251: Youth Eternal

Youth Eternal

Beyond selling us games, the industry is peddling an idea that entices most of the population: youth. Brendan Main examines how youth isn't really a commodity that can be sold, at least not without the new skin crème peripheral.

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Fuckin' A. Now I just want to play on Lylat Wars.

I don't think it is youth in itself that we want when we look back at old games we used to play or even nostalgia. I think that what we want is that sense of wonder, magic and amazement that we experienced the first time we played the game in question.

I remember my first run in with Morrowind, the water was oh-so pretty (and it better had be on my brand new Geforce4 Ti4600 card, top of the line at the time), the guards were stern and despite its' rather swampy surroundings Seyda Neen promised great times as I chose to be a Redguard. I had no real understanding of the mechanics in Morrowind (higher numbers better, use skills to level them, easy as pie) nor did I know anything about Morrowind, Vvardenfell or what awaited me once I set off for Balmora to do the starter quest.
Now, several hundred hours of Morrowind later I've finished the game twice and powerlevled more characters than I care to think about. I know where to get the awesome gear fast, what to exploit to get rich fast and I've seen most (not all) locations on Vvardenfell.

Fallout 3, Civilization 4, Heavy Rain, Dragon Age... The list of games that has given me that sense of "wow, this is awesome" feeling can be made quite long. But it doesn't break down to youth, what it breaks down to is that I am looking for that same amazement over again. That feeling you get when you are just slowly starting to grasp the story or the mechanics and carve out your own small victories. The game seems so huge, so incredible and you are only seeing part of it! As you get further in, you realize that there are flaws, the game is short or you find a build/weapon/strategy that turns every fight into a breeze. You start seeing things in a new light and realize that they aren't as fantastically awesome as you thought at first.

It can be seen in all things we do, from buying a new car or moving to a new (and better!) apartment or even getting a pet. We are looking for that thrill of something new, something we don't understand and have to learn about. The car has a dodgy transmission, the hot water only lasts for five minutes and the dog needs to be walked every third hour or it starts chewing on your pillow. But oh boy, wasn't the puppy cute when you got it?

Right now the "in" retro thing to do is 8 or 16-bit pixel sprites. so I would guess that in 5-10 years we'll be seeing games purposefully made in early polygonal 3D, like the PS, Saturn, or N64. Which I find kinda funny 'cause I always thought early 3D looked worse than late 2D, until technology got good enough to do it well, and developers got used to using it.

But that begs the question of how graphics can improve. By the logic that the retro games will fallow about 20 years behind current technology, then what is now will be considered "old school" 20 years from now. Which makes me wonder, what will graphics look like then if they are as different a current gen system to a Nintendo. I don't think graphics are increasing as fast as they were back then. I personally don't see a lot of difference between Xbox and Xbox360 for example, but that could be because I do not have an HDTV.

I downloaded Game Room from the XBLA yesterday. I have had a lot of fun playing around those old arcades, even though they were popular before my time :)

Yeah, my childhood in all it's purity and fun is gone. I mean, I'm still a kid at heart, still love playing video games and taking life none too seriously, but yeah, all those new and first experiences are gone forever. And of course so is that innocence we all held at one time. I can no longer remember what it felt like the first time I killed a video game character. Did I feel remorse? Was I regretful? Did I bat a eye as I gunned down my cousin's avatar in the game? (probably not because he was kicking me and my bro's butt 52 to 3 in a halo slayer match)

I like this article, it's got a sad song underlying it, one that should be thought about, but of course not dwelt on too long. Time passes, nothing lasts forever, make the most of it all.

He didn't want to strip off his gear, but his experiences - to "unplay" the game, and see it again as if he was young.

This I understand. when pokemon soulsilver came out a while ago. I got all dreamy-eyed about the days when I atrted playing the original games more than 10 years ago and decided to fire up my gameboy with blue and silver. but as I went byt i realized the game didn't hold any appeal for me for the same reasons I quit at the time. I just knew everything that game offered. I had already captured them all, had my dream team and my battles, knew every type strenght and weakness. I wished I could have just unlearned everything to recapture the old magic. The new games just don't do it for me, either.

I really liked the WoW reference.It's the perfect metaphor for wanting to experience that up hill struggle again.To replay the story of victory as if it had never happened.It's what we all want.We all want to fell our first found love for gaming all over again.Great article man,just, great.

Very good article, and I think for the most part, very true. To unplay a game is something a lot of people have wanted to do.

It may not be possible now, but there's always hope we'll get some sort of selective memory cutting technology in the future! Cut out the game experiences, re-play it, and paste the old ones back!

Alar:
It may not be possible now, but there's always hope we'll get some sort of selective memory cutting technology in the future! Cut out the game experiences, re-play it, and paste the old ones back!

Sounds like something from that movie, "Eternal Sunshine of the Mario 3."

Alar:
Very good article, and I think for the most part, very true. To unplay a game is something a lot of people have wanted to do.

It may not be possible now, but there's always hope we'll get some sort of selective memory cutting technology in the future! Cut out the game experiences, re-play it, and paste the old ones back!

You wouldn't want to do that. Go watch eternal sunshine of a spotless mind.
Selective memory cutting sounds nice. But its just like nukes. Can you undo it ?
And can it be applied without your permission ?

I think everybody's mind should be their own. Without any ability to enhance any of your memory's.
Allthough instant learning as in the Matrix movies wouldn't be too bad :D

Excellent article. My first system was a Super Nintendo. I remember playing Killer Instinct over and over just trying to beat my highest personal combo record. I also remember that Wow! Effect I got from playing it at a young age. The sprite characters were fascinating and it was the designs were the most beautiful things I had ever seen on a screen. After leaving behind the SNES and getting my first PSone, I got the same feeling playing Final Fantasy VII. Everytime, I left something behind to move on to something bigger and better. Now, about 15 years later, I'm playing TESIV: Oblivion nonstop! I think it's one of the best Role-playing games I've ever played.

It's amazing how things are though. My younger siblings just don't get it. I'll sit down and play Final Fantasy VII or Killer Instinct again and they look at me like I'm crazy! They say stuff like "That guy has no fingers!" or "That's not even 3D". But what they don't realize is that once upon a time, those were the Oblivions and Final Fantasy XIII's of the time. Sadly, those exact feelings will stay stuck forever in their respective generations and will probably be long forgotten down the road. That is of course, if we don't share those experiences with our kids. I wouldn't dare let them become ancient history.

I really like this article, especially since I have the same thing going on with WoW. After I got my first character to 80 and started leveling some of my alts, I purposefully created a new character, chose a race and class I had not played and didn't tell anyone who I was. I was trying to re-capture that joy of just playing the game before I got all concerned about having the best stats and spec. While it was not the same, I was able to recapture some of that awe.

twm1709:

He didn't want to strip off his gear, but his experiences - to "unplay" the game, and see it again as if he was young.

This I understand. when pokemon soulsilver came out a while ago. I got all dreamy-eyed about the days when I atrted playing the original games more than 10 years ago and decided to fire up my gameboy with blue and silver. but as I went byt i realized the game didn't hold any appeal for me for the same reasons I quit at the time. I just knew everything that game offered. I had already captured them all, had my dream team and my battles, knew every type strenght and weakness. I wished I could have just unlearned everything to recapture the old magic. The new games just don't do it for me, either.

Believe it or not, SoulSilver and HeartGold manage to recapture some of the newness of the past. The alterations in mechanics made in Gens III and IV really make SS and HG play differently.

I enjoyed this article even if it did make me feel a little bad. Many of the games I don't understand or enjoy will be the first gaming experiences of another meaning whenever I become flabbergasted over them I'm inadvertently trashing someone's future memory.

I totally relate to that.

For a while, now, I've been utterly unable to finish a game. Not that I'm not enjoying myself, but once past the glorious discovery of a new "creature", its system, its gameplay, its characters, vilains, etc, I tend not to get bored, not to lose interest, but simply to lose that spark, that feeling of "something new". RPGs I will start over many times, just to experience playing a new character, feel the difference, the "newness". In WoW, for example, which I played only for about six months, I must have created close to 25 new characters, some never reaching past lvl 10. The highest I ever got to was lvl 52 with a gnome warlock (Ah, Yhmer, how I miss ya!).

I played Final Fantasy (the original) around 15 times total, from beginning to finish, and once that first time was gone, I could never find the "Ooooooh this is gonna be great!" feeling I got when I first crossed the first bridge after defeating Garland for the first time. Because I knew that world lying ahead like the back of my hand. I had already played it for the first time. All subsequent runs were only re-experiences, not renewed first experiences per se...

There unbearably and ultimately will only be ONE first time.

Great article, Brendan.

Brendan Main:
Youth Eternal

Beyond selling us games, the industry is peddling an idea that entices most of the population: youth. Brendan Main examines how youth isn't really a commodity that can be sold, at least not without the new skin crème peripheral.

Read Full Article

A thumping good read Mr. Main. I say, you make a good point but I can't really relate. I don't feel the pangs of nostalgia after looking at Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. They were good games but if I had my old N64 back in front of me I wouldn't want to play it over a new game. I suppose I'm not that attached to games really. The freaky thing is that I'm addicted to reading about games and knowing all the video-game related news and such. I keep coming back to the Escapist even after they banned me (this is a school computer...) because I'm so used to coming here and reading all this semi-useless entertainment.

Of course, it doesn't work that way. What he was asking for was a do-over; not to do it all differently, but to do things again for the first time.

The essence is all right there in that sentence. The wonder of the new, learning new mechanics, new characters, gameplay, and for me most importantly: new settings. I love discovering new land in games; what people can I talk to? what treasures can I find? I eagerly await the next fallout or Zelda, those kind of games really spark my imagination when I get out to exploring.

Gethsemani:
I don't think it is youth in itself that we want when we look back at old games we used to play or even nostalgia. I think that what we want is that sense of wonder, magic and amazement that we experienced the first time we played the game in question.

Basically this. I still remember one of my first few games of CoD4, and even though I had played CoD2 & 3, this was the first time I was able to go online. It wasn't my first game (that was on Crossfire, this was on downpour), and I was simply wandering around, marveling at (what I thought was) the size of the map. I was struck down many a time while wandering around, but it was amazing to see this completely new experience. Now I can't get that same feeling back, it's like a cold detachment to what I'm seeing in the game. Even new games can't get it back, I focus on "how can I win," "what's the best flanking route," even during my first time playing a game. I can't get that same feeling I got the first time I picked up some random's G36c at about level 12 and thought "I can't fucking wait to get this," rather than "what did the Den Kirson chart say this gun's damage was?"

Oh the negatives of being, as Yahtzee would say, "that guy"

Let me start this by saying I'm 38 and soon going on 39. I'm likely older than most of you(probably all of you). You want to know the secret of youth? It's very simple. You don't look back into the past; you look forward into the future. You wake up and face each new day as a new challenge and a new chance to learn and gain and grow. You look at each coming moment as an opportunity to become a different person, to change, or find yourself in a different experience. The past is locked into stone and unchangeable, but the future is a teeming field of potential possibilities. All you have to do is choose a possibility and move forward into it. Once you start stagnating and just repeating the same things over and over, trying to relive past glories, that's when you're getting old and decrepit.

P.S.: Live(learn) from the past, live in the present, and live for the future.

I had a sporadic video game experience as a kid; I went from the NES to the Sega Genesis to the PS2. So I missed a lot of the "classics" that my friends grew up with. And I can go back and play them now, but even playing them as new games, it's not quite the same. I feel the sense of wonder and newness, but I always think, "Oh, so this is what they were talking about" and not, "Wow, I like this for my own reasons." It's hard to play catch-up to other people's nostalgia. But the fun new things you discover through exploration is what I enjoy about games. I like WoW best when I get the trial and run around in the starter zones until I'm tired of it, so I never have to lose that sense of fun.

Also, I remember being at a Hot Topic when I was in high school, and looking at all of the retro themes, especially the video game ones, that they had for t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, etc, and thinking, "Why? Why would kids my age be nostalgic? We're only 18! The good ol' days weren't that long ago!" I think this whole idea of selling youth explains that in part. Though I think that the geek cred was also a large part of it. It's interesting, because who'd think youth would be so popular a commodity to the young? Aren't we supposed to not realize how good we have it when we're young? Or is the time around high school when we start to realize that youth is fading, and want to hold on to it? I wonder.

Great article. It answers my questions by giving me more questions to answer. : )

That was a really great article, man. I've never felt the urge to "unplay" a game, but I certainly love playing retro games. I still play the NES Super Marios, and they're still a ton of fun for me. I never really made the connection between nostalgia and selling youth. That's very a very interesting point.

This article actually made me sad. Not for the nostalgia part, but because I feel the worst thing about gaming as a subculture is their focus on what, deep down, are glorified toys. It's a longing for a never recovered childhood. While many of us are still waiting for the wave of games that will have adult themes and strike us as mature, changing the face of gaming forever, none of us will deny the childish joys of waltzing around a battlefield firing colourful bullets at everyone or walking around a kobold-infested tomb randomly firing unidentified wands at slugs.

Brendan Main:

Alar:
It may not be possible now, but there's always hope we'll get some sort of selective memory cutting technology in the future! Cut out the game experiences, re-play it, and paste the old ones back!

Sounds like something from that movie, "Eternal Sunshine of the Mario 3."

with your comment towards wow and not playing it myself my friend was talking very exitedly about the new expantion coming out that changes the whole mapface including the starting areas. The odd thing about this statement was that he already had 3 lvl 80 characters that were pretty heavely decked out with gear but he wanted to build a whole new character when the expantion came out just to experience the starting areas all over again as a new experience rather then the same old grind to 80 that he has done repeatedly. Really shows the market and how easly it can 're hook' old players into the game by changeing the whole experience just slightly. . .

I completely agree with the paying WoW as a noob thing. I remember firs playing it the world was so big and wondrous and waiting to be explored, no I've been everywhere and done it all and with that I have retired my WoW career, plus my class sucks now...

I think that Mr. Main has it mostly right. However, it's not youth that's being sold, but the experience of learning.

I think that a large part of the attraction of the gaming medium is that it provides environments in which we can practice learning, with no real punishment for mistakes. The reason that video-games were popular was because they presented novel problems and situations for people to grapple with. It wasn't because they could tell a story, or because they were pretty. The "Fun!" came from the learning that was involved in playing the game, and the temporary fulfillment of our needs for achievement and mastery. We could practice working the mouse and keyboard interface without fear of accidentally deleting or copying anything important, and there was a built in scale telling you how well you were doing, how far you had come. The reason that modern mainstream video-games are less popular with me and others of my generation, giving rise to articles like this one and "Videogames: A Modern Folly", is that in most there is either no new material to be learned, or so little that we quickly become bored. And yet, the reason that these games survive is that there's a new generation that doesn't know this stuff, that doesn't know that you right click to move units, or that you can jump further by double-tapping the spacebar or shooting a rocket at your feet. In the end, it looks like it's about recapturing a faded youth because it was in our youth that we were learning the most, and humans enjoy learning! We have a need for novel stimuli, to integrate diverse and different experiences into the body of knowledge that is our growing personhood. When games feed this, we enjoy them!

Older people ask me how I can possibly be so good with computers ("good" here meaning that I know that the right click menu exists). I give the usual answer, that I've grown up with it and they haven't, etc. But when you really look at it, an RTS game is what? It's a fun trainer for the Windows GUI. I've spent a good portion of my life trying to get better at something similar to actual computer systems, and having fun doing it.

The exciting thing comes from looking towards the future. The boring retreads you see today are a portent: the material that games teach is going to have to expand in order to hold the gamers' interests. A game made today that tries to teach me the lessons I learned in DOOM and Quake, ten years ago, that just isn't going to be interesting. If the games industry wishes to maintain its relationship with gamers like me, they're going to have to draw more and more often on the real world for inspiration, and on areas of that world that are not already understood by the majority of gamers. Games are going to teach. They're going to prepare us for future careers, augment our knowledge of biology and chemistry and all the other sciences. Games will have to evolve this way to retain their value for us. The surgeons of 2070 will make their first cuts with virtual scalpels, the general practitioners will start out diagnosing npcs. And it will be fun. And there will be much rejoicing.

great article.

One of the best articles I've read on the escapist - top marks! And yeah, I'd give anything to play things like Ocarina of Time the first time again, or WoW, MGS3, FFX, and L4D was utterly incredible the first time I played it...

Now this was a very good article. probably the best i read since i joined here.

The Random One:
This article actually made me sad. Not for the nostalgia part, but because I feel the worst thing about gaming as a subculture is their focus on what, deep down, are glorified toys. It's a longing for a never recovered childhood. While many of us are still waiting for the wave of games that will have adult themes and strike us as mature, changing the face of gaming forever, none of us will deny the childish joys of waltzing around a battlefield firing colourful bullets at everyone or walking around a kobold-infested tomb randomly firing unidentified wands at slugs.

As long we enjoy ourselves while doing so, since the Mortal Kombat days (ah good days when my parents wouldn't let me get near any arcade) our entertainement of choice have been chasing some maturity, however if the source of inspiration is relying on childish fantasies I don't see a problem.

Life does suck at times but the moments you catch yourself lost in wonder are really unreplaceable, at least with videogames we have a chance to revisit it a second time, the sense of wonder will be probably lost, but it's part of the game. Now if I could get back to that first kiss.

You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

So we've stumbled upon the true addiction towards gaming, Humanity's drive to challenge a Learning Curve.

You can't unmaster a game, just fumble it or quit playing. The next generations of games are going with procedurally rendered objects and art, but if they move more of the replay value there too, then the limits can be undone.

Think about playing Thief in the stealth aspect but after winning the game you can play as the law trying to stop NPC Theives that have learned to play FROM your input! Now, think of that for all games! You could play RPGs from the perspective of the Villain by mastering the Hero, and then afterward try to survive the conflict as a Civilian. And then you could add the Mass Effect 2 approach onto THAT.

Only takes fleshing out an IP to include some actual background, instead of just Boy is Hero, Boy get Girl, Boy Can't Hump Girl due to FCC, At Least Boy Butchered Villain, Replay?[ICO broke the mold on that one btw, just wish I could own a copy for PC]

Really hope Developers see the leap is right there and actually invest in their franchises, or else, it's more of the same. I think Oblivion got closest.[But I hate elf games]

Eternally discovered gameplay, I think I'd pay above current game prices for that[suck mine Kotick]. As I would be buying at minimum, Art, at best Fountain of Youth.

Also, have you tried EvE Online? The curve is near-Curiosity-shriveling. But you can't master a Persistent World Sandbox, too much competition from other "master players", you can only keep playing. Best fun I've had in years!]:D-

I am certainly not against the concept of "retro" gaming, the likes of which seem to be gaining some popularity on Adult Swim games. Re-skinning popular titles today to an older 8 or 16 bit style look different, but don't really make me think of the old NES days of my youth. It seems to me that Nintendo takes an entirely different approach to this by re-skinning old 8 bit games into a more modern visual display on the DS with Mario and whatnot... but I can understand them wanting to showcase "old school" games for a new generation so they can experience the games some of us grew up with when they were new.
Occasionally, you run across one of these remakes that reminds you of why when they remake old movies that it turns out terrible. Slapping a new skin on an old title doesn't always improve the memories you had, just makes you want to play the original instead of a dolled-up version. We didn't care that much about how the games looked back then... it was more about the actual story or situation the game put you in that gave it the fun element. There are already plenty of games out there that look nice but suck, and I'm sure this community would have no shortage of suggestions to that end. Did the Wii have some emulator ability where you could buy "vintage" titles and play them through the Wii? (I ask because I do not own a Wii or have access to one, but I haven't heard about that feature in a long time)

I want Wing Commander III: Heart of Tiger have a graphical uplifting with the same kick-ass cinematic real persons when you are not flying for a mission.

That game is just one of my favourite Sci-Fi game, something truly unique. Screw generic crap.

And about Morrowind, I keep reaching back for that game. One of the most superb and versatile game, due the modding community, ever.

One of my biggest problems would be that not only would I have to forget about a lot of games now days to get the same enjoyment I did as a child, but I would also have to have friends around who had done the same. The enjoyment wasn't just from playing for me, it was from being a part of the group who was in on it. For the reference, there was 1 NES in my childhood that was shared beteen kids, and we all tried our best to beat Megaman 2 or 3. None of us got close, but it was exicting to see how we got closer each time, sometimes even beating a boss to the excitement of everyone. In addition, Pokemon wasn't about playing, but rather about playing with friends, trading and battling as well as giving tips to each other. My PS1 was when I played alone, and that's only because most of the games were JRPGs, but even then my little brother watched me play sometimes. Now days, I've got less people that I can actually play with, and lots of time everyone wants to play their own game. In addition to all that, nostalgia about the first time playing, when everything is strange and new is what stops us from seeing that a few of the games we play weren't as good as we thought they were. I'm not saying all of them are like that, but I know quite a few games I played as a kid (some were movie liscened) that given much better games around now days, I would never want to play. What I would really like to see though is another round of the crazy/fantasy focused games like the last gen had (Jak, Ratchet and Clank, etc.) stuff where it's not trying for realism, but rather fun. I'd like to have the humor that I used to get such as "Why is Billy Sad?" advertisment in R&C, or Daxter's quips, or Katamri Dynasty. Adventures of the likes of Okami, Ico, or Kingdom Hearts. Or at the darkest, have stuff like FFX (hey, turns out that the main villain created a monster and the religion that will "save" you from it, making things slowly turn into the current era where the world can't live without the church but you still have to break the cycle. By the way, to do so will null your very existance), Shadow of the Colossus, or MGS3 (turns out that this was actually all a power struggle over cash that goverments turned out to use its most loyal soldiers as disposable pawns to get it). I really miss the cartoonish graphics that were used to compensate for the 3D, but were much more fun to look at rather than realistic people. This was the era where I carefully chose which games I wanted to keep the saves of, and which I would reluctantly sell. I wouldn't want my childhood back, but could I atleast have my teen years?

I totally agree with one section of this article;

When discussing the particularly adept World of Warcraft player that the author knows, I couldn't help but feel a rather large pang of empathy. Although I am no longer a hardcore player, I often wish I could enjoy the game with the same childlike enthusiasm that I had when I first booted the game client for the first time.

Being able to capture those first, brand-new experiences and somehow renew them for re-use by those grizzled and hardened gaming veterans has got to be some sort of gaming equivalent to the fountain of youth.

... See what I did there with the fountain of youth bit? Boom.

 

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