I’ve never really been comfortable with modern game thinking. A lot of people I know subscribe to this idea that videogames can be more than they are, that they should be more. More emotion, more story. They see this as the way forward, a way to… I don’t know, legitimize the medium they’re invested in.
But I don’t agree. I don’t think they’re wrong, I just think that what they’re doing takes gaming away from its pure centre and makes it less of a game.
And I think I’ve worked out why I think this way. Back when the Nintendo Entertainment System was new, I explained to a friend the difference between American and Japanese games thusly:
Japanese games have an ending. Mario and Zelda and Castlevania have stages and levels and a point beyond which there is no more game. American games, and remember the era, this was very much back when arcades were still amazing, had no end. Asteroids and Defender and Robotron had an increasing difficulty level, but the gameplay never really changed and they’d challenge the player forever.
And from this I developed the idea that the play itself was everything. If your game isn’t fun, if that joystick and two buttons and whatever’s on the screen isn’t enough to captivate and motivate the player, your game is a failure, and adding a story is sometimes attempt to cover it up.
I don’t think stories in games add to the experience. The gaming press used to go on about the backstory in Mortal Kombat and how kids wanted to play the next game to see what happened to the characters, and I was always thinking really!? Who the fuck are these people, why are they even playing games? They might as well be hanging out to see what colour the joystick will be.
So when modern games make a big deal about how personal, how important, how emotionally wrenching the story is, I do not care. I do not give one tenth of a rat’s ass. I don’t understand you, Mr. or Ms. Developer. I don’t understand your motivation, whatever reason you have for making and playing games is fundamentally alien to me and I’m reasonably sure your game will not be compelling as a result.
Honestly, I never cared why Mario wanted to clear the Donut Plains. I think it’s bizarre that anyone might have.