From the Atari to the Xbox: a Descent Into Console Hell
Although my parents tried their hardest to prevent it, I grew up as a young nerd. They refused to cave in to my budding geek-like desires and purchase an Atari 2600 or ColecoVision, instead encouraging me to go outdoors and "socially interact" with children throughout my neighborhood. As a result, I went out and socially interacted with children throughout my neighborhood by heading to their house and playing their video game consoles. To me, video game consoles were the proverbial "forbidden fruit," a source of entertainment which required me to sneak out of my parents house, climb onto my authentic fake Street Machine BMX bike, and enter a friend's house under the guise of "hanging out." The same goes with sweet cereal; my parents refused to purchase any kind of cereal which listed "sugar" as one of the first nine hundred ingredients. As anybody with half a brain could predict, I naturally grew up as a child who loved to play video games and eat sugar-filled garbage. All you parents out there should read and interpret this as a lesson: encourage your children to be the exact opposite of what you want them to be. If you want your stupid kid to become a football player, give him Dungeons and Dragons presents for every major holiday. If you feel the need to make your child a doctor, forbid him to ever get injured or go to the emergency room. If you demand your child grow up as a heterosexual, repeatedly engage in anal intercourse with other men in front of him while shouting, "THIS IS HOW IT'S GOTTA BE, MY BOY!"
Regardless, I grew up loving video games. I'd creep over to my friend David's house to use his Intellivision, or if he was gone, I'd sprint over to Mike's house and play Atari 2600. This was back in the early 1980's, a time when "supercomputer" meant "a tape-driven machine which can play Tic-Tac-Toe with Matthew Broderick." Games were incredibly simple back then, as the joysticks came with only one button and the programming language only contained two commands, "VIOLENTLY FLASH RED" and "END." This simplicity resulted in hundreds, possibly millions, of games that could be crammed into the system and played without ever having to look at the title of the game, much less the instruction manual. Since video game guides back then simply consisted of "please do not eat cartridge" and "cartridge should not be used as a floatation device," there was no point to them anyway. The only things you needed to know was that pressing the huge red button made you shoot, pushing the joystick up made your character go up, pushing down made your character go down, and you should under NO circumstances allow your character to touch anything else that moved. That's all there was to games back then. Sure, you'd occasionally have a drugged out hippy French game developer who made some heap of crap where pushing to the left made your character move to the right, but those guys were driven out of business by the cold war.
Eventually my parents caved in and purchased an Atari 5200, the rightful heir to the Atari 2600's kingdom. The 5200 had infinitely better graphics and sound, but there were only nine games ever produced for it and six of those were Pac Man clones. The 5200 came with an unbelievable TWO buttons on the controller, a feature that would've added unparalleled gameplay to any title if some engineer at Atari would've ever figured out how to make the buttons actually fucking work. The Atari 5200 joysticks were designed to break and lock up when exposed to oxygen, allowing only astronauts or Michael Jackson to successfully use them. Despite this two button trouble, gameplay still remained simple and easy to remember: keep moving in random directions nonstop while avoiding anything else that moves, which is coincidentally the same outlook I have on life.
Soon the Nintendo Entertainment System crept up and, once again, my parents refused to purchase it. The Nintendo, like the Atari 5200, came with a standard two buttons, mysteriously labeled "A" and "B," presumably so gamers could learn the first two letters of the alphabet while jumping on turtles. This two-button layout was simple: one button caused your character to jump and the other made you shoot whatever stupid pink gun you were holding. The "select" button was a real mystery though, as some games it brought up an inventory screen while others caused your character to sit around and eventually be killed by deadly orange fungus toads. I loved gaming back then and the challenges it brought, however limited they might have been. I could sit in front of the television and play Ninja Gaiden, Faxanadu, or almost any other game (besides Ikari Warriors 3) for hours on end. I loved console gaming and the memories of it brings a tear to my eye. Well, not necessarily a tear, but I do feel wetness in a certain area of my body.
Cut to today: I've got a PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox system all sitting around on my entertainment center rack, yet I hardly ever turn them on. Why is this? How did I go from a Pac-Maniac to a console killjoy in less than a decade? Well, it's a two part phenomenon:
1) The complexity of the game. Gone are the days when you simply have to travel from point A to point B while defeating King C in his Castle of D. These days gamers demand complexity, a compelling storyline, and thousands of "mini-games," all of which must be beaten to attain a Chi Guia Egg that you can give to Shopkeeper Maya in return for the Mystic Flute of Horrific Pouty Ensembles. If you somehow dig up the 100 hours required to beat a game, you'll find yourself staring at what's know as the "you fucking suck" ending screen, one which penalizes you for failing to collect the 19,000 enchanted shoehorns along your journey.
Although it's my favorite game of all time, I place the blame solely on Sonic the Hedgehog for this disturbing trend. If you'll recall, the goal of Sonic was to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds in the bonus stages before beating the game. If you did so, you were rewarded with the "happy" ending, in which Sonic reunites with his long lost buddy from college and they eventually knock up some broad behind a bar. If you failed to grab every emerald, you got stuck with the "bad" ending, where Sonic overdoses on heroin and his corpse is slowly covered by child care payment bills floating down from the sky. Games these days have taken the "bad ending" idea a few hundred steps forward, basically to the point where you're required by law to get every single bonus item or else the game erases itself and one of your family members is kidnapped and murdered on national television. Hell, I can't even pass the second stage in games these days, much less beat them and spend half a month searching for every single two-pixel wide Honky Fruit that I need to retrieve so Prince Polyp can take his rightful place in the Kingdom of Hulahula.
2) The complexity of the controller. Goodbye "A" and "B" buttons; hello "X", "Y", "F", "G", "H", "Q", R1, R2, R1A, R2A, analogue joystick, digital joystick, thumb button, WHITE BUTTON, BLACK BUTTON, KIND OF WHITE BUTTON, DARK GRAY BUTTON, QFC-89 switch, flange toggle, elbow button, and foot switch! Back during the NES era, consultation of the instruction book was only necessary to remind you which colored jellybean turned your blob into a ladder. These days the instruction booklet is considered "required reading," spans over 60 pages, and is printed in 8-pont font. They're horribly complex, easily forgettable, tremendously confusing tomes of information that only futuristic cyborgs who dedicate months of their lives to memorizing can grasp, and read like the following:
|X - Jump||X + analogue joystick UP - High jump|
|X + Y - Jump attack||X + Y + O - Crouch jump|
|X + Y + O + analogue joystick UP - Crouch jump attack||X + Y + O + analogue joystick LEFT - High crouch jump attack block offense turn|
|X + Y + O + T - High attack jump turn swivel return grab ass apple cow||X + Y + O + T + analogue joystick LEFT + R1 + R2 - Emit impotence-causing gamma rays from television screen|
I literally cannot play any games due to my poor memory and its inability to recall each and every combination when needed. Whenever I encounter the final boss of the first level (or even one of his million henchmen for that matter), I find myself pressing pause and leafing through chapter 281 of the instruction manual to determine how to make my gun shoot forward.
These two issues may make me seem like a bitter old man who can't keep up with today's games, but in reality I - well, okay, I am a bitter old man who can't keep up with today's games. I honestly have no clue how kids can be so fucking good at those crazy ass fighting games that require you to memorize and instantly produce hundreds of codes, each one with more characters than your own name. If I were to walk into an arcade right now and put in the required 12 dollars needed to play whatever current hyperactive Japanese anime ultraviolent street combat fighting game is popular, any ten-year old in the arcade would hand me my ass on a platter. Then they'd probably beat me up and take my remaining money because I made their website an Awful Link of the Day a week ago.
If you've ever read this site before, you're undoubtedly aware of the fact that we don't bitch and complain about things without offering our own unique and horribly intelligent solutions which often involve critically wounding a large quantity of people and the Pope. So, without further ado, I would like to propose the following game ideas to developers across the world (excluding France) which will fulfill my need to play simple, easy-to-understand games that don't involve lengthy periods of investigative journalism to merely figure out how to operate.
"The Princess is North" (Action / Adventure) - Oh no! The princess has been kidnapped by a convicted sexual offender and he has fled to the Kingdom of Molestor, a place which is north of your current location! Can you travel in a somewhat straight line to rescue the defenseless princess from Gaping Gary and his Handjob Henchmen? This game will challenge users to look at a compass and then direct their character in the direction of north (up). Occasionally there will be objects such as rocks and cactuses impeding your progress, but considering every button on the joystick makes your character jump really fucking high, they won't pose too much of a threat. The final boss encounter with Gaping Gary will require you to leap onto a button that reads "explode," causing Gary to explode. There is also a button labeled "make princess explode," but you shouldn't really jump on that unless you want the "bad ending" which is the game over screen flashing while the theme song from "The Benny Hill Show" plays on an infinte loop.
"SimInefficiant Evil Dictator" (Strategy) - You are the premiere contractor for evil space villains and were recently hired to design a series of mobile battleships to defend an entire evil space empire from one single weenie guy in a white spaceship. It's up to you to draft and sign contracts with manufacturing firms which produce ineffective cannons, imprecise missiles, and sluggardly bullets that travel slower than a crippled sea slug. Should you pour all of the research and development money into producing a gigantic ion cannon which shoots out a deadly laser beam for three seconds and then takes nine minutes to recharge, at which point it's completely vulnerable and easy to destroy? Or should you invest your cash in a fleet of fast moving, bipedal robots that move in a straight line until they collide with each other or are blown up? It's up to you, and your financial decisions will determine exactly how long it takes for the entire galaxy to be defeated by a floating robot controlled by a 14-year old.
"Let's Kill Ed" (First Person Shooter) - Ed has been bothering you for too long. He repeatedly comes over to your house and asks to borrow tools, clothing, and family members, only to never return them. It's up to you, as somebody who is definitely NOT Ed, to kill Ed. You are placed in a square room with a gun and Ed, and may only leave once you've successfully killed Ed, who does not know how to fight back and cannot understand why you're attempting to murder him. After you've snuffed him out for the 250th time, he begins to get a little bit smarter and learns how to move slightly to the left, but not far enough to avoid being shot. Exciting minigames include "Let's Kill Ed: A Smaller Version of the Same Game" and "Let's Kill Ed: The Dating Simulator" which requires you to date, marry, and then murder Ed. It's okay to kill him because he's obviously a filthy homosexual!
I've got a lot of more great ideas like this that I'll be willing to share with you game developers as long as you promise to give me all of the money and you're not French. Once publishers start pumping out titles like these and realize how popular simple games like these are, they'll be forced to return to the glory days of the NES and Atari 2600. Hopefully this will accompany a movement where any company who attempts to dig up classic console characters and turn them into horrible 3D disasters will be burned to the ground by angry lynch mobs (I'm looking at you, Team Sonic). Who knows; all I'm sure of at this point is that I lack the coordination, mental abilities, and patience to play games these days, and like any good American, I demand that entire companies change their business practices just to satiate me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go grab a bowl of Pac Man cereal and "do the Pac Man," because I'm frankly so hopped up on sugar that I could chew through aluminum siding.
Here's Some Truth In Your Eye, Batman!
We've got a brand spankin' new TruthMedia Review of the hit Half-Life mod "Natural Selection" up and ready for you to set your prying eyes upon!
Natural Selection seems an interesting concept at first. The space marines of the Terran Starways Association have been plumbing the depths of space for centuries, surviving only with the aid of nanomachines. But they have finally encountered a threat in the Khalat aliens: buglike, a hive mind, and out to assimilate all in its path. If this sounds like the plot of StarCraft to you, you're not alone. Every single alien in Natural Selection is a thinly-veiled clone of a Zerg breed. Fades are Mutalisks, Lurks are Ultralisks, and Unos are Zerglings. I'm surprised Valve hasn't been sued by Blizzard for this blatant an idea theft.
In case you forgot about the TruthMedia Reviews rules, go to the main index to read over them! Enjoy the fact-filled, 100% objective review! After all, we wouldn't call it "TruthMedia" if it wasn't completely based in reality, and besides, if you read it on the Internet, it must be true! Head on over and make sure to pass out the article's link to all your friends who really enjoy this wonderful game!