You can't take it with you, or, why I can't play old games

First, let me start out by saying that I hate the term "retro games."  Actually, I should rephrase that and say that I hate when people generalize the term.  You aren't playing retro games when you go back and play Super Mario Bros 3 on a dusty old NES.  Super Meat Boy is a retro game in that it's a game stylized after a game of the past.  So this post isn't going to be about retro games, it's going to be about old games.
 
Recently, websites like Good Old Games, Impulse Games, Steam, GamersGate and Direct2Drive have helped to start a renaissance, of sorts, for people to discover games of yesteryear.  I, myself, have fallen victim to this a few times, purchasing games simply because it was "too good of a deal to pass up."  Unfortunately, there seems to also be a tax that comes along with these great sales, in that I rarely seem to go back and play most of the games I purchase.  Of the games I've bought in the last year that can be considered "classics," I may have played about 25% of them.
 
So why can't I play them?
 
I guess maybe it's related to the fact that I'm getting older.  I don't have near as much time to play games like I used to and the time that I do have to dedicate to gaming are usually spent playing a myriad of new games.  Maybe that's another reason I have so much trouble going back to these old games.  The market is currently SWAMPED with Triple A titles, Smaller, less intensive games and generally just a ton and ton of games.  And it's not as if there is nothing but crap out on the market.  Some of these games are really good.
 
I find that, if I make an attempt to go back and play some of these games, that I get bored easily with dull stories, or frustrated with control schemes that make no sense.  Gaming has evolved so much in just the short amount of time it's been around and, because of that, the older games seem to have aged really poorly.   Now, don't get me wrong, there are certainly some games that I can always go back to, no matter how long it's been (in fact, I think I've been inspired to make a list) but for the most part, I convince myself that I can play them, and then spend most of the time pondering why I thought that was possible.
 
Has anyone else experienced this?  Am I in the minority?  I'm I just becoming an old man?

18 Comments
19 Comments
Posted by zegolf

First, let me start out by saying that I hate the term "retro games."  Actually, I should rephrase that and say that I hate when people generalize the term.  You aren't playing retro games when you go back and play Super Mario Bros 3 on a dusty old NES.  Super Meat Boy is a retro game in that it's a game stylized after a game of the past.  So this post isn't going to be about retro games, it's going to be about old games.
 
Recently, websites like Good Old Games, Impulse Games, Steam, GamersGate and Direct2Drive have helped to start a renaissance, of sorts, for people to discover games of yesteryear.  I, myself, have fallen victim to this a few times, purchasing games simply because it was "too good of a deal to pass up."  Unfortunately, there seems to also be a tax that comes along with these great sales, in that I rarely seem to go back and play most of the games I purchase.  Of the games I've bought in the last year that can be considered "classics," I may have played about 25% of them.
 
So why can't I play them?
 
I guess maybe it's related to the fact that I'm getting older.  I don't have near as much time to play games like I used to and the time that I do have to dedicate to gaming are usually spent playing a myriad of new games.  Maybe that's another reason I have so much trouble going back to these old games.  The market is currently SWAMPED with Triple A titles, Smaller, less intensive games and generally just a ton and ton of games.  And it's not as if there is nothing but crap out on the market.  Some of these games are really good.
 
I find that, if I make an attempt to go back and play some of these games, that I get bored easily with dull stories, or frustrated with control schemes that make no sense.  Gaming has evolved so much in just the short amount of time it's been around and, because of that, the older games seem to have aged really poorly.   Now, don't get me wrong, there are certainly some games that I can always go back to, no matter how long it's been (in fact, I think I've been inspired to make a list) but for the most part, I convince myself that I can play them, and then spend most of the time pondering why I thought that was possible.
 
Has anyone else experienced this?  Am I in the minority?  I'm I just becoming an old man?

Posted by Tennmuerti
@zegolf: 
I think a large part of this is that it is release season right now so you have a huge amount of new titles coming out.
It's best to save playing old games until there is a lot of time between the new games you are interested in.
Then also a lot depends on the game itself. Some age well others less so.
Posted by zegolf
@Tennmuerti: Sadly, I feel this way even when I'm not swamped with games.  The old games just don't seem to hold up as well as I thought they would or hoped, I guess.
Posted by owl_of_minerva

What era and what games? Hard to know how far back you're casting this. Early 90s/late 80s CRPGs give me this feeling. And the endless shitty side-scrolling action games up to the 16-bit era. Games like SMB1 and 3, or Zelda, are still great fun to play.
I plan on eventually playing everything I have from GOG and Steam however. Even if it kills me.

Posted by css_switchfoot

the old classics introduced concepts and game mechanics that have evolved over the years to allow playing games to be more fun.  you can't "die" for real in most games today or your health regenerates...even poisons just end up fading away without having to use an antidote (remember poisons in baldur's gate 1? rest and you wake up dead).   
 
so playing some of those early games without all the concepts and mechanics that simplified things or with terrible menus and predictable plot lines...all those things birthed the games we play today.  its like driving a car from 1920...the ride is gonna be bumpier...its gonna be a stickshift...and there won't be any power steering.  but it can still be fun to jump in and take it for a ride.  i personally love baldur's gate 1 and 2 just as much as i love dragon age.  

Posted by zegolf
@owl_of_minerva: Having grown up in the Atari 2600 era, those are easy cannon fodder for my distaste, but I'm more so speaking on early-90's era games.  You're right.  The cookie cutter side scrollers of the 16-bit era are painful to go back and play.  I can always go back and play A Link to the Past, or Earthbound, or something like that, but it's tough on some of the less in-depth games.
Posted by zegolf
@css_switchfoot: Excellent point.  I also wonder if, maybe, it's not that I can't play them, rather that I don't find them interesting and wouldn't have, even if I had been playing them at launch?
Posted by oraknabo

I have no problem playing old games I already love, but I have been trying to finish System Shock 2 and Deus Ex recently and I'm having a hard time sticking with them. I really appreciate seeing all the stuff from Bioshock that already exists in the System Shock games, but I feel like I've seen everything I need to see about a third into it. Deus Ex, while I understand what made it so great at the time, just hasn't grabbed me yet. Maybe I just need to level up more, but it's hard even getting there when  I'm not very excited about playing it.
 
About 10 years ago, I got a copy of an Atari emulator for the first time and was super excited about it. Then I realized how absolutely terrible 99% of the Atari games really were. I have a lot of respect for the early arcade games, but game design that went into stuff like Space Invaders, Defender, Joust and Pac Man rarely had anything to do with most console games. It wasn't until Miyamoto and the NES that this kind of quality was really available in the home.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Everyone has to focus their gaming somewhere, although implying categorically that all older games have no story is a bit too sweeping a statement for me to get on board.  Some games have definitely aged poorly, no question; I wish a lot of older games would get a makeover just so they could be brought in line with some sort of standard.  But many newer games to me feel like they're treading on narrow, safe paths, while some of the more experimental developers way back when have tried interesting concepts that could be applied now, but people seem unwilling or unable to try them out within a modern design context.  One good thing about gaming is that because it's based partially on interface, we'll continue to see some improvements even if the art of it completely stagnates.

Posted by Gaff
@oraknabo: So, Game Room, huh? 
 
@zegolf: I think you stumbled upon the golden rule: with age comes employment and spending money, but less and less time for recreation.
Posted by guthwulf

The thing about this is: If you really want to enjoy playing classic games you have to do it on the respective console they were released on. GoG, Game Room, Emulators they are all utter shit in my opinion. The way I see it, is that the form of presentation (read: the thing it is played on) is vital for the enjoyment of the game.
 
Or you're just too used to the "dumbed down" games of the present, and you aren't willing to invest the time needed for those games. (Which maybe lack some of the accessibility of today's games.)

Posted by Jams
@zegolf: 
 
I just bought $45 worth of GOG.com games yesterday. I think my GOG.com catalog has about 15 games. Most of which I've played, but only 1 I finished (fallout).  I've never actually stopped playing "old" games so it's easier for me to get used to how they play. The last couple months I've been playing Elder Scrolls Arena and let me tell you, that game isn't very controllable. What I don't get is why everyone is always talking about nostalgia and rose tinted glasses like games were terrible back then but we didn't know any better. I think games just got easier is all. Look at fable 3 for instance. an analog stick to move and one I win button.
 
I don't know... I just don't understand why people hate on old game just because they're old. Or because they play differently than games do now.
Posted by tourgen

I've found that old games that were good back in the day are still good and fun to play.  Old games that were bad or just mediocre play extremely poorly today.  The thing is there were/are always many more bad games than good. There has always been games with bad controls, bad stories, or just plain shovelware.
 
I've gone back and played some of the early Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 games from my youth.  The games I really enjoyed are still damn good games.
 
The one thing that struck me though was how little hand-holding most of those games did.  You had to get in there and figure things out and develop your gameplan.  If you sucked you were going to have to get good at the game to make progress.  I think this can be exhausting for people who don't have the time or will to throw some mental intensity at the game.
 
I don't think that's generally the case for modern games.  Usually enough time invested = you win.  You don't ever need to develop much skill or think a whole lot to finish them.  I think that's by design - it's to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and make as much $$$ as possible.  There not all like that but the big-budget titles certainly are.  I'm not really complaining though.  Plenty of extremely amazing games are being made now - more now than ever.

Posted by EVO

I'm in the same boat at the moment. I have games like Freedom Fighters and Metal Gear Solid 3 that I haven't even opened, yet I still waste hours on Medal of Honour's shitty multiplayer. But I've recently decided that you shouldn't feel like you have to play a game. You should just play whatever you feel like at the time.

Posted by FancySoapsMan

I'm the opposite. I prefer playing some PS2 or some old PC games over my PS3 or 360. I find that the old-school graphics and gameplay styles hold a certain kind of charm that you can't find in today's games. 
 
I've actually been that way ever since I started gaming. In fact, I've only bought about 3 new games this year.

Online
Edited by cnlmullen

I can't play games from the  "stone age" (e.g.  Atari < --> most NES games) of games, but I love playing 16-bit+ games once in a while. 
 
On the other end of the spectrum, I rarely play any games that aren't at least a year or two old.

Posted by FesteringNeon

I do it too man. I buy games all the time on a whim, and then set them aside.. 
however, something usually comes along that inspires me.. and i'll revisit for an hour or two. 
 
Sometimes I limit my ability to get at my newer content, on purpose.. just so i'll stick with the older game.
I took all games outta my bedroom but Silent HIll, just so i'd actually finish it, and now i'm glad I did! 
 
My outlook on this is that one day, i'll be retired.. completely bored, and maybe want to revisit them :)

Posted by zegolf
@tourgen said:
"The thing is there were/are always many more bad games than good.     
 
This might be a really good point.  I guess I just remember the bad ones more than the good ones.
Posted by zegolf

I guess we've just become really spoiled, or maybe, as others have said, we've just become boring and mediocre.  Games these days really aren't trying, but why should they?  They're selling like hotcakes on a formula that is "tried and true."  There's really not a lot of room for innovation in today's market, and the games that do try to branch out tend to flop.  Only on rare occasion does a game that is different break through the market and become successful.