It’s the Age Thing

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.

Memory is a funny thing. I honestly don’t remember my childhood looking this bland.

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.

Portal 2 is amazing to you and I, but our children could very well prefer cutting their own fingers off to playing it. Only time will tell.

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.

I’m not a big fan of Frogger, but I really want to try Frogger: Hyper Arcade Edition. By the way, it is my birthday, Konami. Hint, hint.

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.”

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

16 Responses to It’s the Age Thing

  1. Justin says:

    Son In Law is still a good movie…

    I’m defending Pauly Shore. This is a very self-aware moment for me.

  2. I’m also young so the concept on nostalgia has always interested me. I can’t seem to figure out what makes a game so great and replayable after years, heck even a relatively *new* game like Dead Island that I enjoyed the first time round doesn’t hold my interest a second time through. When I’m finished with a game I’m not going to go play it all over again when there is thousands of new games and experiences being offered to me. Very few games from when I was young interest me, I recently played through lots of old games I had ranging from Oblivion to Super Mario Bros for GBA. The only games I still enjoyed was Link To The Past and Pokemon:Gold, the rest were painfully boring and even those two games lose their shine after a few hours of playing them. I think the only reason I still like those games though is that I was too young to actually play them properly (LttP was released 5 years before I was even born) so I suspect like every other game I’ve played when I’m finished with them I’ll never look at them again.

    Great read, very much agree with all your points. It’s time for people to drop those nostalgia goggles.

  3. Steve Tack says:

    I’m rarely nostalgic for old games, as gameplay and accessibility has improved by leaps and bounds over the years.

    There are two older games I can think of that still hold up though. When I got my iPhone a couple of years ago, I downloaded the Shining Force port. That was a Genesis/Megadrive cart. There’s something about the abstraction of the pixel art and the turn-based gameplay that is still quite a lot of fun.

    The other one is the original X-COM. It’s super crazy detailed, but if you have the patience for hard core turn-based gameplay, it can still be an amazing experience. The pixel art is *so* chunky that you’re forced to use your imagination. And imagination is like way better than 1080p with 16x anisotropic filtering.

  4. Seandood says:

    I’m 25 myself, and though I have a genuine appreciation for the first Metroid, I’ve noticed I struggle to sit through it. The Zero Mission remake, on the other hand, is no problem.

    Some of us love old games and some of us don’t. I grew up with the SNES, N64, and PlayStation, but still developed a fascination for the Atari 2600 when I was a teen. If younger crowds want to explore something, they will. Otherwise, leave them the hell alone. I honestly don’t appreciate it when friends imply they’re going to shove retro games down their kid’s throat. If anything, it might just make them hate video games altogether.

    Guess I was just interested enough. And it’s hilarious ranting about why the Pac-Man port sucked (though still nothing compared to E.T.).

    • I’ve tried a few 2600 games. My father got me an Atari Flashback for Christmas a few years back. He tried to sell me on a few of the included games, especially Pitfall, but I just couldn’t get into it. And sadly, many of the games were outright off limits to me due to their flickering nature clashing with my epilepsy.

      However, I did think Adventure and Adventure II (which was not released and really isn’t all that different from Adventure 1) were just fine. I wouldn’t call them all-time classics like some people, but they moderately hold up today. I would also say River Raid isn’t an abortion by today’s standards. I wouldn’t rather die than play it, so I guess that says it held up.

      I can’t tell you if the 2600 Pac-Man port sucked because I hear it’s the most flickery piece of shit on the console. Without question off-limits to me. I’ve never played ET but I know of its reputation.

  5. I think for me it’s a question of definition. Although I played some Atari and Amstrad games, I didn’t have access to my own console until I bought a NES, and the NES (along with my brother’s Master System) is what defined for me what a video game is. Many of them still stand up in my eyes because to me they are the definition.

    There’s also the matter of me being a chronic re-experiencer of things. I re-play the same games, re-read the same books, re-watch the same films and series. I can accept that other people don’t want to, but I don’t understand it.

    I don’t think it’s all nostalgia either. Sometimes I play a new game (usually an indie game, though I’ve also felt this with, for example, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom) and find myself thinking “This is how games used to make me feel. This is why I started playing them in the first place.” I can’t tell you what it is, but there is a quality that my favourite games of yore possessed, and that they’re still infused with now. Many games from back then didn’t have it, but some did and I know where to find them.

  6. Ben P says:

    At the risk of putting my foot in it (again!), I’d say that it’s also down to a change in marketing. Jeff Minter’s Llamatron readme summed it up best – when I was growing up (in the 8/16 bit days), the average game was built by 1-2 guys with very little marketing – trade shows, word of mouth, etc. Good games sold, bad games didn’t. So the developers, not having lots of high-spec graphics and sound to fall back on, had to make games with a hook to the way they played – due to machine constraints, they had to be simple, but also keep the player coming back for more.

    Now we have almost photo-realistic 3D graphics, positional surround sound and enough storage and processing to fit just about every 8bit game ever written onto one disc. The “men is suits” (again, thank you Mr. Minter) hold the creative reins in the AAA-title world, dictating what should be popular, and hundreds of developers work to pay their mortgages rather than to express their creativity.

    What *is* a shame is that these days, there’s enough money in gaming for a bad game to market it’s way to popularity. So from my perspective, gaming nostalgia isn’t just about the games of the era, but the creative freedom. And that’s why mobile gaming and XBLIG are so amazing – the small man once again has a platform to shout from.

    • UnSubject says:

      If you have the time and / or inclination, go and look up old video game review magazines like Zzap 64 or Amiga Action. Those one and two guys working in a basement certainly released titles, but a lot of them were awful or clones of other games. Because there was less choice and games could get away with being a lot shorter (like: 10 – 15 minutes) a stand-out ad that grabbed attention – and often didn’t even show screenshots of the game – would increase sales.

      Having lived through that time, I find it difficult to agree with people who believe that games were better then because it was only the best games that are remembered. The drek – unless it is truly dire – is forgotten. People complain about the suits, which is utterly ridiculous because they are the ones who have led to this time of plenty, particularly when you are talking about indie game development on a closed platform. It’s because of the suits that we have a console gaming industry.

  7. I haven’t played Manic Miner so I can’t comment it for it, but I can tell you biggest influences to me for making games comes at least 50% from “old games”. Just because something is old and can be influenced by nostalgia doesn’t change the fact that it can be amazing.

    I grew up with games like Super Mario Bros, Mega Man 2, Legend of Zelda, Contra, Tetris, etc. These games might not have the best graphics, but they all do have fun gameplay. If you read Game Feel by Steve Swink you’ll see that gameplay follows this process: the game outputs a frame to the TV, your brain interprets it and a decision is formed in a split second, your brain sends an impulse to your fingers to carry out your action, the game processes your input, the game updates and outputs a new frame, and the loop continues forever til you win or die.

    That’s what video games are about, corrective action and decision making. You can throw all the special effects, story, and crap you want on it to dress it up, but it doesn’t change the root of it all. Those games on the NES I mentioned are fun because they understand what they’re supposed to be doing well, and they did it as well as you possibly could.

    Anyway, my point is that yes there’s shitty games from all times. For every Tetris, Link to the Past, or Shadow of the Colossus there’s going to be Call of Duty 600, ET, or Superman 64. Who cares how old something is? If it’s good then it’s worthy of being played, studied and talked about. And maybe only the people that really study games, like film, can truly appreciate the classics. Some kids might not like a masterpiece like Seven Samurai, but I’ll be damned if its not a million times better than The Last Samurai.

  8. I loved Punchout and Mario Brothers on my NES, but replaying them on my Wii recently was nowhere near as much fun. It also made me realize what an awful controller the wii-mote is, the only way those tiny little buttons could be any worse is if they were made of broken glass or needles that cut you every time you pressed them.

  9. John B. says:

    You (mostly) favorably name-dropped Adventures of Lolo so I’m inclined to agree with anything else you say.

    Metroid, Zelda, and Space Invaders are bang-on examples. Despite growing up in the right era for it I never really experienced the original Zelda and Metroid until much later. While I did consider it worthwhile to play through them all the way to the end, it is without question that each have major flaws for various reasons (system memory/cart size being a big one) and the Super Nintendo entries unquestionably improved upon them. I would never unequivocally recommend Metroids or Zeldas 1 and 2 to anyone the way I would the SNES games. I was glad to play through them, but it took a concerted effort to actually sit down and muster the patience, and I really don’t feel a great need to play through them again anytime soon. It’s an interesting experience to go back and play the “classics” you missed out on while busy with their contemporaries, for sure. Some games really hold up, while many don’t.

    Still, and I admit this may be nostalgia talking, even an archaic game with severe flaws can still have its charms. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not playing Zelda II beyond the first palace, say, but I might still recommend playing that far just to get a feel for the thing, because the music is excellent and the basic action is pretty fun. It’s just the difficulty and some of the overall structure that takes the piss. This basically ties in with/is the “fine as history” point, I suppose.

    I do really love the intros to the first two Zelda games and think they hold up.

    (The Simpsons Arcade Game is kind of shit, but I find all the inaccuracies and craziness part of the bizarre charm. It’s the actual gameplay that hasn’t held up too well, and the generic thugs are disappointing, I agree.)

    • That’s funny because that is about as far as I made it in Zelda II. I honestly have no clue what Nintendo was thinking on it. It’s weird. I almost wonder if it really started off as a Zelda game. My hunch is it started as something else.

      I liked Lolo. I hope you read my review of it. When I tweeted that I was playing Aesop’s Garden, I had 6 people tell me “you have to try Lolo to compare it.” So I did, and it was pretty dang good. In fact, I bought Lolo 2 on Virtual Console too. Both were very good games, although Lolo 2 had a few weird moments that weren’t explained very well.

      Again, I’ve never been AGAINST old games. I’m saying, keep it real with them. Not every game will hold up for every generation, and that’s the way it should be. I think that will be especially true for my generation, the early 32-64 bit generation.

  10. You had me until the Space Invaders/Pac Man reference at the end (I recently downloaded apps for both on my Tablet). At was at that point that I was reminded of just how utterly subjective and specific the experience of good and bad in games can be to each person. I will still play the aforementioned two games, for example (if only for a few minutes at a time) even after all these decades, but a game I loved to death in the late 80’s that I’ll never touch again was Wasteland. I will, however, definitely get Wasteland II when it finally comes out. Likewise, I love Fallout 3, but I lacked a good PC to play the original Fallout 1 and 2 back in the day, and so trying to play those two games today is painful, because I never got the “nostalgia indoctrination” at the critical juncture necessary.

    Anyway, great read and excellent points! I’m still mulling over the fact that my kid (just had one, at long last) will likely find my collection of old books an anathema to his digitally-driven future, never mind just how out of date he’ll find dad’s old Steam Library.

  11. craigbamford says:

    Well, you do have to be careful about saying “WHY WOULD I EVER PLAY THAT OLD STUFF WHEN THERE’S GORGEOUS TRIPLE-A TITLES OUT THERE?” Sure, there are, but they’re exactly the sort of thing that looks kind of silly and dated when you get back to it later. The only reason it’s impressive is because you aren’t yet used to that level of graphic fidelity and/or presentation. Once you are, you start seeing how hollow it all is.

    Me, I’ve enjoyed playing older games that I’d never played before if the art design and gameplay design stand up. Phantasy Star is still a reasonably solid experience, for example, because the bright, simple graphics were made with an eye to what’d look GOOD on a Sega Master System, not just what’d push the capabilities of the system. Wind Waker’s much the same way: it’s looked back on more fondly than Twilight Princess because the character design that people knocked as “unrealistic” led to amazingly expressive characters.

    Both games also feature engaging gameplay: Phantasy Star’s a straightforward but compelling dungeon-crawler with some fun sci-fi bits, and Wind Waker had some pretty spiffy zelding going on. So they both hold up, even before you get into the characters.

    So, hey, I wouldn’t worry about Portal too much. The graphics aren’t realistic, but they ARE well-designed, and the gameplay is pretty much legendary at this point. It’ll probably hold up. Sure, it might need a big of graphical sprucing up…but assuming that we still have PCs in 20xx, we can just mod in better graphics. If it worked for Morrowind…

  12. Pingback: What an Age We Live In | Indie Gamer Chick

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