Editorial: Does Simplicity Equal Purity?
I usually hate to alienate anyone with my editorials but in this particular case, I'm afraid I'll only be catering to the gaming veterans; i.e., those who were around to enjoy the 8-bit - and perhaps even 2-bit - days. You guys know who you are; I've come to know so many members over the past few years, I can almost predict the names who will reply. ;)
Anyway, the question in the title means this: as most of you know, some gamers like to be called "purists," in that they believe the '80s and perhaps even most of the '90s could be considered the "golden age" of gaming and that despite all the industry's advances, nothing we have now is quite as memorable. Obviously, as I've written about before, nostalgia is a powerful weakness (yes, it's a weakness; admit it), which is why we can still place Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda at the top of "Greatest Games of All Time" lists. Logically speaking, anybody outside the industry would look at something like the original Donkey Kong, compare it to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and then look at you with climbing eyebrows when you say it's "tough to choose between the two." Heck, to them, one isn't even a video game, anymore.
So yes, nostalgia plays a role. But now I'm starting to wonder... Here's the thing: I've always said that today's great games will be tomorrow's classics. Sure, I always said I've gone back to sample old-school greats like Super Mario Kart and even games on my old GameBoy (original, baby!) from time to time. And of course, I've played many of my beloved collection of PS1 RPGs multiple times, including my all time favorite, Final Fantasy Tactics. Now, if my previous theory was correct, shouldn't I be starting to get the urge to play some PS2 games...? After all, I've got about 60 and I only have 40 PS1 games and maybe 15 SNES titles, and the PS2 generation is rapidly dwindling into the past. How could I possibly be playing older systems more when the PS2 is now considered "old?" Shouldn't those PS2 greats be classics now? Why do I have no inclination at all to go back and play some of them?
There are exceptions. I've always wanted to go back through FFX, for example, but when it comes to RPGs, that's a different thing for me. But I keep going back to older systems and "simpler" games, so perhaps there's something to this "purity comes from simplicity" in the video game industry. Granted, FFT isn't exactly "simple," but...well yeah, in a way, it certainly is. Maybe it's just because what we have on the PS3 now can simply be considered upgrades of the PS2 titles. Why should I play God of War again when I've got God of War III? Why should I play GT4 again when I've got Gran Turismo 5? I suppose one can't make the same argument for franchises where the story is always a focal point - see MGS - but when it comes to certain titles and genres, I just think the PS2 mostly has lesser versions of games we've already got this generation.
And in addition, the separation between the PS1 and PS3 is much greater, thereby making the experiences even more drastically different. I mean, in all honesty, what's the difference between racing and sports games on the PS2 and PS3? Uh...the PS3 ones are usually just better the whole way 'round. But I could have difficulty choosing between good ol' RBI Baseball and MLB: The Show, and perhaps that's the answer. Maybe it's just that we crave something different along with the nostalgic glow, and many PS2 "classics" aren't really "different;" they're merely the start of what we've begun to accomplish on the PS3. Well, that's how I see it, at any rate. And now, back to FFT... ;)
12/18/2009 Ben Dutka