Hands up if you’ve ever said something along the lines of “the older games are so much better!” If you’re keeping your left hand on your face and your right hand on your mouse, good. If you’ve actually got your hand up, you’re an embarrassment to your family. This is the internet. You don’t need to put your goddamn hand up. If you have said this before, you’re a fucking liar. Old games are shit.
I was too young to play or have even heard of games like Elder Scrolls and Fallout when they were beginning their journey to become indomitable franchises. Like most people unlucky enough to be born in the 90s, my first experience of these games was with TES IV: Oblivion and Fallout 3 which were both instant hits. My first thought after playing these was “Elder Scrolls FOUR? Fallout THREE? Where are the previous games and why haven’t I heard of them?” After a brief foray into the murky parts of video game discussion boards, I found innumerable people claiming they’d grown up on the predecessors, and that they were magnificent games that still held their own amongst the cash-injected major titles of the late 2000s.
“Alright,” I thought, being as naïve as a teenage boy with an average interest in video games can be, “I’ll take their word for it because I’m too busy playing new shit,” and that was that. As time went by and cynicism grew in me like a tenacious cancer, I began to question what I’d taken for gospel. Were the predecessors to these popular titles actually any good? Or were they simply the basis for a good idea that could only be actualised with modern game technology? Surely they can’t still feel like great games after over a decade? So I decided to disregard any neckbearded opinions and finally try out the older TES games and ham-fistedly apply my findings to all games because I hate doing proper research.
The first game I played was Elder Scrolls II and I barely made it out of the tutorial. I died about 6 billion times. I eventually (to my absolute contempt) had to look online to see what the fuck was going on. The general consensus was “yeah, you start out so weak and powerless that you have to pretty much run straight to the exit.” What the fuck, Bethesda? I mean, I love the idea of not being able to do shit because you’re a straight up noob – it makes perfect sense – but I’d at least like to be told that I’m too shit to do anything. I didn’t understand the combat, either. I was swinging a huge sword at giant rats and they weren’t dying. “Yeah, sometimes you ‘miss’ when you attack someone,” the Internet told me.
I started think this game wouldn’t be half bad if it was turn-based combat, because at least then the potato quality graphics wouldn’t make you question what’s actually happening on the screen.
I gave up after a while to play the next TES instalment, Morrowind. It was better graphically and the way classes were set up and the love affair with storytelling through D&D style text appealed to me, so I would’ve carried on playing if only running to the next town didn’t take 20 minutes. Everything but the gameplay on Morrowind was fascinating, but if the gameplay is bollocks, there’s not much keeping you glued to the screen.
After much consideration, I realised I didn’t enjoy these games because I didn’t grow up playing them. Most of the games I played held your hand when things went wrong and always had an explanation for your fuck ups – you knew what was going on and why. In contrast, playing these infuriatingly stand-offish games that laughed as you flailed and drowned in the deep end must have given you some sort of iron resolve. It’s that kind of stepdad behaviour that eventually makes you stand up, say “fuck you, you’re not my real dad” and complete the fuck out of the game. I never got accustomed to the games of old that explained little and piled on a lot, so I can’t appreciate them for how good they were.
Most of us that love video games like to cling onto memories of games we grew up with, whether it was Spyro, Banjo, Age of Empires or whatever else was in the bargain bin at your local game shop. It’s okay to let these memories linger in the misty nostalgia part of your brain, but technological advances in video games mean that the games you played in your own personal golden era are pretty shit by today’s standards. We can’t continue to hail old games as kings when the discs they run on are scratched to hell and sit in your attic collecting dust.