Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprises!

I've been gaming since the days of the Atari 2600 - a long time. Over the years, gaming has obviously changed, evolved and progressed. This progression does not necessarily imply improvement. Great games from the last 30 years can still be enjoyed today and 30 years from now - it's merely a matter of taste. This confirms the theory that technological advancements do not automatically yield increases in value or entertainment.

Building off of that, we can all agree that we've witnessed incredible advancements in gaming technology over the last five to 10 years. The visuals have reached heights that rival big budget movies. And the fact that I can wirelessly control a virtual sword by swinging the controller is is a concept that would have reduced my childhood-self to a pile of euphoric mush.

However, with technological advances, they are usually evident from the moment the game begins and we all become jaded to the novelty too quickly. That's when a game's substance either launches it to the status of "classic" or sucks it into the abyss of "forgettable" titles.

Over the years, it's become less and less frequent that a game truly blows my mind. Of course, I deeply enjoy many games. And I'd have to say the library of Wii games is really what revitalized my faith and passion in gaming. But let's just say I was floored when I first played Centipede. Again when I first played Super Mario Bros. The hits kept on coming: Tetris on GB, 1941, Ninja Gaiden II, Mega Man 2, Street Fighter 2, Final Fantasy VII, Kingdom Hearts, RE4 on the Wii. I'm sure I'm forgetting dozens of titles, but the point is, in recent years the percentage of good and great games has definitely gone up but the amount of truly mind-blowing experiences has declined.

However, lately I've found myself amidst a spoil of riches. As many of you know, Monster Hunter Tri grabbed hold of my existence and is only recently starting to loosen its grip. This is partly due to Dragon Quest IX's ability to make me feel like "right now" is always a good time to play.

So what is it about these games that has me feeling that sense of magic again? I've done some thinking and I believe it's simple: the developers of these (lengthy) games found a way to surprise me in hour 250 like it was hour 5.

I've logged nearly 500 hours on MH3 and I STILL see things I've never seen before. Like the time Deviljho cleared the entrance to the hidden area of the Tundra. Or the time a teammate was hurled from Jhen Mohran's back yet caught the boat's edge with his fingertips to avoid a sandy bath.

In DQ9? It's pure exploration and depth. The world map isn't just a series of tedious stops to be checked off in a linear fashion. No, it's a fully-fleshed out environment with meaningful interactions at every turn. I'm over 100 hours into the adventure and I can't tell you how many times I've spotted a path, followed it, and thought: "I've never been here before! Hey! Free stuff! New quests! New characters!!"

My wife and I each bought a copy of the game so we could play together. We started within a few days of each other and our experiences have been so different that we often have to be weary of not spoiling anything for the other!

To sum it up, MH3 and DQ9 have impressed me in a manner that hasn't happened in a while. Games like these make me feel lucky to be a gamer in 2010 and have me looking forward to the future.

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Speaking of surprises, I've got a rather monumental surprise in store for this website... a big change in the near future. Let's just say "stay tuned" and leave it at that.

5 comments:

Maxi said...

Oh a surprise? Hmm even I don't know what it is. I'm thinking what it could be as I type this.So exciting.

As for your main post I think that I am similar to you. I enjoy getting surprised in games. Either by its concept or by something that happens in the game.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Still haven't snagged MH3 yet myself, but I've been hooked on DQ9 a while now - despite distracting myself with other games like Retro Game Challenge and Arc Rise Fantasia here and there too - and the element of surprise is definitely fantastic, I have to agree. It keeps the experience fresh - it keeps you in the game world, and makes the world feel like it's more alive. The more living and unique game experiences feel, the more they really keep you addicted and involved with the experience of exploring and adventuring through that world. I already can't wait to see what Dragon Quest X brings to the table in that regard on the Wii. :)

For that matter, I can't wait to see what the Dragon Quest team and others bring to the 3DS, too, especially with the boatloads of new features the system's bringing to the table. Very exciting time to game. :)

EarthViper said...

"in recent years the percentage of good and great games has definitely gone up "

I'd have to beg to differ :P

CrashMan said...

EV-

yea, now that you mention it, I do tend to ignore shovelware and it's (possible? probable?) increase.

so maybe "percentage" isn't the right word. but I would stand by my belief that the -amount- of quality games has increased.

Mop_it_up said...

I think the answer here is pretty simple: you've seen it all.

You said it yourself, you've been gaming for almost thirty years. That's almost as long as videogames have even existed. After so many years -- and more importantly, so many games -- you've gotten to the point where you have experienced almost all of that which is possible in the realm of gaming. Little surprises you anymore because you've seen it all, you know how gaming conventions work, and you know what to expect. There simply isn't much left to do in games that hasn't been done before. Let's also not forget, you are no longer young, and your child-like sense of wonder and imagination has dissipated.

The Internet also changes things as well. The Internet allows you to know everything about a game before you even buy it. Back in 1993, when I played Zelda: Link to the Past on the SNES, I thought the wizard was the final boss in the game. When I beat him, I discovered there were seven more dungeons, and I wasn't even half finished. That was a surprise that will never exist again. An example is Super Mario Galaxy 2; the green stars could have been a similar surprise, but the only way I could have avoided hearing about them before I played the game to that point would be if I stayed off the Internet completely.

I noticed the two games you said have surprised you are both multiplayer titles, one online, one that should have been. It would seem that it is no longer about the the game itself surprising you, but rather, now being able to experience games with others completely changes everything. It's no longer about the games, it is who you play them with that will define them -- and surprise you.