I recently started listening to Polygon’s excellent Cool Games Inc. podcast and I’m hooked. I used to love coming up with games ideas when I was a teenager and embarked on many ambitious gamemaker-based projects that lasted all of two weeks each.
Some of Nick and Griffin’s ideas sound like they would make genuinely great games, and the strange little flourishes they suggest are frequently the icing on the cake. That got me thinking – what happened to all the quirky stuff that used to be in video games?
You know the stuff I mean – that ’90s stuff. Sometimes it’d be cheat code activated and you’d be sure to show your friends when they visited to watch the look of amazement on their faces. Sometimes it’d be a special unlock that you’d have to put enough time into the main game to see. And sometimes it’d be something that was always present in the vanilla release and never seemed odd to you until you looked back on it as a 20-something.
If you earned enough PES points, Pro Evolution Soccer 5 would let you take to Edit Mode and dress players up in giant animal heads. Formula 1 ’97 on the PlayStation had a cheat code that would make it rain frogs for some reason. The Sims had those mysterious, random phone calls that ranged from the odd to the downright creepy. Where did all this stuff go?
Sadly, I think these quirky features were a victim of the maturation of video games and the surrounding industry. Cash-strapped developers simply aren’t allowed the time or freedom to add these unnecessary things – especially when they have to be designed in 1080p. And that’s before we even raise the issue of things like online modes and achievements and the level playing field they require. Perhaps those days are gone for good.
Somewhere in my parents’ house there’s a plastic box full of games from two or three console generations ago. Perhaps if I’m unemployed long enough and forced back to my hometown I’ll dig them out and give them a go again. Perhaps I’ll notice more weird things that seemed normal to me as a kid. And perhaps I’ll turn Nigel Martyn into an ostrich, for old times’ sake.