When you have a command and mastery of a video game, it is possible to play from the beginning to the end of the game without your character “dying”. Of course, there is a learning curve involved with playing video games and, while you are trying to get to grips with a game there is every chance that you will “die” with frustrating regularity. This is why many of the traditional video games give a character three lives to start with, and offer more as the game goes on (if you play particularly well, it may be a lot more). They are a lot like an incentive system for video games.
The “power up” is something which does not feature in some of the more modern day games, in which a character doesn’t so much “die” as have their efforts brought to a halt at a certain point and have to restart from the last obstacle they cleared. This allows players with perseverance but no great amount of skill to advance further in the game than ordinarily they might. However, in the older games, “power ups” include: an extra life; greater speed or strength; invincibility; invisibility (to the other characters in the game); and more of the game’s “currency” – in some games you pick up coins and in others it may be something else.
While completing a video game is quite enough of a target in itself, the inclusion of these power-ups helps to buttress a player’s resolve to get as far into the game as possible – a series of mini-tests before the big one at the end.
“Classic video games” is a term which in itself is probably enough to set alarm bells ringing in the heads of many people. However, video games have been around for over a generation now, and it is about time that people let it go. Classic films have certainly been made in the last thirty-plus years, and classic novels have been penned too, as have classic albums. Therefore it is fair to say that classic video games do exist, even if the concept upsets a few people. What those games are is another debate entirely.
For many people, the ultimate classic video games are ones which were released very early on when gaming was more simple than it is now. In fact, some people will try to convince you that the old, simpler games are more deserving of the “classic” tag than ones developed ten or twenty years later. They’re really just trying to convince themselves, though. Some of the more recent games are undoubtedly genuinely jaw-dropping in their playability and their innovation. If an album recorded in the last five years can be dubbed “an instant classic”, so too can a video game.
Of course, what makes a game deserving of the tag “classic” is another matter. It is probably in the eye of the beholder to a large extent, as playability and enjoyment are totally subjective things. Consensus seems to settle around the real classics, which gain the title through being constantly surprising, addictive (in a good way) and original.
It is often said that video games are more similar to films than to the games of the past. While this is as much a reference to the increasingly realistic graphics and the more interactive relationship between your character and others than anything else, there is perhaps another reason behind it.
In the past, video games “happened” a certain way. You would play in one setting, kill a certain kind of enemy and work through to the end of that setting where you would have to kill a really big enemy, who might need to be hit fifty times or more before he’d go away. Then you would move to the next level, and repeat the process. This “multi-level” system would be very explicit in the game, with opening screens telling you which level you were on.
Now, there is a certain style of game which attracts the description “non-linear”. There are multiple settings, and you move between them as you see fit. To advance the storyline you have to complete certain tasks, but not necessarily in the same order every time. How you complete those tasks can dictate the future path of the game. Games now are very like films, and while we may not script them we certainly play a part in directing them.
Of course, you will still find multi-level games, which will never die out as long as one set of gamers exists that remembers the joys of PacMan and Donkey Kong. The difference is that the new titles are far more likely to be in the newer style.