by Robert Nicholls
Are simple games like the classics obsolete?
Your heart races as you are run towards your target taking fire from everywhere. An explosion to your right sends debris and dust flying and you are suddenly blocked from moving ahead. You dive down to a prone position and crawl into the newly formed crater as you hear the bullets flying above. A quick glance to your left reveals nothing but you hear running footsteps getting louder and closer. As the dust settles to your right, you see movement of at least three enemies. You quickly start crawling away from them, hoping that they haven’t seen you but the barrage of new gun fire crushes that thought. Turning quickly, you return fire but cannot get a clear shot and you are running low on ammo. You know you have only one chance left to make it out of this alive and lob your last grenade towards the group. You turn and run as the loud explosion causes one of your opponents to scream and you see that he is down. You scan for cover as the bullets start whipping by you again. You push ahead hard and can see a fallen building nearby that you can take refuge in. Hope returns as you clear the door frame into what is left of this building and quickly turn a corner to get out of the gun sites behind you. Bang! Red fills the screen and you are notified that some guy named FilthyPhil69 just shot you with his revolver. You now have 10 seconds to relax before you re-spawn to your next life.
Let’s compare that story to a game from the early 1980’s
You heart races as the red ghost is right behind you and the blue one is just ahead. You push hard as you need to make the right turn before you are cornered and will be killed by both! You make it to the turn and travel to the other side of the maze collecting the dots you haven’t eaten on that side of the screen yet. The orange ghost is here and closing in on you so you head to the corner. Red is back and running along the top towards the power pill you are also gunning for. You turn left with Orange right behind you and you strain to stay ahead. It looks good and yes – you got it. The ghosts, now blue and inverted, start running away but you eat the first easily and enjoy the reward of seeing the points add up as you run over the second. Scanning the map, you see another close by and want those points too. You take a sharp left and zero in on it. You are faster and gaining on it. It does a quick right turn to avoid you but you are ready and follow. As it nears the corner, you are on top of it and finally touch it – just as the pill wears off and you die.
Well I know which story sounds more interesting but I am from the days of the first video games and I remember the stress they caused regardless of how simple it was. Pac Man was a favourite and too many hours were lost trying to beat my high score. A funny point I remember and is just ridiculous to the new generation is that you couldn’t save back then so if you stopped playing, that was it – you started over next time.
With Virtual Reality on the market now and games like Battlefield One, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the upcoming Resident Evil 7 and not to forget the new Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon available to the modern gamer, what possible fun could simple games like Pac Man, Space invaders or Centipede hold? The new powerful gaming systems can push the envelope of game development in absolutely every aspect. Stunning graphics with immersive environments, backed by original digital recorded soundtracks with story lines that are so well written that they frequently end up being a movie. I will admit that when I first compared the new games to the original 8 bit games of my youth, I thought that no one would ever really enjoy the likes of Frogger, Donkey Kong or Asteroids as we did but after some more consideration, I found I was wrong.
I have two boys who are sadly modern victims of video game addiction. They love their Call of Duty and Arma III but in the off time of these high resolution action games, I see them on various websites like iogames.space, crazygames.com or happywheels3game.com playing the cheesiest games and loving them. Most of these are dead simple 2d games and remind me of the old days.
I had to now reconsider the value of simple games in the modern day when comparing to the new monsters of digital entertainment. With my new found open mind, I quickly noticed more really obvious examples. If you look at the popularity of games like Angry Birds or the 100’s of requests you get for the simple games on Facebook like Candy Crush, Bejewelled and Dragon City. There are so many that I just overlooked or didn’t give a fair evaluation to. I tried to defend my tunnel visioned by saying that these simplistic games were different as they were typically cheap or free and just played by people to pass time. The real games were $60 or more and made by companies with millions of dollars! Well I knew I was grasping because Rovio, the makers of Angry birds, made 71 million dollars in profits back in 2012. They had since branched out with a movie and TV episodes ‘Angry Birds Toons‘. Amazing how a simple physics game exploded into an empire. Then there are those annoying games on Facebook that are free to play but you have the option to buy their little digital upgrades to speed up your progress or to just look better than someone else doing it. I laughed when I first saw these offers, thinking no one would ever really pay for that stuff! Add that to my streak of bad judgement calls! Yes, I was wrong again when I thought that too! Remember Farmville? That was a golden egg for the company Zynga who is said to have made 500-700 million off Farmville alone and more with these types of ventures like Fishville and Mafia Wars. The company is evaluated today at 7 billion. Yet another empire made by providing nothing but 2d pixel art and power ups. I still can’t believe people pay for that but my hat is off to Zynga!
Well I will admit that I was wrong about the value and enjoyment provided by the simple games of today. I loved the 8 bit games of yesterday so why wouldn’t the next generation? BUT you have to agree that modern, more complex games make much better stories – no?
“I was late returning so today I got to the field and found some crops had died. I removed them and planted another batch. At least I was able to harvest some and will get a little money at the market for them… Oh no! The sheep have strayed again. I better build a fence and then put them inside… ”
I can’t even go on… Enjoy and let me know what games you would like me to review!