Tired Old Hack is changing. Here’s why.

I’m bored.

I’m bored of loot boxes. They’re a poison running through the veins of modern gaming, preying on the willpower of those with addictive personalities. Games should be designed to be fun first and foremost, and the money will follow as a result: games designed to make money first are everything that’s wrong with this industry today.

I’m bored of the fact that loot boxes have now made microtransactions seem acceptable, because they’re the lesser of two evils. I remember 12 years ago when Bethesda released horse armour as DLC for Oblivion, costing $2.50. The entire population of the internet ridiculed the very notion of paying money for something that was purely cosmetic. And yet look where we are now: DLC skins and the like are the norm, not something to be mocked.

I’m bored of the way that some microtransactions aren’t even ‘micro’ any more. It seems that almost every free-to-play mobile game I download these days seems to think that by being ‘generous’ enough to not charge the player to start playing, they’ve earned enough goodwill to charge obscene amounts of money for virtual currency. Games like Disney Heroes – which I recently started up to find a message offering me a great deal on an £84.99 item purchase(!) – are the gaming equivalent of drug dealers hooking people by saying “hey, the first one’s free”. The fact many are aimed at children is a special kind of vile.

I’m bored of season passes and special edition pre-orders where you only get stuff by pre-ordering from specific shops. They’re bullshit ways of making you commit to buying a game in its first week – when its all-important chart position matters for the publisher – before magazines and websites get a chance to post a review telling you the game’s shite.

I’m bored of the increasing obsession with frame rates. I’ll be the first to tell you I love a game with a smooth 60 frames per second frame rate, but I hate seeing gamers on forums and comments sections saying that something running at 30fps is “unplayable”. I love the Digital Foundry videos and find their technical breakdowns fascinating, but then I look at the comments and see that some people genuinely choose not to buy games because they uncover frame skips: when someone decides to pass on a game because it occasionally drops to 57, it makes me question whether I even want to be a part of this industry.

I’m bored of hackers ruining secrets. Congratulations, you decrypted an online store to find out what DLC will be before it’s launched: I hope the 70 seconds of internet fame you get for it goes some way to filling the emptiness in your life. Meanwhile, Nintendo decides to reveal the entire Smash Bros Ultimate roster well in advance to stop some random prick from Nowhere, Oklahoma leaking it early, meaning gamers don’t get to enjoy the surprise of beating the game and encountering King K. Rool without prior warning.

I’m bored of ‘games as a service’. There are countless incredible games out there, offering an astonishingly wide variety of sights, sounds and experiences. But Activision, EA, Epic and the like want you to keep playing just their one game, every day, and they’ll drip out time-limited content that only lasts a few days to make sure you keep logging in. When one of your main reasons for playing a game is ‘FOMO’, that’s a bad thing.

I don’t play FIFA 19 every week, it plays me

I’m bored of every second indie game being procedurally generated or using ‘retro’ graphics (that never would have been possible on older systems). I get that lower budgets mean that indie games can hardly be expected to look like a triple-A publisher’s games, but I feel that sprite-based graphics often just play the nostalgia card, a card that’s overused these days. As for procedural generation, give me good level design any day.

I’m bored of mandatory installs filling up shamefully small hard drives. My Xbox One X has a 1TB hard drive (less when you take into account system files), and Forza Motorsport 7 takes up nearly 100GB alone. It seems that as consoles are getting bigger and assets are getting larger, disc read speeds and hard drive sizes aren’t growing at the same rate. Even Switch games, which can be bought on physical cartridges, sometimes need you to download some of the game first before playing.

Most of all, I’m bored of being a modern ‘gamer’, because of the baggage that brings with it. If it isn’t the term being made toxic by misogynists and those with other agendas trying to decide who gets to be a ‘gamer’ and who doesn’t, it’s entitled whiners insisting that games’ endings are changed, or harassing redundant employees telling them to finish the series they started and didn’t get to finish, or signing petitions demanding that some games (like Metroid Prime Federation Force, which was actually decent) be outright cancelled because they weren’t the exact ones they wanted.

I hate that gaming has become less of a fun hobby you take part in to relax and enjoy yourself, and more of a race to become the most famous person on the internet. Maybe it’s the ‘old’ in Tired Old Hack talking, but I don’t get Twitch: when I was younger there was nothing worse than sitting with someone and watching them play a game, because it meant I wasn’t playing it.

Now it feels like it’s more about the player than the game: watch old Nintendo E3 reaction videos filmed at the Nintendo World store in New York, then watch recent ones and see how the crowd that used to sit cross-legged on the floor – watching the screen and cheering at the announcements – is now a swarm of egos jumping in front of each other, all pointing their cameras at their own faces because their reaction is clearly more important than the games themselves.

Look at the screen, you absolute fucking WEAPON

When I was a kid I used to be embarrassed to call myself a gamer because of all the stereotypes that came with it: a nerd, in his bedroom, ‘waggling his joystick’ (guffaw) with no friends. These days I’m even more embarrassed to call myself a gamer, because the connotations are so much worse.

Naturally, all the above is just my opinion: there will be many people out there who say that gaming’s better than it’s ever been, and to those people I say: more power to you. I’m delighted you continue to thoroughly enjoy this remarkable hobby. But most of the time these days, I don’t.

I’ve always said that Tired Old Hack was going to be different from other gaming sites because it was going to celebrate games in a positive manner, not constantly look for ways to make readers angry by pointing out various scandals or outrages in the games industry. But there are just so many things dragging my beloved hobby down that to continue to focus mainly on modern gaming and try to be positive at the same time would essentially turn into me having to lie about how happy I am with the industry at the moment.

For those who don’t know, the Tired Old Hack name is a joke. When CVG was closed down and I was made redundant, some prick sent me an email saying he was glad I was losing my job, because I was just a “tired old hack” who constantly went on about how retro games were better than modern ones. So rather than let it affect me, I decided to nick his insult.

For the first time, though, it feels true. I’m tired of modern gaming. I look at kids ‘flossing’ and doing other Fortnite emotes while happily chucking their pocket money at loot boxes and I feel old (ancient, in fact). And when I look at the way self-proclaimed ‘gamers’ continue to give the community a bad name with their entitled and toxic beliefs, it’s safe to say I feel hacked off. The Tired Old Hack name is no longer a joke: it’s a description.

That has to change, and it changes tomorrow.

That email prick said I was a “tired old hack” because I used to harp on about the way older games on legacy systems were more entertaining than today’s titles. Well, you know something? The more I think about, the more I’m convinced it’s true.

I miss the days when you got extra outfits and characters for completing the game. When a game’s longevity was increased with bonus content because you reached the end credits, not because you reached for your credit card.

I miss the days when the word ‘multiplayer’ immediately conjured up the image of sitting on the couch with your brother, or your sister, or your pals, instead of sitting alone with a headset on, listening to 12-year-olds rhyme off a shopping list of sexual positions he and your mother frequently dabble in.

I miss the days of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, when frame rates were similar to your auntie’s holiday slideshow but you didn’t care because you were playing something special you’d never seen before.

GoldenEye 007 – named after the number of frames per second

I miss when those early polygonal games had edges that were jaggier than a shark’s gumshield, and nobody at the time said “oh no, it has jaggies? Looks like I’ll need to give it a miss then”. Instead we all bought WipEout, with its serrated ships, and we adored it.

I miss the tradition of buying a console and buying its launch day Ridge Racer, because it always looked a million times better than every other launch day game. I bought Ridge Racer games on day one for my PS1, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, Vita and 3DS: a new console without it is like a new pair of jeans without pockets. And the arse missing.

I miss when your controller didn’t have a battery.

I miss when you put in a game – be it cartridge or disc – and the bastard just loaded. No installation, no day one patch, no pre-order unlock key, no need to download a 30GB multiplayer component.

I miss when you bought a video game magazine and felt like part of a club. There was no chat about financial results or CEO remarks or Twitch scandals, you got that pleasantly familiar routine of News, Letters, Previews, Reviews and Tips and the editorial staff injected some of their own personality throughout.

Look at how glorious Mean Machines was. Just LOOK at it. This was my bible

When I joined Official Nintendo Magazine back in 2006, it’s that feeling of being part of a club that I always aimed for. I was always on the ONM forum talking to the readers, and I always tried to make silly in-jokes that ran through each issue (usually at the expense of Hull).

It’s that spirit I’ve tried to keep going in Tired Old Hack. I appreciate that the site’s not getting millions of readers (for now), but I’d like to think that those who do read the site and follow me on Twitter and YouTube also feel like they’re part of a wee club who gets some of the in-jokes here (like the irrational love for Night Trap). Every time I see someone on Twitter refer to me as “yer man Scullion” I smile: that feeling of familiarity is what I’m going for.

I want you to feel like you’re one of my pals when you’re reading Tired Old Hack, and part of that comes down to my enthusiasm. It needs to be contagious and, truth be told, not a lot of today’s gaming landscape excites me enough to pass that enthusiasm on to you.

To be clear, there are still some elements of modern gaming I still enjoy, and I plan to continue covering modern gaming to an extent on the site. However, that said, tomorrow marks a new chapter in Tired Old Hack.

It’s still a work in progress

Since Louise and I moved into our new home and we had our gorgeous daughter, free time has been at a premium. I just don’t have the hours in the day to commit to these 80-hour epics and this ‘games as service’ bollocks. So I created a games room and have been filling it with retro systems, and I’m falling in love with gaming all over again as a result.

As of tomorrow, Tired Old Hack will continue to look forwards to an extent, but for the most part it’s going to be looking back. Back at the days when gaming made me smile.

If you’re a fellow retro gamer, I hope the site gives you that warm nostalgic feeling and maybe unearths some memories of games you’ve forgotten for years or even decades. If you’re younger, or maybe not interested in retro gaming, I hope my writing style continues to entertain you regardless and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be tempted to give it a go yourself. I’m planning plenty of articles to help newcomers to retro gaming get into it in an affordable way.

Expect a new lick of paint on the site tomorrow, along with another post explaining the new focus for the site and detailing some of the new (and returning) features you can expect in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Thank you so much for reading Tired Old Hack so far. It’s been nearly four years, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing everything on here. But it’s time to change focus so I can continue to enjoy it, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to look at old games in a new way.

With love,

Chris

23 comments

  1. Thanks so much for your work Chris – I’ve really enjoyed your positive gaming coverage and look forward to continuing to do so, no matter what games you cover.
    I’m sure most visitors to the site will feel similarly. You’re our man Scullion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your work Chris.
    I feel the same with all these micro transactions and add on’s
    A revamp for the site is a good thing.
    Can’t wait to see the new site tomorrow 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m up up for the cup.
    Your knowledge of great/sh**e games surpasses most.
    I always look forward to reading your work because it reminds me there are still people in this world that appreciate games and hate hull.
    As long as you keep reviewing FIFA on Nintendo consoles before everyone else and making sure Celtic are beating rangers in the screenshots I’m in 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. On what you said about the state of modern games, I could not agree more. The main thing I miss is the consistent presence of local multi-player. I mean, online’s all well and good, and I admit to being a Rocket League addict, but it saddens me that there isn’t even a 4-player split-screen mode on the latest Call of Duty games, for example.

    To be honest, playing games with my friends and/or family is what made me fall in love with games in the first place, to me that’s where the true heart and soul of a game is. But now the last stallions are essentially just the Smash Bros. games, and even then, Ultimate is having a day-one patch and extra DLC, so I don’t know how long Nintendo are gonna last. You’ve got studios like Team17 too with games like Overcooked and Worms but I don’t know how long they can last in this landscape. As a result of all this I’ve fallen out of love with games, and I dread the day when we can’t go and buy a game from a shop in town anymore.

    Still, the fact that there are articles like this one you’ve written around shows to me there are still those of us out there who feel this way, and there are probably enough, at least for now. Good new direction to take the site.
    Reuben

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was in a very similar place gaming-wise until I randomly stumbled upon you and your writing one day and in that, found someone that shares many of my own views, beliefs and preferences not just on games but life in general. Haven’t had a day since where I haven’t felt represented.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love everything you do and will continue to support your work! Hoping to see plenty of discussions about the Switch NES online games as I’ve really enjoyed them as an accesible way to play retro games!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Man, it’s been a year or two now since I’ve started following you. I’ve always loved your writing style, and reading your tweets on twitter. In hindsight, I could totally have seen this change coming, haha.

    I recently realized just what an anomaly Smash Ultimate is in the current gaming climate. It has practically none of the ridiculous stuff other AAA game companies can get away with, and the iffy things it does have, like pre-order bonus (Piranha Plant is hilarious, by the way) and the season pass, actually have a reason for being DLC and not in the base game; they actually aren’t finished yet!

    But that rant aside, I’m looking forward to the future of TOH and reminiscing about the good old days.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris… Well all I can say is you’re a twat.
    I’ve never felt so connected to a person I’ve listened to on podcasts for years (highly likely read your content in magazines etc).

    Reading this was like I was reading my own thoughts(clearly better written however). Who’d have thought an artical about games would start to make me tear up at 8 on a Sunday morning while my son is watching Netflix.

    God I love games and some modern releases are simply amazing but like you, I harken back to the good old days of PS1 and it’s ilk.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with everything except this bit:

    “I don’t get Twitch: when I was younger there was nothing worse than sitting with someone and watching them play a game, because it meant I wasn’t playing it.”

    I have never been a big RTS fan; I prefer either turn-based (Colonization might be my favorite game of all time) or RPG where I can be a sneaky archer (hello, Oblivion!) I have never, even when I was younger, had the talent to play those games which require a lot of speed and reflexes.

    But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to appreciate those games. I watched Jack Septiceye play Cuphead all the way through on YouTube. I knew I’d never get even a little way into it, and I wanted to see the entire game design.

    I seriously doubt anyone would want to watch me play Colonization on Twitch, however. (Also I’d probably get booted for swearing. )

    I look forward to the new direction of your blog!

    Like

  10. You do feel like one of my friends. You’d have been in my year at school (had I lived in Scotland instead of the East Midlands) and we would have got on like a house on fire.

    If you’re ever in the Sheffield/Derby area and you fancy a pint I’d happily attempt to drink you under the table.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Messed up the last comment there lol. Meant to say how I remember picking up the very first issue of ONM (aged 9) and falling in love with it since then, going out to get every issue (and then subscribing); seeing what random 6% crap was being released on the DS or Wii Shop Channel that month, or what random obscure Nintendo knowledge was on the last page or what free gift was coming that month (I still use that Mario DS/GBA case from Issue 2). None of my other friends were into Nintendo or retro gaming, but I couldn’t care less fucked what FIFA packs I got or what level of CoD Zombies I had gotten to. Playing through Super Mario Galaxy 2 was one of the best experiences that I had had. I had never saw myself as a ‘nerd’, but anyone who was as ‘nerdy’ as me about Nintendo didn’t actually know that much or weren’t that fun to play against (as it was usually me winning just because they were the only games that I had played). But ONM got me through that, and especially its enthusiasm for all things gaming, and how often the review didn’t follow the bog-standard way of just listing what was in the game, but more about how it made you feel: if it was fun. Watching the 2009 E3 with the ONM group chat on one side of the screen and the excitement when the DKC music started playing is one of my fondest memories about the whole community: just people having and enjoying their passion for games. Thank you Chris for continuing to support positivity in gaming, and finding your site after a few years of falling out of gaming has definitely made it more enjoyable again for me. My dad & I are super excited for the new Intellivision Amico, I look forward to see your opinion on it for sure. Anyways, just thanks a lot, your work means a lot. Keep on punning in the free world! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. While I’m not a writer by any means, I am a “tired old gamer.” Like many of the commenters (and no doubt many more readers), this piece not only struck a cord with me, but it was refreshingly reaffirming. I’ve been gaming since Colecovision with Donkey Kong packed in and haven’t looked back…until the past few years, for ALL the reason you so articulately mention. As I read and read, I kept waiting to come across a point that I disagreed with. Instead, I began to wonder if my parents are withholding a dark secret from me: that I was separated from birth from a twin brother and shipped off to the US where I’ve been ever since.

    I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching for over 12 years. Even back in 2007, I can remember my students laughing at the thought of playing the original Zelda or Mario. While the “laughing” was all in good fun as I have great rapport with my students, this was a reminder for me: “Gaming” wasn’t a common language anymore. From then on, I’ve been more consciously aware of the generation gap that exists in gaming. As I frequently reflect on this gap, and how it impacts the industry and hobby I love and grew up on, I increasingly view myself as a grumpy old gamer.

    This school year, I don’t even mention my gaming hobby to any of my students. While I love engaging with people about games, I find modern conversations with youth about videogames actually have less and less to do with gaming, and more to do with all the garbage my man Scullion mentioned (youtubers, fortnite skins, patches, framerates, etc.). It just doesn’t interest me.

    I too long for the golden age of gaming. I’m not blind and I love me some modern games (currently playing Red Dead 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Smash Ultimate, Katamari Reroll, Spiderman, God of War, Dragon Quest XI, countless indies & many others). However I frequently find myself bitching about all the baggage that comes with modern games (buying a 4TB harddrive just to have my games on the Xbox One X, waiting & waiting just to install 50-plus GB of data before playing a “physical” game, choosing which store to purchase a game from based on what “exclusive” content or bonus I want or am okay missing out on, buying “broken” games and waiting for developers to fix them, etc.). It just saps the fun out of gaming.

    It really says something when my favorite feature available from modern consoles is Xbox’s backward compatibility. Again, I love modern games, just not all the baggage that comes along with them. Like an expensive car, the more features crammed into it, the more possibility exists of something going wrong. Spending time trouble-shooting my systems when things go awry only adds to my increasingly jaded view of modern gaming.

    Gone are the days when “blowing in the cartridge” was the extent of gaming inconvenience or frustration.

    Thankfully my two sons (aged 5 and 7) take a keen interest in “Daddy’s old games” and find the innocent joys of gaming that the developers originally intended. They love the modern stuff too, but their unbridled joy, imagination, and sense of wonder are not yet tainted by the modern trash that’s already been mentioned. There are no selfies, no dreams of streaming or critiques of frame-rates. I’m sure that will come eventually, but I’m attempting to instill a strong foundation and appreciation for what makes gaming great. My wife and I purposefully seek out games with couch co-op. We also stress getting outside and enjoying nature. I firmly believe exposure to nature can increase one’s enjoyment of games, and vice versa. Would we have Zelda if Miyamoto never wandered around in the woods as a child, lifting up rocks and peeking in caves? What will games in the future be like if they’re created by folks who’ve spent the majority of their lives constantly connected, buying loot boxes, faces in screens at all times, etc..

    I can remember the internet becoming critical of the Gamecube because it didn’t play DVDs like its competition. Maybe I was naive (more likely I was being facetious), but all I could think was “Nobody complained that the SNES didn’t play VHS tapes.” For f**k sake (British English, right?), why couldn’t people just be happy with a dedicated gaming console?

    Thank you for providing a website where I don’t feel like an out of touch grumpy old man. I “discovered” your site about 6 months ago and have checked it out weekly. With your recent change, I’ll likely be back daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this. I really appreciate it and I agree with everything you said. Don’t be too disappointed just now if you DO plan on coming back daily: I’ve got a little bit of a backlog just now so I’m not quite ready for daily updates yet. If it helps, there’s a subscription bar on the side: if you pop your email address in there you’ll get a message every time I post something new.

      Thanks again, my friend. You’re a star.

      Like

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