Thursday, November 14, 2019

"Never Go Full Retro" - Gone Retro (console gaming, that is)

So for an early holiday gift I decided instead of spending $100+ on Modern Warfare to get one of these:

For reasons that I will elaborate on more in a moment, I picked up a Playstation 2 slim model for a cheap price and snagged some games with it. The experience of "stepping back" about 19 years to a time when gaming was very, very different in the video game market has been interesting and illuminating....

Some of the impetus for this has been a burnout on my part with this year's never ending wealth of churned Triple-A product and controversies over RMT (real money transaction) schemes that are now the fuel for the "games as a service" approach to the industry that is also quietly killing it. My games on my PC and modern consoles are more or less segregated into two categories: those which I doubt will ever "end" or have no desire for me to stop playing them (I can't be incentivized to purchase more content if I stop playing) such as pretty much any game on the market currently (Call of Duty, Fortnite, Destiny 2*, Ghost Recon, etc.), and those which still offer a more traditional model, and try to use DLC/expansion pass content to get some extra cash (most Sony exclusive titles, for example). There's also a third party niche which Nintendo is dominating on the Switch, in which you get a plethora of one-purchase-and-done content for retro remasters and indie titles.

This last category, with the Nintendo Switch, is the one I have spent most of my free gaming time messing with. I've put more time into the Resident Evil releases on Switch along with Baldur's Gate, Deadly Premonition and Assassin's Creed III than I have on any of the AAA releases this year, and that's kind of weird. Weird not so much because I'm spending time enjoying good games, but rather because games that are often a decade or more old are proving to be more fun, more engaging, than what we have on the market today.

Anyway, with that thought in mind I stopped in at a local shop in Santa Fe (8-Bit Retro Video Games) and on a lark decided to grab a PS2 Slim model. I snagged a few titles with it: Silent Hill 2 being a no-brainer; I played it when it was new, and again a couple times, but I could always go for one more. Parasite Eve (and ancient favorite from the PS1 days), and then Resident Evil: Code Veronica topped it off (but the disc turned out to be a dud and I need to return it). The next day at a local shop in Albuquerque I found dirt cheap copies of Splinter Cell (always wanted to play it but never did), Twisted Metal Black, Phantasy Star Universe and a couple others....most of these are about $1.95 to $4.95 at the shop I visited, but I noticed that many of the old faves I'd like to try again such as anything in the Silent Hill series are hard to find for less than insane collector's prices.

I learned a few things right off the bat when I got home and hooked up the PS2 to the main TV:

Retro Consoles and Modern TVs: modern TVs often don't even have the plug ins for composite cables; my one 4K TV/monitor is missing this plug in. The main living room TV does have the necessary plug ins, and the Ps2 did work (whew). I have since read that there are better ways to get a cleaner screen image, and am investigating options. I also discovered that the backwards compatibility of the PS2 to run PS1 discs does not play nice with my TV; it appears it can't reconcile the old 280i resolution of PS1 games and does not know what to do, so the screen goes black. I don't have a solution to this (yet) but working on it with an HDMI adapter to see what happens. Worst case, I have an older TV I can drag out of storage if needed....until then, no way to try out the old PS1 titles.

A Completely Dedicated Gaming Environment: Plugging in the PS2 and turning it on was sort of alarming. My only point of interaction with the OS for the PS2 was to set some graphic standards, the time, and memory card management. The PS2 does not want any of the following at all:
--an internet connection to function or update
--my name or any other personal information
--to track my gaming habits, issue points for playing, or any other gamification of gaming
--it does not want to show me ads for other games or products
--it does not care what I am playing at all, in fact
--it does not need to download anything from the disc
--It does not want anything from me, at all, other than for me to put a disc in the drive and play

Yeah. All the Playstation 2 wants to do is let me play games. That's it.

I've owned consoles since the PS1 came out**; I had a PS2 when it released, I loved Dreamcast, I've been with every iteration of Xbox; but after close to a decade of console makers and game publishers chipping away at the core foundation of what a console once was (a machine you play games on), it's downright freaky to go back to one of these machines and suddenly be reminded that this used to be a simpler hobby without a lot of complex monetization and data tracking involved.

As I played Silent Hill 2 again and Splinter Cell for the first time I found these experiences just as compelling as any modern experience, though with the caveat that each game was complete as presented on the disc; I knew for a fact that no updates would need to be downloaded, and these games harken from an era when the game wasn't released until it was actually done, as in QA tested and ready for public consumption. No beta test, no need to download patches, no need to download updates, nothing within the game immediately selling product from active ad placement (Death Stranding, looking at you); not that some of that didn't happen back then....the roots of our corruption in this hobby are long and deep, after all, but in the nascent stages we could little have imagined what that would eventually blossom in to.

Today I snagged a few more old favorites or titles I never played but always wanted to: The Thing, Black, Run Like Hell (speaking of early product placement in games...) and the original Ghost Recon Advanced Warfare. I've played two of these (Ghost Recon and The Thing). Whether I have opportunity to play more or not, my son is already hooked. As I explained to him: this machine is from a time when it said the game supported multiplayer, it actually always meant local split-screen or shared screen; the idea that you could only play together online on separate consoles was super rare. We played some Twisted Metal: Black and an old Robotech game. He was hooked. Old Robotech is like, "Transformers, but really old, you know?" and he is totally, actually right.

So.....long story short....I'm taking the money I would have spent on Call of Duty Modern Warfare and other modern releases (also, I quit Fortnite cold turkey when they rebooted to chapter 2) and buying some retro game fun, instead. I think I'm getting the better deal.

*I'm enough of a Destiny fanboy that I give Destiny 2 a pass. Everyone has their special zone of interest, and immortal space wizards made of eldritch light fighting alien cthonic cults throughout the solar system is sort of my thing.

**Okay technically I started with an Atari 2600 in....ah, 1977 or thereabouts, whatever date they first sold it in the Sears Catalog back then, but I hate dating myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment