Monday, December 29, 2008

Classic games: To download or not to download

So those of us on the inside of cutting edge technology have caught rumors of this new thing that’s slowly gaining popularity called “internet” and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s going to be huge. Now how does this affect gamers you ask? Well there’s patching which I’ve already talked about, but then we have entire game downloads. Now granted in a perfect world this would be reserved for new independent releases like World of Goo or Braid the fact is, it’s much easier to take a game your company developed twenty years ago and slap level-based achievements on it and go “look new downloads.”

So ok, when it comes to re-released classic games for download you pretty much have two target markets.

The first is new gamers who weren’t around for the days of painstakingly blowing into NES cartridges hoping that they saved your magic sword that you spend all weekend getting instead of going outside with your friends which of course got deleted because your brother didn’t hold down reset when he powered off the console. (Hypothetically speaking, that’s in no way based on anything that happened in my own pathetic childhood) So this market is I think the tougher of the two to sell to since you’re trying to sell them on games that don’t look as good, aren’t as long and only consist of two buttons. Basically, I can’t imagine any 10 year old gamers out there choosing to download side scrolling classics like Super Mario Bros 3 when they weren’t there to remember that game making its explosive debut in The Wizard. (Not surprisingly one of my favorite movies) More than likely this market will choose to download an endless stream of map packs for whatever “Big Cliché Guy Shoot Fest” titles are new at the moment.

Your other market as I see it is the old, jaded, “you kids don’t know what it was like back in the day” pricks like myself. Oh when I think back to the days of waiting in line for arcade cabinets just to deposit my 50 cents and die in a minute and a half my heart grows three times its size. Or the hours spent with that old trusty grey NES box slaving over games with a finite number of lives and no save feature forsaking meals and sleep just to beat games in one sitting otherwise losing hours of progress in Battletoads. So me and my kind who are trying to reclaim our lost childhoods as desperately as possible we’re what I would say are the better market for these downloads. I recently joined the Wii crowd and merrily skipped down nostalgia lane whistling the Megaman boss screen music as I went through the Virtual Console game listing. After blurting out the phrase “Boogerman! A Pick and Flick Adventure! YES!” I came to a few realizations. First of which is that I’ve clearly made poor life choices, and second is that “are these games even good?” Ok so maybe I spent too much time playing games as a kid instead of learning actual skills, that goes without saying. But did I enjoy these games because of my age/circumstances or were they honestly good? Now granted I can still (and do) sit down and bang out Super Mario World happy as can be but more often than not when I play a classic game I’m left feeling like the magical curtain covering a small part of my childhood was pulled back to reveal a staggering display of mediocre-ness. The more classic games I spend my lazily earned money on and clog up my rapidly filling hard drive with the more I’ve come to realize that ok maybe these games were good for their time but now I just can’t get into it. Even now when I get into my ultra gamer-nerd mode I have a very hard time sitting down and playing these games. Maybe I’m just spoiled now with my new-fangled graphics and complex control schemes but games like Splatterhouse, Toejam and Earl and Star Tropics are better left to my memory than putting them to the test now.

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