Our forum member Rudy has submitted a very interesting piece on Expectations of Video Games; Do we expect too much?

Most of us here are older, mature gamers who have gone through many systems over the years. We were the first video game generation and we started on the first mass gaming system – the Atari 2600. We loved that system which had games like Pitfall and PACMAN and we accepted the graphics and limitations of the system because it’s all that existed and there was nothing else out there to compare it to. Controllers were a simple joystick with one button and games were sprites, not polygons. Over time the consoles and games improved. Nintendo and Sega came along with their 8 bit systems. SNES and Genesis followed before Sony started releasing the Playstation consoles and Microsoft joined in with the XBox series.

The evolution of these systems and their respective games was great. Games became more realistic, looked better and everyone was happy. Newer consoles removed the restrictions from the programmers as we always saw huge leaps of improvements in graphics, stat tracking and game play. The PS3 and 360 generation of consoles have fallen a bit short in the evolutionary process. They have improved the graphics although probably not at the same level the PS2 did when moving from the PS1. Hard drives have enabled greater stat tracking but the game play portion has remained largely stagnant.

What sports games in the current generation have really elevated the game play to a level unreached before? What elements have been improved that could not have been done on the older consoles? As great as the Show is on the PS3, the game play itself isn’t a big jump from the excellent PS2 version. It’s a very similar game with better graphics. The EA football games are still missing features from the last generation of games and many still prefer the game play on the older systems. The game play is supposed to improve, not go backwards or remain stagnant.

Clearly the onus for improvement no longer rests on the hardware specs but rather the programmers themselves. These are powerful machines and the negative aspects of a game are far more likely tied to poor programming rather than hardware limitations. Football fans that used to love simple but great games like Tecmo Bowl are now outraged at the lack of improvement by EA on these systems. Quite frankly, improvement was still available on the PS2 and XBox versions for video game football. 2K5 did some really good things that EA was missing and vice versa. No company got it right then so why should we expect them to get it right now? Hardware is not limiting them. Bad programming is.

Have our expectations gotten out of control or should we expect more? The answer is a little bit of both. Some gamers no longer play for simple enjoyment. They have evolved into different groups of sim vs. arcade gamers and even smaller groups of players who are coach mode type of players. Having ultra realistic statistics trumps playing a fun game. How fun can a football game be if a guy is averaging 5.4 yards per carry when he should be averaging 4.8? How good is a basketball game where foul shots are only half the rate of a real game? How many sliders are needed in today’s game to please everyone when the word sliders didn’t exist ten years ago? Is it even possible to please everyone? Certainly the price of these new consoles has raised the bar of expectation. It certainly did for me.

The bottom line in this generation of games is that we can no longer expect to see the same type of improvements in games that we used to see. Games have gotten so much better over the years that the room for further improvements has diminished. Simply adding horsepower to the hardware will not change that. While we have the right to demand better games we also need to brace ourselves for the reality that it won’t happen at the pace we used to see. Sometimes we just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the games we do have. Having fun is still the most important judge of a game and sometimes we lose sight of that.

Feel free to discuss