Namco – 2 : Blizzard – 1

Following on from my previous post, after I began flirting with Pacman I began to consider the implications of my new gaming habits on the future of gaming, Nintendo’s seemingly-unstoppable rampage of commercial success and just what you need to develop and nurture a healthy, solid relationship with a good game that you can take home to meet your mom.

It was only whilst watching one of the most recent videos of upcoming PS3 title Lair that it occured to me just how disappointed I’d be if I were a PS3 owner. I mean seriously – this is it? This is the future of interactive entertainment? Whilst I respect the guys at Factor 5 greatly for their hard work on Lair and their older titles (everyone remember Turrican?), and whilst I also appreciate the difficulties in initially succeeding to utilize new hardware to it’s fullest potential (issues of actual game design aside), this just won’t cut it I’m afraid, guys. For the purposes of actually making a point, I’ll be using my original examples of World of Warcraft and Pacman and rest assured – I will get there in the end.

One of the immediate differences between the two that became quickly apparent to me was the differing AI of the enemies. Whilst playing WoW recently, I began to grow impatient with the fact that, despite the huge battle taking place mere feet away from them, the other groups of orcs in Blackrock Spire will casually stand around, no doubt discussing job security in light of Warhammer: Age of Reckoning’s impending release whilst our heroic band of warriors and mages laid waste to their ranks – slowly, methodically and right in front of them. As I mentioned, game mechanics have to be considered – it’s not like I want the whole dungeon to open their collective cans of whoop ass on us simultaneously like some nightmarish kegger populated by fantastic creatures in place of drunken frat boys – yet it merely serves as yet another thing that you can’t help but notice during play, and also serves to bring you out of the immersive game atmosphere Blizzard strive so hard to create.

However, after just two games of Pacman, I was convinced that those colorful little bastards were not only conspiring against me, they were doing so tactfully and they were winning. As ridiculous as it may sound to some, the thrill of the chase and narrowly out-maneuvering one of the ghosts – and the resulting sense of achievement and skill – in Pacman was a rush I’ve rarely felt in World of Warcraft. Whilst Warcraft certainly looks better, and the music can be quite epic in places, I’d trade this for that same quickly accessible sense of achievement in a heartbeat. The fact that I’m actually writing this between games of Pacman merely illustrates my point – I want gaming to be fun, and having to schedule time days in advance just to ensure I keep up with the rest of the players in my guild is more like timetabling a meeting about fax paper waste estimates as opposed to playing. I want games to fit into my life, not vice-versa.

Don’t get me wrong – whilst I still enjoy and continue to play WoW (although not as much, following the aforementioned conversation with my better half, who is also a recent Pacman convert and she doesn’t even like games), I’m merely saying that the detractors of Nintendo’s strategy could learn a thing or two by playing instead of trolling before dismissing the casual games market so quickly, and I’ll certainly be more open-minded to the casual games market than I was previously. I still think that casual games will always have tough competition from larger, deeper games where immersing and engaging the player over longer periods is a key feature of the game’s design and from titles boasting even-better graphics and sound, but let’s remember why we play, and let’s rediscover the fun.

And as a final thought, if Pacman had official forums, would they be like this?

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