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Why Certain Video Games Will Never Die

Thursday, May 21, 2015

 

Good games never die. Obviously this is true for games like dominoes and chess, but the same can be said for video games. Some of the best video games can be played over and over again regardless of when they were created because of a couple things; good gameplay, good storytelling, or a combination of both.

Some of the oldest examples of this are strictly replayable because of gameplay. Games such as Pong, Space Invaders, Combat, and Frogger are all simple yet challenging games that anyone can pick up and play and have fun doing it. 

This is a trend that has continues to this day. Farm Heroes Saga, Candy Crush, Bejeweled, Flappy Bird, these are all in the exact same wheelhouse as those old games. The games use basic control schemes that can be accomplished with one or two inputs from the player, they have enough challenge to keep the game from getting boring and they are in some way visually appealing. 

This visual appeal steps up the pleasure we get from any given game. Angry Birds and Candy Crush have great visuals that trigger those endorphins we get when something goes well. Not only are we getting the gratification of being successful, but we also get flashing lights and stars for that success. 

Now add a loveable character to the mix. You’re now introducing some story to the gameplay. Granted Angry Birds and Candy Crush have a “story,” but do you really pay any attention to them? In this case we are talking about those challenging score based games that hook you, not just with the desire to get the highest score, but give you someone/thing to root for. Some of the earliest include Donkey Kong, Q-Bert, and Pitfall!. These games gave you now iconic characters to root for as the heroes of the game, and some times a goal that usually involved a princess or treasure of some kind, but really the goal was your score the entire time. 

The “story” such as it is means little in these games, but they are still very playable today even in a world filled with amazing graphics, gameplay, and stories that rival some of best in Hollywood. Donkey Kong is just as challenging and fun to play today as it was back in 1982 even though you still probably can’t make it past the second or third screen.

The third of these classics that never die are the ones that combine that addicting gameplay with great stories and characters. Now there is no shortage of these in todays video game obsessed world. Grand Theft Auto, The Last of Us, The Elder Scrolls series, these games are the gold standard for game design today with deep compelling stories and well thought out and engaging gameplay. However these fantastic series would be nothing without the classics that came before them, classics that still hold there own against the heavyweights of today.

In 1985 Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System in America. This would change the landscape of gaming for everyone. Three big games stood out during that time Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. These three games established deep rich worlds, a compelling all-be-it simple story, and addictive easy to handle gameplay. Many a parent played their fair share of Mario back in the day, and many more still do today. Why, because it’s fun. It’s a blast to run through those levels rescuing the Princess who was inevitably in another castle. 

The Legend of Zelda gave us one of our first real tastes of what a role playing game could be. No more text adventures or tabletop games. You were Link and you were going to defeat Gannon and save Princess Zelda. This was epic adventure on an epic scale, and guess what? It still is. Many newer games can’t say that.

Try going back and playing Grand Theft Auto III on the PlayStation 2. The game can still be fun, but the game feels dated not just in the graphics, but especially in the gameplay. The reason for this has a lot to do with the complexity of the game and its controls, and that’s a big key. The older games had simpler controls and those controls hold up over time regardless of the initial quality or enjoyment of the game. 

Of course older games suffer from this as well. Going back and playing something like Xenophobia is like reliving a nightmare that never ends. Of course the idea here isn’t that newer games are bad, or that old games are better. This isn’t an old mans rant about the good old days, it’s about the good old days still being here and still being fun. 

It’s similar to going back and watching old films or reading old books. The good ones never die and they never grow old. So get in that closet and dust off that old NES or Sega Genesis and relive some of those great experiences, and share them with the next generation.

 

Related Slideshow: The Best Virtual Reality Gadgets and Games

Big names are now making VR a viable and desirable “new” technology. Google, Facebook, HTC, and Samsung are all in the game and the results make the 75-year-old View Master look like a child’s…well you get the idea. 

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ViewMaster

In fact the View Master has gotten a serious upgrade thanks to Google and it’s Google Cardboard project. The new View Master is now a fully immersive experience with 360-degree worlds, photosphere, and interactive “field-trips.” The $30 plastic viewer requires a smartphone to function, and can be replaced with a standard cardboard setup since most of the work is done inside the app, but the View Master is a much more durable version and will come with the classic reels. These reels, however are no longer inserted into the top of the device, but laid on a table and viewed through the smartphone app triggering the experience. 

Of course since the View Master is just a sturdier version of the standard Google Cardboard so it can be used for the variety of apps now available for the platform. Some of the best apps include Orbulus, VR Cosmic Rollercoaster, and Village. The View Master will be available in October, and will eventually support both Android and iOS.

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Samsung Gear VR

Similar to the Google Cardboard, Samsung has developed it’s own VR headset designed to use the Galaxy Note 4 as the display. The Gear VR is actually a very good-looking full-on headset that only cost $200. The drawback, and it is a very big very expensive drawback, is that it requires the $700 Galaxy Note 4 in order to function. Another drawback is the limited software. It can of course use all the VR apps and features available for Google Cardboard, but those are still very limited both in visual quality and variety. If you already have a Note 4 and $200 to blow this could certainly be a fun toy, but at this point I would probably just go for the View Master or straight cardboard box.

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HTC Vive

Like Samsung HTC is best known for it’s outstanding smartphones, particularly the outstanding One series. They were also the first to develop an Android phone so you would think they would be content with the Cardboard project or something similar to the Gear VR. This is not the case; HTC, with the help of Valve, has developed the HTC Vive a high end VR headset aimed at PC gamers. Basically HTC is handling the manufacturing of the device while Valve/Steam handle the software. With a Fall 2015 release date the Vive is the first of the big VR headsets to launch, and could set the stage for the others.

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Project Morpheus

Project Morpheus is Sony’s go at VR technology. This headset will connect directly to the Playstation 4 and provide a similar experience to the HTC Vive but in a console/living room setting as opposed to Vive’s PC/desk setting. Demos of the Morpheus have people on a luge, swimming with sharks, and robbing banks. If successful this could breathe new life into Sony’s lackluster attempt to copy the Nintendo Wii; the Playstation Move. Some of the issues gamers may have here are with the headset being wired to the PS4 and the potential amount of movement required of some games. Now movement and wires aren’t by themselves a bad thing, but pair them with a living room full of furniture, maybe a child/dog or two, and what amounts to a blindfold strapped to your head and you can see the potential for issues.

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Oculus Rift

The device that re-started it all; Oculus Rift was a project that began back in 2012 with Oculus VR founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe. Palmer envisioned a lightweight head mounted display (HMD) that was both functional and inexpensive. The first prototype was little more than a couple of LCD panels duct taped to the head and running Doom 3. In August of 2012 the company began its Kickstarter campaign that introduced the first “dev-kit” for $300 allowing many the chance to develop for this new and exciting platform. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2.2 billion. The Oculus Rift is set to launch sometime next year and will likely have a price tag of around two or three hundred dollars. 

The development of this next generation of VR looks like a promising one. Not only are these devices being developed for gaming and looking at pictures, but virtual tourism, medical uses, and virtual art shows are just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are developing VR arcades that merge real world environments and virtual ones to create even more realistic experiences.

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As exciting as all this sounds it is all still in it’s…we’ll say…toddler stage. Things are looking good, but we won’t know how good for another two to three years at the least. If you want to try VR out for yourself Google Cardboard is your best bet currently as most of the more advanced options don’t launch until later this year or next. You can find a list of Cardboard sellers here, and perhaps I’ll see you in a virtual space down the road.

 
 

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