Brand-new Playstation 3 games line up neatly in a row inside the TV cabinet. They haven’t been touched for weeks. ‘
On the ground lay dozens of games scattered everywhere, while two people battle it for the Super Mario Kart championship.
No, its not the updated Wii version, but the original grey-boxed cartridge for Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
While the gaming industry has advanced into intricate graphics, complex levels and clear-cut sound, the classics have yet to fade.
Even with all the new technology available, gamers everywhere are still playing the originals like Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Excitebike. They have proven to be timeless.
Tim Lang is the lead designer for Spinmaster Studios. Lang previously worked for Electronic Arts, Nival Interactive and New World Computing and has been a part of the gaming industry for 12 years.
‘The thing about old games that keeps bringing people back is their simplicity,’ said Lang. ‘Games today are unaccountably more sophisticated than games even 10 years ago.’ And because of that, they don’t resonate with as many people.’
He also said the pickup factor is another key element that keeps gamers hooked on the oldies. ‘Anyone can walk up to Pac-Man or Zaxxon or Donkey Kong and be able to play it right out of the gate, and have a fun experience without having to learn the system or read a manual,’ Lang said.
Mohammed Elshwahyk, a freshman English major, agrees with Lang. ‘It’s the pick up and go factor that makes it fun and easy to play,’ Elshwahyk said. Some of Elshwahyk’s favorites include Castlevania and Super Mario.
Lang believes older games are so simple they can be described in a handful of words. For example, Pac-Man is merely trying to eat a bunch of tiny dots while avoiding ghosts.
‘Try using that few words to completely describe Fallout 3 or Grand Theft Auto IV (GTAIV). Probably not going to happen,’ Lang said.
Many gamers rush home with their brand new game and after pressing start, are left to figure out the complicated levels and controls that follow.
Junior construction management technology major Chris Camplin said, ‘The newer games are more complex and take more time to learn the storyline.’ Camplin likes original games because they bring them back to his childhood.
‘I have flashbacks of my childhood memories when I’m playing a game like Super Mario Kart.’ Classics never die,’ Camplin said.
Lang said, ‘The ability to pick it up for a quick game session is a major draw for older games and is the main reason for the current success of the casual game market, games like Luxor and Diner Dash.’
Tony Evans, lead designer of Obsidian Entertainment said, ‘Modern games are expected to have great graphics and cutting edge technology. Game play is too often the red-headed stepchild compared to its siblings, graphics and technology.’
Since the classic games didn’t have the technological advances of today, they focused a great amount on game play. ‘Also, the budget and team sizes for classic games were much smaller, sometimes consisting of just one guy or gal working from his basement,’ Evans said.
Because modern games require a large team, there is more room for error. Classic games are simple and to the point.’ They get you hooked without all of the extra graphics and technology.
The complexity of modern games is an issue for Tara Collins, a junior photography major, as well.’ ‘I’ve seen people play Halo and it looks too complex.’ There are all these controls just to move forward and look right at the same time,’ Collins said.
If the oldies are easy to hook gamers in with their simple game play, why do companies spend millions on fancy graphics and complicated systems? ‘Because we can.’ Because we have to,’ Lang said.
Since the consoles and games have become more complicated over the years, so do the gamers that play them. Eventually players beat the levels, conquer the games and want a new challenge.
‘While the older games still draw interest from players today, they usually serve more as a quick diversion than their main gaming meal,’ Lang said.
The classics may always hold a place in our game-crazed heart, but the new ones continue to dominate the industry. Lang said, ‘The best-selling games of last year were light-years more complicated than the classics.’
With advances in the industry, the bar for higher sophistication in games is on the rise.
But if the creators of the original video games had today’s technology, would the classic games look the same? Lang says no. He believes they would be creating the same kind of games we are making today.
‘I’ve frequently been held back by technology. Some of the things I dreamt of 10 years ago still aren’t possible today, but if they were possible 10 years ago, you bet I would have made them,’ Lang said. So it stands that game designers will keep creating to their limits.
Maybe the original gaming creators didn’t have the technology for elaborate games, but they did get something right.
They designed games that are still played in living rooms and arcades everywhere. The classics keep us addicted, even if the graphics are simple and the music sounds like a polyphonic ring tone.