I recently stumbled upon a video channel about people reacting to videogames. From seniors reacting to a game like The Last of Us, to teenagers suffering while playing the seminal P.T. demo/teaser. But the one that I was more shocked with was about today’s teens reacting to an old school game: Contra, from formerly cool game developer Konami.
Now what is fascinating about this video is how today’s teens are… simply not prepared to face a game like this. They simply didn’t grasp the most basic of fundamentals gamers of those days were expected to have… which are the basic fundamentals gamers of today also have. It’s not about being “good” or “bad” at a game, either. Let me explain.
Since we have long since gone past the wonderful era where your first minutes with a brand new game were opening the box and reading the manual, gamers are invited to often “feel” the controls of a new game early on – I’m talking even before the games of today start telling you in big bold letters which buttons you must press for the most mundane of tasks. In a game like Contra (and hundreds of its ilk) there’s really two basic actions beyond moving: shooting and jumping – basic stuff.
I am flabbergasted at how these teens didn’t shoot as much as they could. Yeah, they easily figured out that B was used to shoot but they used it sporadically. For reference take a loot at this gameplay (the first few seconds of the first level are enough):
See how this player fires his gun? Constantly. It’s not that it’s a requirement but as you can see in both videos, Contra is not a game that skimps on enemies. It also had that old-school thing about enemies popping up ad infinitum if you stood in the right (wrong?) spot. The teens in the video barely fired, which resulted in a lot of “contact” deaths.
Also of note is that this very fact could indeed reflect the way things are with most games now: everybody wants it easy. It’s a common complain which I won’t touch much further, but it’s also the reason why games like Demon’s Souls (and its Dark children) became such phenomena: in a sea of games that treat the player like an inexperienced puppet, the Souls dared to let gamers find the frustating joy of discovering their own skill. Also priceless is when one of the teens says that in Call of Duty you can take a few shots, in response to how everything in Contra basically one-shots you. Welcome to the 1980s, kid. Ninja Gaiden would like a word with you.
Don’t get me started on how they didn’t figure out you could jump “downwards” a platform. Though I admit, that was very much a thing in games of those days… much rarer now in today’s 3D worlds.
Smarter men than me which much more time on their hands will probably analyze these videos and draw wonderful conclusions about gamer habits, evolution and society. As a 36 year old guy that lived the golden age of NES games such as Contra, I can only facepalm and laugh while I reminisce of the good times.