Rants and Raves from a Niche-Gamer

January 13, 2007 by Pablo | Leave a Comment
Filed Under Gaming

Awesome game design. Jaw-dropping graphics. Butt-kicking action. It would be next to impossible to find a that didn’t contain phrases to that effect. Yet, when I see those self-same phrases, the ‘Ho-hum. More of the Same.’ Light goes off in my head.

Welcome to my world. I am a member of a race whose existence was previously mere rumor:: The Elderly Gamer. Oh, yes, we do exist. Myself, I am forty-six years old.

Before you go any further, I must issue a caveat: Much of this article consists of bashing old favorites. Thus, everything should be preceded with the usual ‘IMHO’.

I get the impression that as long as a game looks ‘awwe-some’, it is ready for release. Well, I have something called the ‘Tron’ Condition. For those of you who don’t remember, suffice it to say that ‘Tron’ was a special-effects heavy movie that prompted one critic to say something like the producers paid $5 on special effects and $500 on the script. Well, that’s how I feel about many games (and movies) today.

Many of these effects-heavy games are what some refer to as ‘twitch’ games, where lightning reflexes are more important, rather than higher-level thinking and patience. As with the movies, I feel many developers see this fantastic new technology and decide to exploit its capabilities to the fullest, while paying scant attention to gameplay/story.

(Ever notice how quite a lot of action games are set in the future? I suspect this is to justify how putting in awe-inspiring explosions and high-speed action that would otherwise be rarely seen in the modern world.)

Like any gamer, I have my favorite categories, as well as those that I wouldn’t spend money on. Unfortunately, the games that fall into that latter category are usually the most popular ones. Herewith is a list of my ‘I’ll Pass’ games, and why I don’t like them.

Real-Time Strategy:

Firstly, I take exception to the term ‘real-time’. Surely zipping across an open field in 20 seconds cannot be considered ‘real’. And this is where the age issue comes into play, no pun. I can no longer click and drag on six formations as quickly as more youthful .

Secondly, the ‘strategy’ seems to consist mainly of building as many resources as quickly as possible and then massing enough of them in the right place. Now I know that is basically what warfare is, but with the large number of troops grinding each other down in local battles of attrition, This feels more like World War One trench warfare than more modern lightning war.

First Person Shooter:

Looking at your typical , you have;Your character who runs, leaps, swims, and fight without ever getting tired; (one exception was I recall was in the ‘Land of the Dead’ game);Weapons and the right ammunition conveniently lying around, with your character proficient in every one of them, being adept at loading, aiming and firing each one in a couple of seconds;Health packs (also lying about in great profusion) that cure you faster than a Star Trek anabolic protoplaser by simply passing over them;And finally, has anyone other than D&D fans ever heard of ‘encumbrance’. That’s when a character gets weighed down by all the stuff he’s carrying, sometimes to the point of not being able to move. I would think someone carrying a pistol, rifle, rocket-launcher, machine-pistol, not to mention the accompanying ammo, would be a bit weighed down.

Like the above-mentioned , players have to be quick with their mouse, which is why I don’t much care for the category.

Some Action Games:

First off, let me assure you that I am not one of those prissy academics who precedes every sentence with the phrase ‘studies say’, and then go on to condemn the ‘corrupting influence’ of games.

But we cannot ignore the fact that gamers have a bad rep, deservedly or not. As such, games that have players gunning down cops and innocent bystanders do nothing to improve that reputation.

Do developers make these games because the market demands it? Or is it just an easy out? Forget gameplay. Just have them ice some hookers, and it’ll sell.

Now that the rants are over, here are some glimmers of hope for decrepit, all-thumbs gamers like myself.

‘Tycoon’ Games:

The word ‘tycoon’ is used here to refer to games where you build a business empire, anything from a farm to a city and then use it to get rich and powerful, preferably without having to torch any of your opponents’ buildings. These games are sometimes referred to as Business Sims or Strategy games, but the latter often gets confused with RTS, which uses military, rather than boardroom conquests.

Admittedly, there are good as well as bad tycoon games. In a way, I see that as a positive sign. It means there are more entries in an otherwise sparse genre, and that developers have not given up on us ‘niche’ gamers.

Since tycoon games are usually not too graphics crazy, the extra memory is used for more game features that invite true strategic thinking, like pricing and stocks.

Turn-Based Wargames:

Yes, they still exist. Most popular of this genre is the Jagged Alliance series. Another is the World War Two-era Silent Storm. These games play like the old Avalon Hill Squad Leader series. No more do you have soldiers on crack carrying a ton of stuff on their backs. The game mechanics have your soldiers expend Action/Movement Points for everything from kneeling to firing a weapon. If you use up your point allowance, your turn is over.

This is one genre that truly teaches patience. You are forced to inch your way across the battlefield, as a real soldier would.

silent storm screenshot

Others:

I still like the traditional Role-Playing Games, especially the D&D series. As long as they are not hack-and-slash, I can relive the PC games I enjoyed as a youth in my old age.

Who doesn’t love The Sims? That it is played by a high proportion of females is an indication of its universal appeal.

Mow that you have heard from this old buzzard, I thank you for your patience in hearing what is undoubtedly an unpopular sentiment.

Through it all, I see hope on the horizon. A quick glance of any Best Games list shows a healthy proportion of puzzle, strategy and business sims For this, I am grateful to the players who have played and liked those games.

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