Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Old games don't die....they just get dusty

On a fairly regular basis I'll be nicely settled into an evening of Call of Duty 3s' online goodness, battling with a range of CoD3 veterans and newcomers alike for the coveted top spot on the leaderboard, enjoying the banter and being in the company of fellow fans of the game, when suddenly another voice will make itself known to the crowd. "Why are you guys still playing this game, don't you realise it's old?" The irony of the question is lost on no-one save for the questionee themselves and is generally pointed out sharpish before we all laugh and get on with the unfolding battle we were engrossed in.

But it's an occurrence that always gets me wondering, why do we as gamers find it so easy to move on and totally write off the old guard? The question for me isn't "why are you still playing an old game?" but "why aren't you?" Using Call of Duty as an example, since November last year my friends list has been dominated by one game, namely CoD: Black Ops.

As of the 9th day of that fateful month old King Modern Warfare 2 was dead. Well okay, not dead but it's health was seriously in decline as far it's online life was concerned. A game that had barely seen sunlight outside of many a disc tray for twelve months was now cast aside like a smelly old pair of trainers that you wouldn't be seen dead in. Sure it still makes the occasional cameo appearance here and there and will no doubt have a reasonably healthy hardcore following but it's glory days are over.

But why is this? The question I'm asking isn't "why do we move onto the next game?", because I get as mouthwateringly excited as anyone when a big new release nears it's dawn, rather I'm asking "why do we never go back?" In many ways it seems like the only time it's deemed normal to play and enjoy and older game is when it becomes truly retro.

The world of videogaming is the only example where this rule seems to apply to almost it's entire population. You'd never hear anyone say "David Copperfield? Why the hell are you reading that? Don't you realise that book's like decades old now?" And I've never known anyone come Christmas to enquire as to why we're watching Home Alone when we could be watching Home Alone 4. Sometimes be it books, movies or video games, some things are simply classics. They're not classic because you've been told by some expert in the field or some 'we know best' magazine they are, they're classic because of what they've given you personally and believe it or not even when your own personal box of delights is considered old and past it, it's still okay to play it.

There are upsides to this constant herding of the gamers to the latest installment of CoD, FIFA, Forza and suchlike, and that is that as an online community lessens it's numbers it also grows tighter bonds between the remaining players. Friendships are far easier to form when the same players keep bumping into each other night after night. The atmosphere tends to be more lighthearted as well, probably due to the fact that if you start ranting at a player one night there's a good chance you'll be seeing them again the next. But as good and refreshing as it is to be a part of a smaller, friendlier community it unfortunately isn't as good as what the newer titles can offer, namely being able to find a game in a matter of seconds as opposed to minutes, and if you've a hankering for some CoD3 ranked play then after starting the match search you might as well go on that fortnight in Skegness you've booked, it'll still be waiting for 2 more players upon your return. If only more people still gambled on long forgotten titles, there would be so much more variety, I always fancied playing Shadowrun but with it being online only added to the trend in gamers to move on, I have sadly never taken the gamble of buying it.

I'll never be able to get to the bottom of why the majority of gamers move on and don't look back, particularly in the case of Black Ops which has to be arguably the weakest Call of Duty game to ever hit the shelves. But while Black Ops right now is the epitome of youthfullness, partying hard every night with millions of devoted followers, confident in the knowledge that it sits firmly at the centre of the gaming Universe and has a life that will see the back end of forever, in reality the clock is already ticking. Counting down the days, weeks and months till it is cast aside to take up residence in Call of Duty towers retirement village, spending it's days reminiscing with CoD2 about the glory years, wait.....glory year, and relishing the occasional opportunity to relive those days thanks to the merry band of hardcore fans that will no doubt still be clamouring for more.

So, i'm closing this article with an appeal... today why not look through your collection, blow off the dust and make an old game happy. Maybe PGR3 or Red Faction have little communities just waiting to welcome one and all, maybe Call of Duty2 or Motorstorm can bring back some glorious gaming memories while showing that good games are good regardless of age. Whichever game you go for remember this, good games don't die, they just get a little dusty on the shelf waiting for the chance to dazzle you once again, so let them shine.