Graymers?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 November 2012, 10:16 am
Tadgh Kelly is talking about the effect of age on video games: "I don't think gaming needs saving, but rather that the older gamer market (which is still emerging) is simply underserved. I also think that the phenomenon of Kickstartered games is largely being driven by so-called "graymers" who either want to set the world to rights ("Adventure games aren't dead!" etc) or are simply missing an old love and want to relight that flame."

I find the link between graying gamers and the recent surge in Kickstarter game remakes interesting. And somewhat worrying. Nostalgia can be dangerous when used to part people from their money. What people want is their youth back, but what they end up spending their money on is a remake of a game from the 80's. Elite was a great game in 1984, but there are good reasons why we don't have procedurally generated universe exploration games any more. And adapting old games to the new millennium isn't always easy.

For example XCOM: Enemy Unknown is quite well done, but it is significantly less complex than the original, with a much simpler "action point" and "posture" system than before. I think the game does a reasonably good job of recreating the feeling of the original, without having players go through all the hoops from yesteryear. But others complain about the remake having been "dumbed down".

Some of the games of the 80's would today be considered unplayable. And I'm not talking about graphics here, or the fact that you can't find a modern machine that runs the old code. These first home computer games were designed by people who only knew arcade games, where killing the player relatively quickly was imperative to get him to throw another quarter into the machine. Thus games like Manic Miner today appear rather punishing. And they had very little of what we today would expect in terms of "story" or "content", because you can't in fact put a lot of that into an 8-bit game.

So you feel nostalgic and end up buying a game like the Baldur's Gate remake, only to find out that the horrible graphics and bad pathfinding simply aren't acceptable any more today. There are a lot of old game concepts that I would like to see re-invented, but there is a danger that we'll just get a direct remake with all the inconveniences that have caused game development to move on from those old games.

Ultimately as a "graymer" our first games are not the only point of reference we have. Most of us didn't go into hibernation or hid under a rock. We not only played the games of the 80's and the 90's, but also those from the 00's and 10's. And just like everybody else we now consider certain conveniences in games as absolutely necessary. It will take some real genius to re-invent a game like Elite and bridge the nostalgia with modern game design. Just because some Kickstarter project has the name of one of your favorite old games in it doesn't mean much.
Tobold's Blog



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