Friday, September 16, 2005

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Select Start

This is going to be a seriously geeky and boring post for most of you, but then again, all this reminiscence isn’t for you :p

So this is what I was thinking about this last weekend.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time in Arcades. Like a LOT. Like the amount of time a crack head would spend at a crack house. There was no better baby sitter for me than for my mom to take me to the arcade with a couple of dollars.

Yes, I was raised by Jimmy and Billy of Double Dragon and the good folks of Street fighter.

There was something great about being at an arcade with all these games, and everyone there came for the same reason. Whether it’s to beat M. Bison from taking over the world, saving the world from aliens, or to rescue the number of women that somehow gets captured by big evil guys, the arcade was an exciting place.

The games were mainly for one player at a time (Pac-man, Galaga, etc.), it was rare at that time to see cooperative 2 player games (e.g., Double Dragon, Ikari warriors). Or the super-rare 4 player cooperative game (Gauntlet).

Then came the ground breaking game Street Fighter. The original street fighter actually had these giant pads that the harder you hit, the harder Ryu hit (you could only play Ryu in the original unless there was a second player that was Ken). I’ve seen many a bloody knuckles after someone played this repeatedly.

And the first time I saw someone actually get off a dragon punch. Ah.. chills.

From this moment on, many games in the arcade became 2 player cooperative or competitive. Having 2 player games just means the arcade can take in quarters twice as quickly. From my experience, these fighting games created a strange sense of camaraderie among those more elite players. Yes, there were the elite players.

The elite were those guys that spent WAY too much time on the machine. Mind you, this is before the home game console. So it’s not like they were at home practicing and then coming to the arcade to kick ass (as many kids do today). No, these guys spent their time on the actual machines.

From spending so much time together, strange bizarre friendships would develop. Even those that weren’t friends, there was always a level of respect and acknowledgement among those that were there.

What made me think of this is the extinction of arcades and the evolution of the home consoles (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, etc.). The home game console has come very far from the Atari or Commodore 64.

The new game consoles have made the video game experience at home just as good, if not better, than the arcade machines. However, I think this comes at a price. No longer do kids have to go to a place where they interact with others with similar interest, and as bizarre as the interactions are, they still interact with live people.

The home game console has taken this away by isolating kids in their own familiar places (their home or friend’s home), and to interact with only their previously established friends. I think there is a big loss without the interaction and competition of others.

Children do not learn to humble their abilities (i.e., beating the computer is nothing compare to playing another human so don’t say how good you are), nor do they see how good they could be.

With an over emphasis on self esteem in child rearing in the last 2 decades, children have become out of control in their own self righteousness. In a small way, getting beat down in public at a game will humble a kid, and make him/her strive to be better.

Or not, maybe this is just me.

The other big thing is the cheats in today’s games and the mentality that creates. I don’t know if you know, but all these cheat codes and strategy guides that comes with almost EVERY game (on home game consoles) is one of my biggest peeves. I understand all the financial reasons behind companies making them. However, parents should know better than to buy these things for their kids.

Having a cheat code completely ruins the game. If you are able to have such an advantage over the normal rules of the game, the game ceases to be what it was designed to be. It would be like taking a novel, and inserting your own character in the story line.

What is the point of a game if you are given a guide to everything in a game? Does life come with a walk through book? I don’t think games should either.

The home game consoles have also destroyed the sense of value of the game. In the arcade, game play is limited by the amount of money you have, and in my younger days, that would be 2 may be 3 dollars at the very very most. With the game consoles, a person can play for as long as they want simply by hitting the start button. This idea that you can just keep playing devalues each game because you know that even if you mess up, you can just play again.

The unlimited play, plus the isolation with playing in their own homes, seriously undermines the desire to get good at anything. Why would you need to be good if you can just keep playing? How would you know how good you really are?

I think all this destroys the lure of the game. We had to be good at the games, cause there was only so many times we could play it because of how much money we had. Look at the way kids play games today. They try for a while, and when they get stuck, they simply quit or put in a cheat code. What kind of example is this setting for how the kids will act in the real world? What are they going to do when they figure out there is no cheat code in the real world.

The Arcade didn’t have cheats, and there was a cost associated with each play. I think to a point that makes the player enjoy and hold dear the experience more. I know it’s a far fetch, but the home game consoles have destroyed the real gaming experience.

Have a good weekend everyone!

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