Games used to come with more than just the game, and extras made gaming a lot more fun and interesting.
All too easy
We’re spoiled when it comes to game guides and help these days. Walkthroughs and FAQs are a dime a dozen online, all of them different depending on who wrote it…and all of them also varying quite a bit in quality. We’ve all used them at some point; it’s just a fact that some games require a little extra help. Of course, we all know that just because you know how to do something in a game doesn’t mean you can actually do it, so I hesitate to consider any of it cheating.
Minecraft is a perfect example of a modern game that requires all sorts of extras to have a good time. You have wikis, apps, how-to guides and everything in between just a click away. Having all these extras really helps make the game that much more fun because you’re not just trying to do well when playing the game as you’re also trying to stay organized and manage all your external resources. However, I can’t help but long for the days when you had more physical goods to play with…you know, actual maps and guidebooks. What’s not fun about maps? You fold them up, stick them in between the pages of your favorite gaming magazine, and take them wherever you need…sometimes even just taking them out to admire them when you’re not playing.
Dragon Warrior, my first RPG
One of the first true RPGs I played as a kid was Dragon Warrior and it came with more gaming swag that I could have dreamed of. Sometime around 1990, Nintendo Power magazine ran a promotion that offered new subscribers a free copy of Dragon Warrior and I was one of the thousands of kids that begged mom and dad for an early birthday present. I knew I was getting the magazine and a free game but I didn’t know that the game was going to be delivered with a treasure trove of extras, all of which I still have today.
They packaged the game with two fold-out poster maps of the overworld and dungeons, a guidebook filled with hints and tips, and an “Adventure Guide,” which was little more than a piece of cardboard with the level progression on it. One map had all the dungeons on one side and a title poster on the other, which did hang in my room at one point. The other was also double-sided with one side being the overworld map showing the expected topography and on the other side a chart showing where you would be most likely to find every possible monster. The guidebook was pretty bitchin’ too since it outlined just about everything else you would need to know about the game. Level charts, weapon guides, and town layouts were all covered. The guidebook was the equivalent of an online walkthrough you’d find today, but was much better thanks to lots of illustrations, screenshots, and the fact you could have it next to you while you played. The guidebook did everything except give away the ending. It told you everything you’d need when fighting the end boss but it didn’t tell you how to beat him or what would happen when you did. It was a guide in the truest sense of the word: It helped you but didn’t give you any real answers.
With all of these maps and guides, I remember wondering what type of game this would be if I really needed all this stuff…but boy did I need the help. It took me forever to complete Dragon Warrior even with all the extras, so I can’t imagine playing through the game without it. The amount of level grinding needed in the game along with its vast game world combined with slow movement tested your patience as a gamer, and Dragon Warrior, probably more than any other game, showed me early on that I am not an RPG gamer. I had more fun with all the maps and guides than I did playing the game itself, which is probably why it took me so long.
Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising!
I know you can still find books, maps, and guides on shelves at the store today, but when was the last time you actually bought one? Actually, the better question is, when was the last time you bought one because you really needed it? Sure, if you’re a fanboy (or girl) you’ll probably buy anything with the game’s name on it…books, toys, videos, underwear…whatever. We don’t buy the stuff because we want to enhance our game play; we buy it because we want to be better than the next fanboy. And that’s fine, but wouldn’t it be fun to get back to basics and have something to show for your hard work? (Or is gaming not really hard anymore?)
The Internet makes gaming a lot easier, and I’m not saying we should shun these glorious tubes but I’d like to see us as a community take some more pride in playing the games rather than just churning through them so we can cash them in at GameStop as soon as possible. All the game maps I had as a kid made me fall in love with games that I might not have otherwise liked. Games like Metal Gear, Zelda, Section Z, and even Golgo 13 are all childhood favorites not because they were good games (some were, some weren’t) but because they all came with extras that had me engaged beyond the controller. I felt like a pro thanks to all this extra gaming gear and it wasn’t because I went out of my way to get the stuff; most of it came with the game when you bought it. No internet needed and I got some great gaming artifacts.
Loss of an art
I didn’t start this article with the intent to touch on the digital-only future of gaming, but in a way it sort of is. Downloading games is convenient, affordable, and offer quick access, but what are we losing in the process? Well, not much it seems because when was the last time you got something extra with your game when you bought it at the store? Maybe if games came with more stuff like they used to, people would still buy games in boxes…wait…nope…no they wouldn’t, they would just wait for one person to buy it, scan it, and put it online. So I guess the days of gaming maps and guidebooks are gone forever, but at least I have some stuff to prove that gaming used to require more than just a web site.
All that being said, I really don’t have much ground to stand on because I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on digital downloads and DLC. Hey, I might miss the old days of gaming but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying today’s games.