Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Are hardcore games still around?

When I first started gaming, it was often looked down upon by some people. Computer games were for sweaty fat guys who had nothing better to do, other than de-steam their glasses when the action got too intense. Video games were never cool to those who did not understand them. Heck, they weren't that cool too a lot of people who played them. It was for an elite niche of people, who played far too many games through the day and the night at the expense of their lives, that games were tailored for. Back in these days, games were challenging, and took more than a long weekend to complete on normal mode. They were serious business.

Nowadays we live in a world where games are reaching out to touch everyone. The casual game has been born, introducing millions to the simple pleasures of pong and tetris. Whilst this can be a good thing, has the need to appeal for everyone meant that those of us wanting hours of challenging gameplay that will keep us at a game for months have been shafted? I know what I want in games when it comes to the choice between Nintendogs and a cereberal bore, and I'll tell you now, the puppy does not win.

Is a rather fatty and saturated market of computer games flooded with lesser titles that do not appeal to the hardcore gamers that started it all?

Too many times these days I am picking up games and completing them much sooner than I should be. Recent examples include the Halflife 2 series and Bioshock. These can be finished within hours. It took me a weekend to finish these, and that just is not right. They do look amazing, and were truly great to play, but £30 for seven to eight hours of game time are not right (even less for the Halflife 2 pisodes).

Whilst I did find them challenging in places, they were easy enough to get through in a few sittings. If I wait with anxious anticipation for something that has been in the works for years, it feels a bit insulting to be half way through on my first sitting. This is exactly what happened whilst strolling through the generic, terrorist riddled, middle east land in Call of Duty 4. Yes it was fun, but if it were a movie, you'd go to the toilet, and come back to find the hero had saved the day twice and had all the girls. It just that 'epic' games are now starting to feel a lot less epic. Epic does not only mean 'super awesome', but 'super awesome for a very long time'.

Can this trend in slightly easier, shorter games be blamed on the birth of casual gaming culture? Some games are a lot of money to pick up and play for a few hours before finishing them. I've heard people say that the short length of games these days is why they download rather than purchase. Games are not cheap, especially if they are all over too quickly. Whilst it might just be an excuse to justify their pirating actions, it is quite possible to see their side of the arguement.

The original Halflife, that you could call epic by itself. It took ages to complete and threw just about everything at you, from psycotic marines, to a creepy man wearing a suspicously nice suit who tempts you into a train car. The Legend of Zelda games, each one, epic. They boast many hours of gameplay, and each dungeon has something different in it (in the form of a new weapon or item that often does cool stuff). It took me a heck of a long amount of time to complete either of these. Many a night and day were wasted.

As much as I can complain about this though, it is a fact that I will have to live with. Not everyone can spend an entire day exploring underwater cities, or ant lion colonies. Some can spare the occassional half hour or so to devote to games, and then get on with a hobby, prosperous career or many beautiful women. Perhaps the rules of what makes a serious gamer have changed, or maybe the concept never existed at all. I just know that most consoles before the Wii never advertised themselves by having grannies flail their arms at a screen in the name of fun.

I know that games are meant to be fun, and perhaps that 'serious' was not the best word to describe how I feel about games these days. It just seems that there are more versions of tamagotchi's and crossword puzzles diluting a game pool that shooters and fighting games used to rule. All I am saying is that the games market needs a lot less 'The Sims: Pet Delouser' and a bit more 'Chuck Norris: the kicking crusade'. If you have not agreed with me to this point, I pull one last punch, Hello Kitty Online. See what I'm saying?

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