Video Games – A Fading Interest

Who didn't have one of these?

My generation is the one that grew up with a Nintendo in every household.  It was rare to encounter someone as a kid who didn’t know who Mario was or what the “blood code” was.  Sure there was the occasional classmate who’s parents were opposed to video games, but they were the ones with the biggest obsession.  For them a Nintendo was some kind of forbidden fruit, you never knew if they were your friend or just using you to feed their addiction.

I received my first Nintendo Entertainment System when I was four.  It was a Christmas gift from my grandparents and quite a happy time for me.  It was the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt bundle edition with two controllers and a light gun.  I don’t know how much time I spent with it, but I know it was a lot.  I was never very good at Super Mario.  I knew where all the warp zones were but my methodical pace always doomed me on the longer stages in World 8.  As for Duck Hunt, I could hold my own for a few levels but once things got fast and furious I had that plastic gun barrel up against the glass to avoid hearing that incessant dog laugh at my poor shooting.

My NES collection never got very big.  I can still remember every game I owned.  Aside from the Mario bundle, I had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which was incredibly hard), Battle Toads (which was brutally hard), Super Mario Bros. 3, and Dr. Mario.  My sister had some terrible Barbie game, but that was it.  I’d rent games often and play other games at friend’s or cousin’s houses so I was readily familiar with Zelda, Mega Man, and the other usual suspects.  I also had a Game Genie, which was awesome because it made me feel like less of a failure.  Looking back, I’m not sure if I ever legitimately beat any NES games.  Usually just reaching certain levels was a huge accomplishment, like getting past the water level in TMNT or level 3 in Battle Toads (the one on the hover bikes, that was a game that was still impossible even with Game Genie).  Frustration ruined my persistence, so I would just get mad at a game and then go play with my action figures or something.

I had even less Super Nintendo games.  I had to wait a little while before my parents

would get me one, and it was one of my favorite Christmas gifts.  It was like a scene

My friends and I would spend hours after school watching this fatality over and over. It's kind of surprising none of us turned out to be a serial killer.

from A Christmas Story where I begged my parents for months and then didn’t notice it hidden behind a dining room chair until my dad pointed it out to me.  Aside form the pack-in Super Mario World, the only other SNES games I would ever get would be Mario Paint, Turtles in Time, and the horribly disappointing Spider-Man and the X-Men.  I remember thinking there was no way a game starring both Spidey and the X-Men could be anything less than unbelievable, but it was utter garbage.  I should add, by this time I was at least respectable at video games and managed to completely beat Super Mario World and destroy the very easy Turtles in Time, even on the hard difficulty!  And while I liked the SNES, I was at an age where I never had enough of my own money to buy games and the following Christmas I got a Sega Genesis.  From that point on, my parents and relatives would only ever buy me Sega games for some reason.  Oh well.

I only wanted the Genesis for Mortal Kombat, because the Super Nintendo version was censored while the Genesis version had a code that would enable blood and the gory fatalities.  My friends and I got quite a bit of milage out of that game!

One of my first Playstation games, and one I loved.

It was around that time where games became my favorite past time.  I moved on from Genesis to Playstation, camped out on launch night for a Playstation 2, and acquired just about every major console that has followed (with the notable exceptions being the two X-Box consoles).  I don’t know how many games I’ve owned over the years, but it’s a significant amount.  There’s been plenty who have owned more, but many hours of my life have been spent with a controller in hand.

I’ve now reached the point where they’re losing their luster.  This past year I only purchased three games on my own, Red Dead Redemption, Smackdown vs Raw, and Rock Band 3, the latter I only got because I wanted to see if I could learn anything by using the new keyboard (to be determined).  Outside of Red Dead Redemption, games just aren’t holding my attention any longer.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it’s a host of things that have lead to my indifference.

Great games can still hold my attention as I did spend many hours with Red Dead Redemption as I did just about everything there was to do in that game.  That used to be the norm for me though.  Over the last few years I’ve amassed a sizable collection of games that have gone neglected.  Off the top of my head, I can think of several games that I have played 3 or fewer times, among them would be Mad World, Battalion Wars, Dissidia, and Uncharted 2.  Most of these are actually pretty good games.  Uncharted 2 is celebrated as one of the best games to come out in the last few years.  I received it as a gift in 2009 and never even played it until this past fall.  Even when I play it, I know it’s pretty good and something that I should enjoy but I just haven’t gone back to it.  I’m actually going to force myself to resume playing it in the next few days along with Super Mario Galaxy 2, which I’ve probably completed about 50% of and I’ve had it since June.  Since getting Rock Band 3 at Christmas time, I’ve only played that once.  I probably played the first Rock Band only 3 or 4 times, I can’t remember.

I also have a DSi and a PSP, both of which I rarely play.  Recently I’ve made myself pick up the DS again as I have a train ride as part of my commute each morning that lasts about 45 minutes.  As a result, I’ve hit the 90 hour mark on Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and am pretty much sick of it.  If not for my commute I would have never put that much time into it as the game is too easy and the plot is atrocious.  I have a bunch of games I’ve spent little time with that I’ll have to pick up (maybe Final Fantasy III) in its place.

I've spent many hours with this game, only because it was there in front of me.

Things do not look any different going forward.  The 3DS will be the next big piece of hardware to launch and I won’t be partaking in that.  I can’t justify getting in line for one when I’ve barely touched the handhelds I do have.  Mass Effect 2, many outlets pick for best game of 2010, gets a PS3 release tomorrow and I am intrigued.  Since I don’t own an Xbox 360 I’ve never played a Mass Effect game but have heard good things.  I won’t let myself buy a copy though until I’ve at least beat Uncharted 2, I don’t want to see it “go to waste” by never beating it.  I have reasonably high hopes for ME2 as I enjoy the RPG genre and haven’t played a new one in some time.  Final Fantasy XIII did not sound appealing to me so I skipped it, first time I’ve done that ever (not including the online only Final Fantasy XI) with a Final Fantasy title.  My thirst for an RPG was some-what quenched last winter when I borrowed a copy of Final Fantasy XI for the Gameboy Advance, which I played mostly on the train.  I also fired up my PS2 and played through one of my favorite games of all-time, Xenogears, this past summer.  I know ME2 shares little in common with Japanese RPG’s but that’s okay, I also enjoy the American ones such as Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls.

Beyond Mass Effect 2 though there is virtually nothing on the horizon I am looking forward to.  As someone who does enjoy Batman, I’ll probably end up with a copy of the Arkham Asylum sequel which is supposed to come out in the fall.  I’ll keep an eye on the Dragon Age sequal and the Oblivion follow-up but I’m not excited for either one.  It’s a time of transition for me where my free time seems more valuable now than it did when I was a teenager.  I can remember coming home from school and playing Playstation until dinner time, even doing the mundane such as level grinding in a Final Fantasy title or flying through a fighting game with every character just to unlock a new costume or something pointless.  Stuff like that just doesn’t interest me anymore.  Every game today comes with a list of unlockable trophies or achievements for people to spend time on and most of them are just stupid and require little skill, just a lot of free time.  It can get to the point where playing a game feels like a chore.

Perhaps this game will give me reason to get excited once again.

The thing that really irks me is the downloadable content some games provide.  Normally such a thing would be welcomed, but as I mentioned before, this year I purchased the latest Smackdown vs Raw game (a guilty pleasure) and was sickened to see what some of the downloadable content was.  Most of it is the kind of stuff that would be unlockable in a game by completing a certain task, or something that would be given from the start such as the ability to augment the wrestler’s abilities in-game.  Now that stuff is something the user has to pay for.  It’s a small fee but the fact that it exists disgusts me enough to consider forgoing purchasing any future games in the series.  I can remember getting WWF Attitude when it came out.  Every wrestler in the game had 4 attires, now most only have one and if you want more you have to pay more.  It’s just nickel and diming by the publisher.  Perhaps if the product was of exceptional quality I could forgive such a practice but it’s not.  Every year content is removed from the game to be re-added years later as something new and exciting.  It’s pathetic.

At least I'll always have Xenogears.

I suppose I should be happy my interest is waning as this opens up time, and money, for me to pursue other things.  It is what it is, I suppose.  Maybe something will come along that will re-ignite my interest again, but I don’t know.  I thought the long-await Starcraft 2 would be such a game, but Blizzard’s decision to release each campaign scenario separately just left a sour taste in my mouth.  That and the game is virtually unchanged from the first, which was released in 1998.  Diablo 3, which probably won’t be released until 2012 anyways, looks to be the same – an old game with a fresh coat of paint.  I guess that’s the root of my disinterest, every game just feels like something I’ve played before.  Video games are incredibly expensive to develop these days and publishers are afraid to take chances as a result – I get that.  It’s still disappointing though that with all of this technology we’re left playing games where the visuals are shiny and new but the game underneath it is 10 years old.  I still have most of the games I bought and played 10 years ago, so why spend $60 on something I’ve already played?  Forget Uncharted, where’s my copy of Chrono Trigger?!

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