Do videogames suck now or am I just getting older?

So I have been thinking about this for a while now, and I’d like to get some input on the matter. I have played a good bit of videogames for a while now and I’ve had some games which are near and dear to my heart. But lately, videogames don’t really seem to be bringing much to the table. I have my theories as to why and I’d like for you guys to weigh in. First I’ll start with some of my favorite gaming experiences.

Super Metroid:
This might be my favorite game ever for a console. It had so many great elements in just the perfect proportions that made it great in my opinion.

Deus Ex:
It combined a great storyline with sci-fi (always a favorite of mine) and complete freedom of storyline. Again the story was important here.

Fallout 2:
I had to be convinced to play this game. I saw my friends playing it for a long time so I had to get in to the act. I really enjoyed the open-ended story.

There are obviously more examples, but when I look back on all of these games, it seems that they all had something new to them. They all seemed to focus on atmosphere and story. There is also a good bit on character development too. That’s one thing that I’m particularly interested in. Now I will admit that this post might make a bit more sense if I had written it a few years ago as I’m not exactly up to date on the latest games. But I feel that a lot of the really super-hyped games of late aren’t qutie as good as they have always been. I have a few ideas as to why but I’ll get to these later.

Half-Life 2:
What can I say about this game? Essentially this is the same thing as Doom. It’s a shooter on rails in which you get to make no choices at all about the story. It’s a pretty good story and the atmosphere is good, but you don’t get much choice in the matter.

Again, this was a pretty cool game, but nothing hit those reward circuits in my brain like they did for the older games. Pretty neat puzzles etc. I liked the funny AI voice as well.

These games are really all the same. I usually give up on them because they get boring towards the end.

Fallout 3:
I haven’t played this yet, but something tells me that it’s not going to be the same either.

3D Metroid games:
I dunno, it doesn’t work for me…

Call of Duty games:
Cool graphics and whatnot but again, shooter on rails.

Some explanations?
One of the big problems I’ve had with games of late in general is that they seem to be the equivalent of hollywood movies of this day and age. The focus seems to be entirely on graphics alone. There are entirely too many shooter-on-rails type games out there which really leaves me less than satiated.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about my favorite games is that in some sense, 2D games require a bit more imagination out of the player than do 3D shoot-em-ups. Fallout is certainly an example of this, as are the Metroid games. Another aspect is that in the late 90’s early 2000’s games always seemed to be doing new things. Doom was groundbreaking, and was cool for that alone. I remember Tomb Raider and how cool that was too. I only liked the first one though.
Great games have defining moments.

Unreal had the moment when you first exit that crashed spaceship where you see the (at the time) beautiful landscape before you.

Deus Ex had the part where you go in to the MJ 12 headquarters with the giant hand covering the Globe statue. What an amazing moment. I will never forget that part.

Great games seem to try to let you know that your actions have wider consequences, they try to keep a persistent world to some degree. In Deus Ex you revisit areas and see how things have changed through people’s dialogue and also through visual changes. Character growth is kind of hard to measure unless you come back to see where you were before.

So what is wrong with games today? I feel that they are suffering from a similar problem that Hollywood is. The scale for most games these days is so immense that they must be made as bland as possible in order to appeal to as many people as possible. Games used to be a lot easier to produce, I think.

I’ve noticed that there is a bit of a resurgence in “casual games” which seems pretty cool. But I have yet to see someone make the step of investing a good deal of story and effort into a 2D game.

The last 2D game that I played that was cool was Metroid: Zero Mission, which came out for GBA in the early 2000’s I think. It seems that a 2D presentation is only considered when there are platform limitations.

What would I like to see? I’d like to see games that are as engrossing as the games of my past were. I am sure that a good deal of my gaming desire is due to the fact that I’m older (now 26) but I also feel that it can’t be all my fault. I just don’t feel like people are making games for people who value story and character development anymore. I will note that I have not played Fallout 3 yet (waiting for Xmas) but I feel that might be a step in the right direction.

There are some holdouts. Sid Meiers Civilization is always a good series. The same can be said for the Sim City series.

At any rate, what say you folk? I hope this isn’t too rambling, but I can’t quite pinpoint what I feel the problem is other than just a general feeling. Do you guys feel the same?

Nostalgia is messing with you. Games are better now than they’ve ever been.

Which ones?

Call of Duty 4 had a more engaging story and better presentation of it than anything in the 90s. Not to mention top-notch multiplayer for lifespan and lots of piecemeal achievements to go for, if you want a quick reward. Calling it a shooter-on-rails is a tad ridiculous.

I mean, yeah, not everything stacks up to goddamn Deus Ex or Fallout 2, but that’s what happens when you list some of the best games of that decade.

I feel the same way as the OP. I think it is because games didn’t evolve in the direction I had expected. It feels like pressure has been on graphics, rather than innovative gameplay. As resources for modeling become more demanding, the scope of the game has to narrow.

I think gaming needs to have some sort of serious open source modeling projects in order to reach the “next step”. Graphics are becoming too costly and dominating a larger percentage of the budget and crippling innovation.

I’m also exclusively PC gaming, so my options are limited.

For example, the first time I played Command and Conquer (the VERY first one) I thought to myself "man, this is cool, but losing a battle shouldn’t mean I lost the war. " In addition, the branching pathways were superficial, they were simply different missions that lead to the same place.

In my mind, the logical next step in the Command and Conquer series was a more dynamic battlefield. Let the player choose objectives and the best way to secure them. Improve the A.I. (seriously, we’ve had a decade and pathfinding still is crappy). Let me customize units down to each squad member. Create a persistent army and let me get attached to each unit.

Ten years later and Red Alert 3 is still the exact same experience as C&C1.

For me, it isn’t nostalgia that is ruining games, it is fatigue.

Braid, my friend. You want to play Braid.

I agree with OP on super metroid. 3D metroid doesn’t do it for me, and neither do 3D castlevania games. Some of my favorite games now are on the DS, a platform where companies still make quality 2D games.

1 explanation that’s been floating around is the inherent difference between 2D and 3D games. 2D is about jumping, moving, space control… etc, and 3D is about something more intangible, like player experience and immersion.

Multiplayer is an issue from graphic presentation. Online multiplayer is definitely fun, but it’s still a poor substitution to having friends come over for a group game session. (How fun would rockband be if you jammed with OnlineBoy115?)

I forgot about my DS… so you can scratch that “PC only” biz earlier. I enjoy the hell out of that little thing. Funny how most of the innovation is coming on a platform that is bound by serious hardware restrictions.

What’s innovative on the DS?

I think it’s unfair to hold up Deus Ex as an good example of what games used to be. It’s right up there at the top of games of all time, let alone of a while ago; it’s not really reasonable to expect an average game of today to match it.

That said I really have very little taste when it comes to things. So I tend to like a lot of crappy stuff.

I tend to be the frothing, online, multiplayer fanatic around here, but I suggest that. The single player is only the beginning. Try playing some of your favorite titles online.

On the DS… I thought “The World Ends With You” was an innovative modern twist on the typical JRPG. Lock’s Quest was a cool genre blending of tower defense and zelda style combat. The Phoenix Wright series is unlike anything else found on other gaming platforms. Etrian Oddesy refined the dungeon crawl by using the stylus.

Damn kids and their rock and roll! In my day, we listened to good music, not this crap!
Todays market is focused on styles of gaming that you simply don’t care for very much, much the same as a fan of 1940s big bands is probably rather disappointed with todays musical offerings.

This doesn’t mean they are crap, it just means your tastes do not happen to coincide with popular game styles atm.

Though I do agree that 2d was given up too easily…

I’ll agree that there’s a lot of bad game design decisions that have become ingrained in the industry due to a desire games that “look better” and depth of play has long been lost to the mass market, but you’re showing your selection bias quite a bit.

Audiosurf has deeper gameplay than Super Mario Brothers 3. Old games were ridiculously shallow.

I think you’re getting old and/or being nostalgic.

I like where games are going, and as other people have said you can’t really compare Deus Ex (one of the best games ever made) to the majority of computer games.

There are some excellent games out now, though- Fallout 3 and Civilisation IV spring readily to mind.

There were some good 2D games (The Crusader series being one) but for the most part I enjoy the games out now more than the games of 10 years ago, and I can’t wait to see where gaming develops in the future.

I’ll add that MMORPGS can be good.

I liked the Star Wars MMORPG a lot before they nerfed it to hell and let people be Jedis. What a waste that was. But seriously that game and some REAL potential. I don’t like fantasy settings though, so that precludes me from many MMORPGs outright. I played Neocron for a while and did like it. I’d say that Neocron was a success in my opinion. I’ve tried to get in to other MMORPGs from time to time with varying interest. I have a feeling that there will be a pretty awesome cyberpunk MMORPG in the next five years or so. Maybe they could make it a bigger hit than WOW. I never liked the fantasy genre in general, so that keeps me from playing a lot of RPGs in general.

You guys mention the DS being a cool platform because of its limitations. I really feel that this is somehow getting down to the core of the issue. The limitations force you to be creative. In today’s games you can portray damn near anything you can dream up.

I blame, my taste, my hesitancy to try new games, and the actual games themselves. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s nostalgia as much as it is a change in my life priorities. But in the end I think that the lack of exciting games is somewhat of a problem. Back in my day, games were doing new and cool things all the time. Half-Life 2 was probably my biggest disappointment.
What I guess I feel is lacking is new gameplay enhancements. Developers are pioneering in areas which I feel miss the point.

Anyway though, I am super excited about Fallout 3. I hope it lives up to my expectations. I guess another problem I have is that I’ve been burned on getting excited about too many games that really turned out to be mediocre. That’s why I never tried BioShock.

But let’s examine what made Deus Ex so awesome. I think the fact that you felt that your choices meant something was a big deal. You had choice and it mattered. The story line was also quite interesting too. I think it could have made it as a 2D game too. They had atmosphere and put it to good use. The graphics were actually sub-par for the time and seemed to be more of an after-thought. But they conveyed the message.

What’s really interesting is to go to websites like Metacritic and MobyGames and check out the top ratings of all time. Half-Life 2 is consistently ranked up there near the top. Half-Life 2! This game is essentially no different than Doom. I guess I just like a little intellectual stimulation with my games. I don’t feel that I refuse to accept new games, as much as I don’t like the way games are made now.

I guess the point though is that every game needs to answer the question, “why?” Why play this game? How is it fun?

What made Super Metroid so fun? I can’t exactly put my finger on that one, but I do like the fact that it is open-ended. The core of the game seems to focus on that and character development. You remember that ledge that was too high to reach, so you remember to come back once you get the hi-jump boots, etc. It’s a way of imposing a bit of linearity in a non-linear world. Very clever, IMO.

All I know is that I don’t feel like people are making games for me in a world where Half-Life 2 gets top billing. It’s a cool game, but certainly not one that you think about when you’re at work / school. It doesn’t seem to consume your thoughts.

Anyway, good to see that I’m not entirely alone, and I appreciate the suggestions. The reason why I’m interested in discussing this is that I’m sort of wondering if I’d like to be a game developer, and I like to dissect what it is that made those games so great, and why I feel that modern games are lacking these things. I’d appreciate any input on what makes great games great.

If you idea of old time classic video games are “Fallout 2” and “Deus Ex,” you’re a video gaming neophyte.

The basic deal is that, while industry trends have gone more towards graphics and less towards innovation, there IS still innovation out there, and there ARE still some great games, there just happens to be hordes and hordes of utter crap out there, too.

I liken it to movies. There are still good movies that get released every now and again, but it’s such a large industry that the vast majority of the stuff that gets released is simple, bland, unoriginal, and basically just shoveled out the door in an attempt to make money.

To compare the average game of today with some of the best games of the past couple decades is a bit unfair. There are definitely still gems out there, though, most recently I’ve been enamored by Fallout 3 (not as good as F2, but damn fine in its own way) BioShock (if you liked System Shock 2 this is a spiritual successor) COD4, Mirror’s Edge (incredibly innovative, though frustrating as hell at parts) and I’m REALLY looking forward to the new Prince of Persia which is released tomorrow (I loved Assassin’s Creed, say what you will about it, but I thought it was great)

Also I feel it’s important to make a distinction between an “on-rails” shooter, which is one in which your movement is handled automatically, and a linear shooter, which is one in which you can move freely but the levels don’t allow for much option in where you go.