I’ve been doing the video game thing for quite a while, and as I do so, it has not escaped my attention that I’m really not getting any younger. In addition to not having as much time to play games, it also sometimes seems as though games don’t have as much time for me, either.
Over on GameSpite, Michael Ayles has written an interesting article about the “Aging Gamer,” which takes a look at gaming then and gaming now, and makes a few interesting suggestions as to how developers and publishers might better appeal to the “older gamer,” rather than continue to include enormous cutscenes that touch upon “deep” issues.
I have to concede with point one, in that for me, a lengthier game no longer equals a better one. Thanks to game length, I have a nice little backlog sitting in my living room. At this rate, it’s almost like I’m saving for retirement, except instead of money, it’s games. At least I shouldn’t need to worry about boredom.
Point two seems noteworthy as well, particularly when I think of the job system in No More Heroes. Don’t get me wrong, I like having extra stuff to do, but I like it more when it’s optional. I was so addicted to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door that when I beat the game, I was simply not ready to put the game down. And thanks to a generous batch of extra side-quests, including some which only became available upon beating the game, I eventually managed to get my fill.
The Pit of 100 Trials helped, too, as did the way the game world changed slightly to reflect that you had beaten the big bad. Put simply, there is more if you want more, but you don’t have to go through more to reach the end.
More games could stand to take a cue from Intelligent Systems’ wonderful design; their company name is well-earned.
Point three is a cause I’ve been championing for years now. Aren’t we at a point where we should be able to put the game down when we want to, not when the developers want us to? Life isn’t going to wait for a save point, so it’s nice to have this one little concession made. Especially since, as noted, today’s hardware seems less capable of being left on pause for prolonged periods of time without suffering some sort of conniption.
Point four is something I like to see more of. Pick up the game, play a quick mission or level, and put it down. Or, if you so choose, play two levels. Or three. But still have the ability to put it down when you choose and enjoy bite-sized samples of the game.
Super Mario Galaxy hits a lot of the right notes for me here; while it may not support save states, as mentioned above, it doesn’t really need to. Each mission to grab a Star is short enough that you’re not really losing a tremendous investment if you have to cut the game off early. One can get as many levels in as they wish until they’ve had their fill.
What’s more, out of 120 Stars, only around half are necessary to “beat” the game. From there, there are practically three optional “game’s” worth of Stars to go on and collect, ensuring that there is plenty to do, but that you don’t necessarily have to do it.
On a related, and perhaps ironic note, I gave my thoughts about the issue of padding in games, which was inspired by a 1UP Retro Blog post by Jeremy Parish, who owns GameSpite. So, I guess it has all sort of come full-circle… or some sort of shape, anyway.
In any case, I think the picture is gradually becoming more and more clear of what some older gamers, such as myself and these two gentlemen, would like out of games. The big question then, I think, is how well the younger generations would take to such changes and ideas.