December 2, 1999 I went into a Fry's Electronics and bought the game that would consume me for the next 2 1/2 years: Quake 3 Arena. Day 1 purchase for me. From rocket jumps to strafe jumping to railgun twitch shots across the map to uncompromising speed, Q3 was the ultimate hardcore FPS. Around this same time some modders were creating a lot of waves with some a mod called Counter-Strike that was challenging an already popular Half-Life multiplayer game called Team Fortress Classic.
All 3 of those games share a kind of kinship, aside from the year they were released. All of them were known not only for their headcrushing depth of game mechanics and strategy required to succeed, but also for their notoriously elitist fanbase.
Quake 3 was the first to die, struck down by a game that went from being supposedly a Mac game, then a PC game, and ultimately to the XboX, creating the biggest pregame hype since Daikatana--Halo: Combat Evolved. The response was all too familiar, and would repeated often this decade.
"HAHA Fisher Price Baby's First FPS!"
"Is this some kind of joke?"
"They make games for retards now?"
"Figures it would be on a CONSOLE, consoles are for people too stupid to operate a computer."
I'll admit, being a huge Q3 fan, I was one of those guys. What the hell was this game, anyway? It looked so slow, and console shooters were clunky, there's no mechanics really to master so this game coudn't possibly be as awesome and popular as Quake 3. People will get bored quickly and go back to real shooters.
The same thing would happen with Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source (the multiplayer component of Half-Life 2). The competitive community shunned it because it was too easy, too slow, anyone could get headshots instead of just the skilled players, too random and not "tournament ready" were the common calls of the hardcore CS player. 1.3 for life! "What's this? Anyone can play Counter Strike now? That's bullshit!"
The first on the scene and the last to be replaced was Team Fortress Classic. The TFC guys begged and prayed for a new Team Fortress, and when TF2 was announced for the 2nd time in 5 years, the Fotress Forever guys went absolutely batshit. This was also the longest lasting fued as bunny hopping, rocket jumping, and concussion grenade travel were constant topics of furious debate and there was never a developer to settle it. When all was said and done the TFC guys bitched the hardest and loudest, but TF2, in all of it's "dumbed down" "baby game" glory proved to be insanely fun and addictive. All those trick mechanic arguments were finally settled.
These aren't isolated incidents, I have a friend who STILL refuses to play BioShock (even though I gifted it to him on steam) because "it's nothing but System Shock 2 dumbed down and made simple for 5 year olds." You can find this sentiment in so many different games and genres, and overall the level of zeal has been unique to this decade.
As much as it pains me to say it, especially as a former competitive Q3 player, Halo is the better game. No, it's not blazing fast or anywhere near as deep, but playing at a friend's house with 3 TVs hooked up for 12 man multiplayer, even though I died a lot (first time using a controller for FPS that night) I have to admit I had more pure FUN playing Halo than I ever did playing Q3.
I guess it sort of struck me around that time. Games aren't about being hardcore or casual, they're about fun. "Fun? cAPSLOCK? Remember when games used to be fun? Remember when it wasn't about a 180 wristflick headshot and listening to kids so pissed off you could hear them throw a mouse against a wall?" Practicing a GAME hours a day to stay on top wasn't fun. Listening to a 16 year old kid cry over a microphone out of pure frustration because he's losing 117 to -2 and refuses to give up because he wants 1 "not given" kill isn't fun. I still find it hard to laugh at that kid, because I sincerely doubt I'd ever know that level of frustration and repeated failure in a game. Playing in your room alone, goddamnit, is most definitely not fun.
In 2006 I'd hear the same arguments pointed at Nintendo by the same people I pointed the finger at 5 years earlier. The screaming, jibbering froth of shit-throwing apes, furious that their beloved hobby was being tainted by becoming accessible to a mass audience. This decade, more than any other in gaming, has seen the difficulty slider moved back a bunch of notches. However, the fun level has gone up quite a few.
At the end of the decade, before I go out and party it up with the wife and friends, my last thinking about video games is how much they've grown, and how much I've grown as a gamer. I think to my friend, a gift still refused as BioShock remains unplayed, and I wonder how long he can continue to live in 1999 gamer glory. Maybe next decade will be his decade, when he has that fateful trip to a friend's house for something like a Halo LAN*
I hope he grows up a little bit about the whole thing, has his re-awakening moment, and maybe even sits down and actually play BioShock. He's missing out on a lot of fun.
Happy gaming in the 10's VGChartz
*he lives on the other side of the country from me, so no Sunday gaming get togethers at my place for him
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