Scary. Do you know what a normal person would call that? Brainwashing. And the whole concept is fucking absurd as hell. It would be like saying your kid can’t watch 30 Rock until he sits through the entire series of Mork & Mindy whether he likes it or not, but he damn well better like it. What that attitude does is turn gaming from a pastime into a cult. If the child catches a whiff of what modern games are like from one of his friends (assuming he has any friends left after his father is done fucking him up), he’s not going to have an appreciation for his daddy’s era of games. He’s going to think his dad is off his fucking nut. Every form of entertainment his father pitches to him from that point forward will carry the taint of that time daddy sat him down and forced him to play Golden Axe.
The thing about nostalgia is it’s always in the eye of the beholder. The childhood favorites I have played as an adult, even HD ports of them, haven’t aged well. Xbox Live Arcade has brought me re-releases of Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark. These were two of the defining games of my childhood, and yet after an hour spent with each of them today, I would rather be dead. Games have come so far, and I can’t pretend they haven’t for the sake of feeling like a child again. I don’t even like Modern Warfare 3, but I would rather play that today over Perfect Dark, which was probably the definitive game of my childhood. Despite that, saying that I have no interest in playing it anymore in no way tarnishes my memories of Perfect Dark.
Which is not to say nostalgia is wrong. You should feel proud of your gaming heritage, and there is nothing wrong with replaying your childhood favorites and not cringing at them like I have mine. Perhaps your classics have aged better than mine. What I’m saying is don’t try to convince people of my generation that those games are relevant to us. They’re not. Most of the games that were legendary at the time of your childhood are probably going to be torture to people my age. Very few games are truly capable of withstanding the test of time and becoming masterpieces. And really, shouldn’t it be that way? There’s no 30-something trying to convince me of the greatness of Pauly Shore’s filmography, yet plenty are trying to tell me that I have it all wrong about Manic Miner. Here’s the thing though: Pauly Shore was HUGE for a time, a tremendous box-office draw. Nobody would dare call In The Army Now or Bio Dome timeless masterpieces. That would be silly.
Yet, every rinky-dinky game from the 80s that wasn’t a total abomination is somehow just as good today as it was when you were a kid. And it might be, but for you. For me? Not so much. I think the original Legend of Zelda is lame. I can’t honestly believe anyone would still want to play that over almost any triple-A game released over the last five years. I certainly can’t believe anyone would say it’s still the best Zelda ever! To me, guys who say that sound like fucking raving lunatics. Then again, when I say I don’t think it’s any good, people say I’m the raving lunatic. Which side is right? Both. Or neither. I guess.
On the other hand, I think Link to the Past holds up almost flawlessly, and that’s a game that I didn’t play until it had been out for over a decade. I think it’s fitting that the first game in the series doesn’t hold up as well. It demonstrates progress. Why do we have to pretend that people my age will find the original Metroid good? Super Metroid is right there, and there is a chance they will find that good, on account of it actually holding up. Don’t get me wrong, a game doesn’t have to be an absolutely flawless diamond to still be good today. I played the Adventures of Lolo since starting this site, and I thought it was perfectly swell. Is it an all-time classic? No. And neither was Boulder Dash, a game I tried after reviewing an XBLIG clone of it, just to see if I was missing some perspective. I wasn’t. Judging a game’s merits by today’s standards in no way takes away from its accomplishments at the time it came out. Would anyone want to play Space Invaders today? Of course not, unless you’re really desperate to be bored. Does that take away from what it has meant to gaming history? No way. Would I like to play Pac-Man today? No. Would I like to play Pac-Man Championship Edition DX? Fuck yea. Does that mean Pac-Man Championship Edition is more important to the history of gaming than the original? Of course not. Having an appreciation of history and wanting to experience history are two very different things. I don’t need to infect myself with the black plaque to grasp how bad things were in 14th century Europe.
It’s this perspective that makes me unique. Gamers of past generations need people my age to tell them where gaming is now. Just like my generation needs yours to give us a sense of where gaming has come from. Somewhere between the two, we might get a sense of where gaming is going. Here’s a preview: your kids are going to be even more mortified by your stuff than I was. And their kids? They’ll end up passing laws saying that anyone with a Pac-Man tattoo or a Donkey Kong cabinet in their garage just opted out of Social Security. It will make you long for the days when that miserable Indie Gamer Chick was simply saying “you know, I do believe The Simpsons Arcade Game was kind of shit.”