Video games have become easier with each new console generation. I understand that it’s all part of the business–you don’t want to alienate an entire swath of the population because they are crappy at gaming. However, when I jump back a few generations to enjoy some of my older titles, there are times when I have trouble. It made me realize how weak we have become as gamers and how thankful I am that games like Dark Souls exist to remedy that. But just what are these modern games doing that have made them so effortless in comparison with their aged brethren? I can name five:
1) Regenerating Health
I come from a time when you had to eat a chicken leg off the ground to get your health back, and there were very few in the level to consume. This made getting through games like Final Fight and Castlevania almost impossible–instead of relying on a health bar, you had to rely on your skills. I didn’t get to hunker down and wait for time to pass; instead, I memorized where enemies would spawn and mastered the art of two-button mashing. It is refreshing that a lot of games still cling to the health packs and herbs, but the ones that shouldn’t are the first-person shooters. I’m pretty sure that in World War I no one healed themselves by sitting behind a rock for a few seconds. It would be much more realistic if you had to call a medic over to patch you up, at least. That would make the game more challenging, especially if your medic has a mortar drop on them, then you would be out of luck. In the first level of Battlefield 1, you would jump from soldier to soldier on the same battlefield. That really struck me: you don’t heal just by relaxing for a bit, it takes a long time, and in all wars, not everyone comes back.
2) Infinite Lives
Lives were a part of my video game experience since I first began playing. In most games, you began with three, and if you were lucky enough to find another, you had better remember where it is in the level. There were also “continues,” which means you didn’t get to keep trying over and over whenever you wanted. You had to memorize the level fast and hope to God the final boss didn’t destroy you with one hit. Nowadays when you die, there really isn’t that much of a consequence, unless the game has really bad checkpoints or you forget to turn your auto save on in Skyrim. Infinite lives have made us soft and don’t really add consequence to death. A few titles still do, but not as many as there use to be. Can you imagine doing a Dark Souls run with only 5 lives and 3 continues?
3) Two-Hour Tutorials
Today gamers have the joy of scrolling through countless lines of dialog that tell them exactly how to play the game without making a single mistake. They tell you how to jump, how to crawl, what to do with your weapons, and so on. They practically play themselves! Back in the day, you would run to the right and hope for the best. I will concede that we only had two buttons to contend with, but one wrong move back in the day and a Goomba would get you. I remember playing Mega Man 2 when I was nine or so, and I never had any idea which boss I should go after first; it was always hit-and-miss. Now you are given a map marker or some kind of breadcrumb trail for every in-game sequence. Gamers also have the internet today, which helps them as well. Back then, we were lucky to have glanced at a strategy guide, since those were twenty extra bucks on top of the cost of the game–an additional purchase that was nearly impossible to convince your parents to make.
4) Control Mapping
So I’m playing through as many Resident Evil titles as possible this year; I don’t know why I have this itch to scratch, but I’m trying to scratch it by replaying my favorite games. I had just beaten the remake and decided to move on to the Code Veronica HD port on the Xbox 360. Since I was used to the remake’s controls, I attempted to choose a similar control scheme in Code Veronica. Unfortunately, there are none; I have to play this title the old fashioned way. I slowly got used to the old tank controls in the game, but man was it a shock to me. It’s amazing how swapping a few buttons on a control scheme can truly change the way you play. I’m glad that we can do it now, but I just find it hard to believe that I beat some of these games with their atrocious control layouts. Surprisingly, I don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome, especially since I played a lot on my N64.
5) Auto Saves
When I was a child, there were very few games that could actually save–most of the time your progress was lost when you shut the game off and sometimes a huge password was thrown at you before you fired down. Some cartridges had batteries that would let you save, but sadly those have all passed on now. It wasn’t until Sony’s memory card that you could actually save your game at a specific point with ease. At that time, saving your progress was considered easy, but today it’s gotten out of hand. We have been babied into the ability to save whenever and wherever we want. Back then we had to find a save point and hope we got to it before Mom called for supper. If you didn’t make it, you lost your progress or had to leave your machine on for a bit without your parents knowing. Autosaving and saving whenever you want makes gaming so much easier for us, and I can attribute many autosaves to rescuing hours of progress that could have been lost to silly deaths. Even Resident Evil has gone away from the typewriter save and has an autosave now, which takes away from the suspense of it all but made beating the Baker family a tad easier. It did give you a tape recorder to save, but knowing there was an autosave had me throw caution to the wind.
So, am I right? Have we been made softer by developers? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, @SuperJerry13.