Being (Old) Schooled….

There has been a rather uncomfortable trend in my recent gaming habits of having my ass handed to me by OLDER games. Have I lost any previous gaming skills upon hitting 30? Has the fear that I’ve turned into my father when he attempts to play games come true?

Have my playing habits of nibbling a bit of everything at the gaming buffet blunted my skills for a specific type of game,Or is it simply the fact that old games are harder than their modern day counterparts?

I recently purchased the Chaos Engine on Steam at the same time as my Brother. As Children we would would tear this game up on the Amiga A500, completing it numerous times. 4 Levels per world, 4 worlds to complete. How far did we get as Adults? World 1 , Level 3. Fair enough, first go and just getting used to it so we thought let’s try that again….World 1, Level 2…WTF?!?

Thanks Chaos Engine, pride damaged every so slightly. For now it’s been put to one side to assault later. The mood was now for something a little more mellow, how about the first game we ever played on our Commodore 64? Bubble Bobble?

I clearly remember this game being more fun than I was actually having, curse you rose tinted glasses! It was unfair, buggy, vicious and unforgiving. Without bumping the lives to 5 per credit and stacking a tonne of credits into the game we probably wouldn’t have made it past level 7. Younger me and baby brother clearly beat the boss at least once while younger without these advantages…..

So what’s actually going on here? I’ve got a couple of theories that don’t involve me becoming a one finger typist or having the reaction times of a slow motion turtle.

Game Length and Difficulty
Games in ye olden days were shorter. Save systems were not as robust and many were designed to be played in one sitting. It took about an hour to beat Bubble Bobble the other day, with the obscene amount of credits that we stuffed into it. It has no save system so if you left your game, tough. The length of the game is compensated by its difficult. They don’t want you walking all over their nice shiny short game so they CRANK up that difficulty and make you WORK for your victory.
Chaos Engine does allow a small amount of saving with its PASSCODE (I know?!?) system at the end of each world. The Game however is still unforgiving.

Controls and Responsiveness
Ahh, back when controls were much simpler, no 10+ buttons to deal with. You would think this would be easier….. Jump and Bubble, nice and easy. It’s not such much the controls but more how the game sometimes makes it impossible for you….

Chaos Engine for example, the controls are a simple top down shooter. However, in World 1 there are some awesome “frog” creatures that generally jump at you from off screen. Can you see these in time? yup. Can you actually move in time.Nope. Whether this was a deliberate decision or just a limitation of the day remains to be seen.
The Internet affect
Back in the Olden days (Only 30-sshhh) if you were stuck on something that’s it. You were stuck. No youtube guides, no (easily accessible) forums to discuss the issue. I remember the game “Beneath a steel Sky” taking FOREVER, mainly because I was a young child and had no idea what to do next. As an adult if I really could’t get past a section, I looked up a guide to give me a quick hint. It’s dirty I know but at this point I was just interested in the story.
Don’t worry, I got past this screen without a guide 🙂

So are games getting easier? If you came here for a definitive then I’m going to disappoint you. Yes, games are more accessible than some of their predecessors but a lot of that difficulty comes down to limitation of the systems involved. As consumers most of us want an experience not a challenge but still there is a selection of games that market themselves on being punishing. So if anything, gaming has become more open to all, “casual” gamers, logic gamers, FPS gamers, sadist gamers.

Pick your poison people but give yourselves an old school thrashing occasionally 🙂

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