♫ ‘Well it’s the only thing I could do half right and it’s turning out all wrong ma….’ ♫
You hum it Melanie and I’ll pick it up as we go along.
I love video games and can still remember Jacaranda Jim, the first game I ever played. Imagine a game with white text on a black screen, or if you were really extravagant, green text on a black screen. With just a keyboard for input, you would tell Jim to turn right, go west or east and thus you progressed through the game, which of course was the hook.
Of course, video games have come along somewhat since those heady days and what we see today are complex multi-million dollar blockbusters that can give the gamer a total immersion experience, and I for one am a total nut for them.
In many games today, the attention to detail is quite staggering. Characters are brought to life in such a way as they almost live and breath, jumping from the screen. The action scenes are equally intense and require the reactions of a cat to keep up.
Save, save, save
Of course, with progression comes change. Games have been developed for numerous platforms over the years and we now find ourselves dominated in the main by console and PC games… and therein lies the rub.
PC gamers had a major advantage over console gamers in the early days as we had a relatively large amount of space in which to save our progress throughout. Many versions of console games relied on checkpoints which effectively created an automatic save at given points during the game. Of course, there were always specific advantages to checkpoints in that it’s almost impossible to save a game if you were about to be eaten alive by a tiger or blown to a million pieces by an RPG.
But that never stopped the PC gamer from saving with such gay abandon. Oh no! If it can be saved, it will be saved damn you!
But now the lines between consoles and PCs have become blurred in terms of generics as more developers create games for the Playstation and XBox platforms for purely commercial reasons and later port them to the PC, with Grand Theft Auto 5 being a classic case in point.
This has resulted in most major releases relying on a predefined checkpoint system, with many titles not having a manual save system whatsoever. What remnant of a save system that is left remains totally ineffective in practice as the game will only ever pick up from one of these checkpoints.
Pump up the action
One of the many arguments for the checkpoint system is that it maintains in-game excitement and adds to the flow of the story, an argument I don’t buy. It could be generational of course, as many younger gamers I’ve spoken to say they prefer checkpoints even though they’ve played older titles on PC.
Many believe this is the beginning of the end and removes much of the control the player once had.
I’ll illustrate my point for you
You’re in the jungle, low on ammo and not doing doing too well in the health department either. You need to defeat an army of 150 mercenaries who are armed to the teeth and want your blood for breakfast.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
So you sneak up through the castle ruins, pick off mercs one by one, with a few decent head-shots along the way and you feel very pleased with yourself.
Then you get all cocky and decide to take a sentry down with your jungle knife as it’s a silent kill, but what you don’t see is another sentry on a distant hill who has you very clearly in his scope.
Neither do you see nature’s finest about to have you for lunch. The last thing you remember is the blood coming out of your eyes and it’s game over!
But wait, you’d saved the game hadn’t you? Surely you did, didn’t you?
Of course you didn’t, because the game won’t let you save during a critical mission because they want you to keep the adrenaline pumping.
So you attempt the level again until the sun’s coming back up for the sixteenth time and…..
Mash, mash and mash again
Enter the quick time event or QTE, which on first sight left me a tad confused as I’d never heard of mashing and didn’t know such a key existed.
One soon realizes that the QTE is a non negotiable element of some modern video games and can go something like this:
Mash E to get away from monster, mash left and right to climb hill, mash F to steal soldier’s weapon and hold E to set fire to his head……………
Sounds exhausting doesn’t it? Did you manage it?
Well if you didn’t, you’re going to have to start all over again, sit through the seemingly endless cut-scene, mash and hold your way through the QTE and if your keyboard survives that, you’ll be rewarded with yet another unskippable cut-scene of our heroine mopping her brow under some Venezuelan waterfall while you go for a three course meal round the corner.
Can I play now please?
Now, we all love a good blockbuster on a cold and rainy night. We like to put our feet up, open up the Chardonnay, flop out on the sofa and fire up the remote. That’s what it could feel like in the not too distant future of video gaming.
And hey kids, if you think this is a rant, I’ve only just begun.