Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'm Not The Gamer I Was As A Kid

Back in April, I finally had the opportunity to play La-Mulana on Steam and it was a very enjoyable experience that was designed to replicate many of the conventions of the platforming adventure games from the 8 and 16-bit era, a modern Metroidvania that was built as a labor of love, and I really appreciate the effort.

However, as a modern gamer, it also totally stymies me. I tried to play it without getting help or hints, and for days I did just that, but I reached a point where I needed a hint or two to point me in the right direction... and then a few hours later, I needed far more than just a hint.

Now, I know that this game was designed to be very hard but sort of fair, so some difficulty is par for the course, but it made me think about playing games as a kid and I really don't know how I beat a lot of the games I did when I was younger in those dark days before the internet and the instant availability of hints and walkthroughs.

Like how did I figure out how to beat Metroid and Super Metroid when I was younger without help. I somehow managed to figure out where the powerups and bosses were and finished them in a decent amount of time, and I wonder if I was presented with either of those games as a fresh experience if I would be able to do the same today.

Or what about the Legend of Zelda. I beat the original, almost beat The Adventure of Link and aside from needing one little hint (from a little booklet Nintendo provided with the game), I beat A Link To The Past without a major hitch. I rented Shadowgate 6 times, a very old graphical adventure game that had so many different takes on instadeath it isn't even funny and only one way to pass all the different challenges... and I managed to beat that. 

I think somewhere along the way, my ability to figure out the kind of puzzles these games present degraded, probably because I had easy access to the answers that I would need to solve them rather than spending the time exhausting every possible way I could come up with a solution before giving up. I know part of my earlier successes in beating games was based on the fact that like many kids, I had a finite number of games at my disposal at any time, and even the most complex ones weren't extremely long, so I had both the inclination to beat them and since there was less content, I could better explore it with the ample amount of spare time I had then.

Now I have super long, and/or extraordinarily complex games to occupy my time, and with adult finances, digital distribution that has enormous sales and a series of systems that I've acquired since I was a kid, each with a library of their own, I no longer have the time to adequately tackle those kinds of puzzles, and frankly games have generally gotten easier over the years as well, which is a good thing for the most part. At TVTropes, they even call particular kinds of hard games Nintendo Hard.

Or that could just be something I am telling myself so I feel better about the difficulties I have with some games these days because I feel like I've lost a lot of the pluck I had as a kid to keep trying stuff until I overcame a challenge. 

And I know there are a lot of games that I can play well as an adult that I know that as a child I couldn't play. For one, I know that Super Meat Boy would have broken me as a kid (especially with old NES rules of limited continues/lives and such), no doubt about that in my mind, and I wouldn't have had the patience or acumen to play games like Crusader Kings II or Football Manager, where you have to wait for the long term payoff of decisions you made this second.

I don't know if in the end that has been a good trade-off.

If you are an older gamer, have you noticed this sort of thing too. Like are there games that you played as a kid that you don't know how you beat them now?

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