Gaming Woes 1: Retro Fever Dreams

So welcome to Jumping in Headfirst's newest column, Gaming Woes.  Here I'll talk both about the problems I have with current generation gaming, and things I hope to avoid with the next gen.   Now, for the first of these I just want to talk about the new "neo-retro" craze.

If you're a gamer you've seen at least a few signs of this.  Every indie developer out there seems to be releasing a game that's retro influenced, with graphics from the 16- or 8-bit days.  Even major companies are getting into the act, with games like Mega Man 9 (...and 10) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game.  It's something that started out pretty cute; nice little reminders of the olden days from which gamers in their mid-20's or older came from.

...But the longer it goes on, the more I personally feel like it gets out of hand.  It seems like every other month, there's a new game that resembles something people used to put on cartridges.  It gets especially irritating as a fan of roleplaying games, where the announcements once read: J-RPG (which all tend to look similar these days), PC only, J-RPG, PC only, repeat ad infinitum with the occasional interesting console RPG,  to have a new category added: neo-retro RPGs.  They might not be as frequent, but they can still be just as maddening.

I try to let it go, mostly.  In truth its the lack of options elsewhere that's created my current distaste for neo-retro games, but I do understand its appeal.  For many of us, gaming is an escape; a way to get away from the troubles and the humdrum in our everyday lives.  But as gaming started to reach a larger audience, and with advent of the internet showing us "how the sausage is made", for some of us modern gaming can seem corrupt.  Full of games that are too expensive for too few hours of entertainment, superb cut-scenes but substandard gameplay, and tales of bloated design teams who seem bent on adding multi-player and DLC to every game we care to pay for.   So some of us start to long for the halcyon days of our childhood, where gaming was simpler, cheaper, and you got your money's worth when you paid for something.

But I do worry that this is merely an excuse not to come up with more innovative designs, a way to hide behind the past while we avoid the fact that so few interesting IPs have been created over the last generation (and arguably the one before that).  Speaking of IPs...well, that's a topic for next week.  For now, I'll just say I think some retro games can be cool (I loved Scott Pilgrim), but I'm seeing them far too often the longer I follow gaming news and it just became something I had to comment on.  If you disagree, try not to get too upset about it.  Just kick back, grab a Crystal Pepsi, and spend a couple hours playing Duck Tales.


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