With all of the glorious technology available to humanity, shouldn’t this be a golden age of video gaming? Why am I so underwhelmed by the latest releases of software – or even hardware? I didn’t run out to buy an Xbox One (what a stupid name for a console), Nintendo Wii U (yet another stupid name for a console) or a PlayStation 4. Not even the 99¢ (or even free) games on iOS have been enjoyable lately. Why? What’s wrong? I thought about it and found three big issues – problems that are fairly new to gaming.
That’s the problem with today’s games. They can gather a crazy amount of data. Is this really necessary? Perhaps as a web developer, my objection to metrics gathering is a bit hypocritical. Yet, I’m not used to games working like this. I’m used to buying games on disk or on cartridges. The games didn’t phone home as they weren’t (usually) connected to the Internet. But instead of technology being used to create unique gaming experiences, it’s creating a sense of apprehension. The game is collecting personal information. I don’t like that. It makes the game less fun.
I Don’t Really Own The Game – Even if an iOS game starts out perfect, totally clean in every way, it can still change. Angry Birds is a good example of this. I bought a copy of Angry Birds, and I enjoyed it at first, but then game was starting to feel too spammy. I wasn’t interested in other Rovio products. I just wanted to chuck some birds at some blocks. I could have stuck with an older version of the game, but that would have messed up my update list. So, I just deleted the app.
In my desk, there’s an old Game Boy Advance SP. Years later, the device still has a charge and I can still use it to play classic games. I find that impressive. I find that to be fun! I can’t always do that with my iPhone. Old games might not work right because of issues with iOS updates. Even if the game is maintained, profit maximizing and enjoyment minimizing features could be added with a single update. While a 10+ year old Game Boy is not as advanced as a modern iOS device, I don’t have to worry about metrics gathering, advertisements or other enjoyment killing additions ruining my old Game Boy games.
This issue isn’t limited to iOS apps. Modern consoles and PC games can be updated too. It reminds me of World of Warcraft. With just one update, I went from liking the game to hating the game. The game changed from a fun and relaxing hobby to a symbol of wasted time.
Technology Isn’t Making A Difference – Some might say that rehashing the same game over and over is what’s ruining the gaming industry. How many different versions of Halo or Super Mario are really necessary? I don’t really have a problem with modernizing games. Super Mario Bros is essentially the same game as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but I enjoyed both games. The excitement of a new Mario game is that it’s often released with new Nintendo hardware. The jump from Super Mario Bros (NES) to Super Mario World (SNES) was impressive to me. The graphics were so much better. This was taken to the next level with Super Mario 64. Back in 1996, it was an astonishing 3D game. It was so much fun.
The trouble started with the Game Cube, so I simply skipped that generation of Nintendo consoles. The Wii brought the fun back with Super Mario Galaxy. While still quite similar to Mario 64, the newer version looked a lot better. Does the Wii U take gaming to the next level? I don’t think so. The Wii U doesn’t match the processing power of the Xbox One or Playstation 4. Instead, the Wii U launched with a bizarre controller. While this is different and newer technology, it wasn’t enough justification for me to buy a new game console.
With the three issues mentioned here, the last issue is likely temporary. It seems logical that technology will continue to advance gaming. I’m not really seeing it with the Xbox One or Playstation 4, but maybe I only need to skip this generation. The problem is that issues #1 and #2 could only get worse. How much data is too much? If a game causes me stop and ponder that question, I am suddenly forced to realize all of the more productive things that I can be doing.