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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.