Thursday, January 24, 2008

RPGamer Editorial - Classic Gaming: Great or Gilded?

It sure has been an involved week. Between working on my first review for GameSpite, churning out a piece over at MyWiiNews about one of my personal loves (Guitar Hero), and other random things like school and work, I sure was busy. One of my pieces that I felt pretty invested in finally went up over at RPGamer, where I discussed whether or not classic games are legitimately good, or just simply nostalgia-fests. I felt pretty strongly about the topic, especially when I look back at games that I love (but not everyone can) like the original Zelda. I feel like there almost has to be a different mindset for people to really appreciate these old games that truly emphasize exploration and adventure, rather than the way that later "adventure" titles tell you where to go, what to bomb, and how to make it through the landscape safely. Quite frankly, the original Zelda beats your ass; there's practically no guidance at all (save for a few cryptic old men) and all the pressure lies on you to create your own adventure and explore the landscape.

As I noted on the boards, the original Zelda is extremely liberating in the way that it allows you to embark on an adventure where you're actually exploring every inch of a world for the first time, just like you would in real life. Sure, you probably can't make homemade pipe bombs and go exploring in the same way that you do in Zelda, but that's what videogames are for, right? They provide us with a way to live out those childhood fantasies in ways that you might never be able to in real life. Instead of feeling muddled because there are no rupee-laden arrows showing you which way to go while playing the original Zelda, embrace the fact that every wall and every bush holds a potential secret to uncover. It's difficult for me to do as I make my way through the second quest for the first time, but it's an amazing feeling when I do stumble upon something new.

It's really difficult for gamers nowadays to pick up and enjoy older games in the same way that many of us did as kids. I believe it's chiefly due to the amount of independent exploration and trial-and-error experimentation that these games require, rather than holding your hand through the same ten levels. GamaSutra did a nice little piece that relates to this, talking about the verisimilitude of classic games which are constructed in the way that makes the player think that the world that they are interacting with is an actual LIVING, BREATHING, environment through hidden gems and randomization. While Zelda is a helluva lot more forgiving than the random mess known as Rogue ever was, the basic idea of interacting with a world that has hidden elements that need to be uncovered through exploration and experimentation is one that is shared among a lot of retro games and alien to a lot of current-gen titles. I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that games older than the 16-Bit era have difficulties reaching a wider audience, and just might be something to write about for a future column for RPGamer.

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