Is Gameplay Deteriorating?

Back as a child, I was fascinated with computer games. We used to go around and visit relatives quite a lot, and that tended to be a dull experience. Sure, itís nice to see family and everything, but some of them can be really boring. What used to save me on some visits was the presence of a games console. Iíd get round there, say hello, and then I would disappear with my cousin upstairs to play Sonic the Hedgehog, or Super Mario Brothers 3. Those two games were what hooked me into gaming. Sonic for its sheer thrill, speed and simplicity. Mario for its depth, the ability to find secret areas, and the number of levels available to play through.

I remember getting a NES when I was 11. My Dad and my Mum had just split up, and my sister and I used to stay over at Dadís some weekends. It was made cooler by the fact that Dad would let us stay up until 1am. As an 11 year old, that was really exciting. I completed Super Mario Brothers 3 late one night around my Dadís. It was the first game of any sort that I had completed, and the simple joy at that fact bought a smile to my face.

I progressed my way up through the consoles. I owned a Gameboy, a Game Gear, a SNES, a Mega Drive, a Master System (my Mumís friendís son lent it to me over one Easter, and I enjoyed the fun of The Real Ghostbusters and Alex Kidd), before I finally graduated to the Playstation.

Thinking back on gaming before I owned the Playstation, every game I owned I played to death. They were all so enjoyable to experience. Even a simple game like Nintendo World Cup Football on the NES was awesome in 2-player team mode playing with my sister. Streetfighter 2 Turbo for the SNES, a first in arcade Ė console translation that we now take for granted, was another game that I went through with every character just to see the endings. Maniac Mansion, a silly game (Green Tentacle? Purple Tentacle?), but one that was thoroughly amusing and also thought provoking.

With the Playstation, I found that I could not get as attached to every game I owned. Sure, there was the Final Fantasy series, the Suikoden series, the first Wild Arms, the first Grandia. I played these games as I had played many others before. Final Fantasy VII took me three and a half years to grow bored of. Yet there were other games as well that I didnít take to and couldnít complete as a result. Tomb Raider, for instance. Everyone says that this is a great game, yet I find it average at best, and never played it all the way through.

I thought that maybe I was growing out of gaming (and this is another topic I intend to discuss at one point), made more recent by the purchase of my Playstation 2. Iíve got five games in my collection. Final Fantasy X Iíve completed once and put away and not touched since. Metal Gear Solid 2 Iíve completed once and put away and not touched since. Legaia 2 I started playing, but which is currently gathering dust. The only game I play a bit is Gran Turismo 3, and thatís because my housemate and I are both playing it, changing between races.

I went back to my copy of Final Fantasy Anthology. I bought it a year ago, and grown bored of Final Fantasy V, so I figured Iíd give Final Fantasy IV a try instead. I found myself heavily addicted to the storyline (a simple tale, but one that grabs your heart and that I can relate to), and I also found the battle system quick, responsive, easy to learn, and fun enough to help drag me through each random encounter. The gameplay itself was fun, making me want to sit through each battle to see what was going to happen next in the game.

Which begs the question: - Is gameplay in general beginning to deteriorate? Are companies more concerned with getting a nice looking game, a tried and tested system for gameplay, and then shoving it out on the shelves under an advertising scheme to make as much money as possible? Or are there still many great games out there that I am just not finding?

Iíd like to think that gaming companies are still trying to make new systems of gameplay. The problem with a lot of sequels to RPGs is the reliance on the battle system of the previous game. As a player, I want to find new options and new ways of doing battle to make the game seem different, and make the gameplay interesting again. If I wanted the old battle system, I would play the old RPG.

Without a doubt, games in the earlier days were more innovative because there were less of them. Each new gaming type was a breath of fresh air and impressive because no one had tried it before. Now, the market is flooded with first person shooters, RPGs, driving games, fighting games. Maybe gameplay only seems stale because there are so many games doing the same thing?

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