My NES has been seeing a lot of use this past week. I’ve been trying to play through Ducktales without dying. It’s not a hard game at all, but with a challenge like that… well, it’s going to take a lot of time and memorization to pull it off. It’s much more interesting to play games on a real NES this way than using an emulator and occasionally cheating with save states or rewind functions.
I’ve used to play most of these NES games so much as a kid that I still know most of them by heart. Playing through most of them doesn’t require a single thought. I still know the level layouts, the enemy positions, the glitches and patterns. Playing through those games now has become a perfect way to just shut off, relax and think.
I don’t know why, but somehow it just feels right. Before I’d play Spider Solitaire while listening to a podcast. I’d never hear a single word from the podcast, it’d just be a filter so my loud roommate and neighbors wouldn’t be able to disturb me while thinking. I could spend evenings sorting out both my thoughts and the cards on the screen.
It’s a bit different with the NES though, I’m a bit more active during it. I have to pay attention or my character will die. Especially with these older, less forgiving games. At the same time, my thoughts are a lot more active as well. I somehow find ways things to think about based on what’s happening in the game. It could be the awesome music from Ducktales’s moon level, or my dying because I was too eager to get to some power up somewhere. Everything that happens in the game sends my thoughts flying to subjects from both my past, present and future.
The only current generation game that managed to make me reflect on things while playing it was Far Cry 2. In Far Cry 2’s case it was the only reason I kept playing. Somehow driving in through the jungle in a car and getting out every 10 seconds to shoot down generic African thugs that are chasing you can be very relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, the game is bland, boring and in no way enjoyable. Everything is so systemized you don’t need a single thought to play it. Every gunfight goes the same way. Every area is laid out the same. Every car chasing you is manned by the same type of bad guys to shoot down before continuing. It made it a lot easier to escape towards my thoughts. In a sense I was nearly hiding from the game while playing it, hoping that at some point it would let me in.
Games like Mega Man 2, Batman, Little Nemo and Gremlins 2 however, I simple play because I still enjoy them after all this time. They’re still fun to play through. No matter how many times I’ve gotten to the end, I’m still up for another round through it. There’s not much of a challenge left in them now, unless I create one for myself. Well, except Batman, that game is just hard.
I’m still not sure if I’m ever returning to the current generation of games. At least, besides the bit of it that I’m still playing on the DS and PSP. The only two things that really interest me if I’d get my 360 fixed are Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3. The rest… Not so much. Maybe a few Live Arcade games. A lot of those really only interest me because they feel and play like the games from previous generations. Games you can turn on, play for a while, and turn off again. They don’t take themselves as seriously as a lot of games these days do. I’d much rather play The Dishwasher Dead Samurai than go through another version of Space Marine’s Space Adventures.
Might sound a bit harsh, but often enough I’m hoping for another big market crash. Maybe the lack of budget will make a few companies that do care about gameplay take some risks, and try to do something original again.