An Idiot’s Adventures In Gameland – Steve McNeil – The London Economic

An Idiot’s Adventures In Gameland – Steve McNeil

#10: Games for Kids

Hello, dear reader. How are you? Consider this response appropriate to how you are. Anyway: me, me, me, me, me…

This week, I’ve been playing Lego Jurassic World so that I can write a load of things about it for the telly box. Short version: If you’ve never played a Lego game before and you like Jurassic Park, you’ll probably enjoy it. If you’ve played Lego games before, there’s not much new other than dinosaurs, so your enjoyment of this basically depends on how much you like playing what is essentially the same game over and over again…

Whilst I was playing the game, it became apparent that this was a title clearly aimed at a younger market. Yes, the nostalgia of Lego and Jurassic Park will no doubt draw in some adults who want to be whisked back to a time before prostate exams and dinner parties with Clive from marketing, but this is a game that has been tailored with far less experienced gamers in mind. You can’t even die in it. Well, you can, but if you do, you’ll appear in exactly the same location just moments later. So…that’s pointless.

It wasn’t always like this, though. When I was younger…

…Oh, here we go. Someone in their thirties banging on about how things were better in the good old days – endless summers, chicken really tasting like chicken…

…HEAR ME OUT. When I was younger, games rarely made concessions to inexperience. The first Super Mario Bros game didn’t have luxuries like the ability to save your progress – once you were dead, you went back to the start. The original Dizzy the egg game (side note: I want a new Dizzy game) on the Amstrad CPC 464 was even more brutal – it only gave you ONE life. And “Jet Set Willy” was literally impossible to complete.  Not vacuous idiot misusing “literally” literally, ACTUALLY literally. You bought the game. You played it. And then a series of bugs made it impossible to complete.

But none of this mattered. As children, we embraced the challenge. We played and replayed the games until we DID complete them. And the satisfaction of that achievement was far greater than anyone will get from completing a level on Lego Jurassic World. On that game, there’s chase sequences where it’s IMPOSSIBLE to fail – you can just sit there and watch your character bounce off of logs until you’re rewarded for your apathy with a ‘victory’ cut-scene.

By some margin, the most popular game with young people today is Minecraft, and everyone else making games for children would do well to take note.  You’ll die in Minecraft. A lot. Whether falling down a ravine, flooding your mine with lava or being attacked by zombies, you will definitely die in this game, repeatedly. What’s more, when you die, you lose EVERYTHING you were carrying. And the game doesn’t even really have a goal. You create your own narrative through the choices you make in how to enjoy the toolset and gameplay elements it offers.

So, on behalf of the young people of the world (who would be appalled if shown a photo of the man currently acting as their spokesperson): Games Developers – stop making games that patronise young people. They don’t want a series of Quick Time Event dinosaur battles, or infinite lives. They want challenging gameplay and a sense of achievement.

Probably. I mean, if I’m honest, I’ve got no idea. I’m a 35-year-old man writing this sat on the floor of a London Midland train to Milton Keynes. But it SOUNDS convincing, doesn’t it? And, if The Daily Mail has taught me nothing else (it hasn’t) it’s that sounding true is often more than enough to convince people. So, consider yourselves convinced. Literally.

Leave a Reply