Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Video Gaming got Boring

Don't lambast me as an old fart, but when I was a kid video games were fun. They were still fun in high school, and even more fun through college, but now they have become more and more the realm of lone wolfs. Men and women sit alone in the dark, perhaps playing against a faceless human sitting in the dark somewhere else. The days of group gaming are gone.

I realize that online gaming is hugely popular, but popular for whom? My fondest memories of video games begin with playing NFL Gameday on the original Sony Playstation. You and a few friends would battle it out, raise the stakes, and play some more. When the PS2 was released along side the next generation of Madden football, playing your friends became even more of an event. The game was special, the graphics were special, and the party which formed to play felt special.

The N64 and subsequent Wii took this concept up a notch. Mario Party was amazing. I speak in past tense because the game from 1998 or 2000 is more fun than any version in the last five years hands down. The game stinks now. With the Wii, group gaming was introduced to new territory, yet what happened to this momentum? I'll tell you what happened, the casual gamers got bored because nothing new was introduced to utilize the technology, and by the time the Xbox Kinect or Sony Move came out, no one cared. The fun was exhausted to the point of boredom with the Rock Band series of games, and without anything new to do we are now sitting in a void of nothingness when it comes to playing video games with others.

Now don't confuse my disappointment for a lack of interest in gaming. I do love the RPG, and stand by Oblivion as the greatest game I've ever played to date. However, I hold few memories of the game itself, besides the fact that it was amazing and consumed many hours of my life for the better. My video game memories exist with others playing with me, the group dynamic. And this doesn't even have to be a group game; what happened to the games that were fun to not only play, but to watch someone else play? The original Resident Evil, and Resident Evil 2, were so riveting that I didn't have to play them. Watching my friend play was just as fun! Final Fantasy 7 was the same way. The game was fun, up beat, and quirky, a blast to watch.

Today's video games have gone the way of summer movies, bland recreations of past success. Now there is hope on the horizon. LA Noire looks amazing, and should take video gaming to a new and exciting place with a story driven game. Others may want to watch the game unfold like a great film. But video games need to take a page from television and learn to reinvent themselves. Movies are flashy and fun, finding a great balance between new ideas and money making old ones. TV has to stay cutting edge to stop you from changing the channel or canceling your DVR recording. Games need to do the same thing or we will all start going hiking.

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