While games have undergone a massive graphical and technological overhaul throughout the years, they’re still fundamentally the same. So which features still exist?
Retro games created many different tropes, the majority of which relate to the story. While these are sometimes frustrating, often they’re just what the game needs. From amnesia to a damsel in distress, here are some of the most prominent gaming tropes that still exist in today’s games.
Protagonist with Amnesia
Ever played a game where you start off as a character waking up with no memories? This is one of the most common story aspects when it comes to gaming, both modern and retro. Your character (usually) will awaken from an extremely deep sleep that’s likely lasted weeks if not years. They won’t be able to remember anything from before, thus giving the player an instant way to become immersed as they don’t feel they know less than the character they’re playing. Or that’s how it’s meant to work anyway. A lot of the time this can be annoying to the person playing, as the character feels disconnected from the game world compared to NPCs who seemingly know a lot more.
Romance Between the Two Main Characters
To be honest, I’m a sucker for this one. The two main characters of the game spend the story slowly getting closer and closer and then… the end of the game hits you with that romantic moment, and all the pain they’ve been through is suddenly worth it. While this trope is a classic – and I do love it – it becomes a bit repetitive when it’s used all the time.
This story element – while rather overused – is a staple of gaming. Almost all games have some sort of idea of a chosen character (namely the player) being the only one who can save the world, or do the job that needs to be done. When done well, this can really make the story come to life, like in The Legend of Zelda. However, on occasion this can just feel like a cheap trick to make the player feel important, when really any other character could have taken the role.
Damsel in Distress
The damsel in distress trope goes hand-in-hand with the chosen hero most of the time, even if it’s not the main objective. The chosen hero not only has to save the entire world, but also a female character – often of royal descent. In my opinion, this feels like it’s used too much, almost like a filler in some cases. Admittedly, it can work and often does, but on occasions it’s definitely overdone, and executed poorly, making the “damsel” out to be a very weak character always in need of help.
Now this wasn’t as much of an issue in retro games as it is today (though it did still exist to an extent), but for some reason recent games love to lock us out of areas with no real explanation. One character says “Sorry, that area’s off limits” and that’s that, no entry until they decide it’s okay, normally after advancing a certain amount in the story. While this can occasionally work – for example, in Dragon Age: Inquisition some areas are only accessible after certain missions have taken place to ensure peace or safety – it’s often just annoying. When the reason behind it makes no sense, it seems pointless to be shut out, especially when you’re just going to go there later.
Bridges Between Retro Games and Modern Games
So, what makes modern games so similar to the retro games we all know and love? Well, a lot of the gameplay is very familiar, if not the same nowadays, for a simple reason: it works. It feels comfortable, easy to use, and essentially enhances the experience. Like how controllers stopped changing after a certain point, basic gameplay ended up doing the same. Movement is almost always controlled via the left joystick, camera (in games where you can control the camera) with the right, attack is normally either the bottom button or the leftmost button on the right-hand side, right trigger is accelerate in racing games, left to brake, it’s all very standard, and that’s because it’s what players have grown used to. It’s a bonus to the game for developers to keep the controls this way because players already know the basics without a tutorial.
In addition to the tropes and the gameplay, many modern games still go through all the same story elements that retro games used. Starting off slow and steady, and readily getting more action packed and fast paced is a tried and tested storyline that’s worked for years. It ensures the player isn’t thrown in at the deep end too soon (unless you’re talking about Dark Souls, anyway) and slowly builds them up, so that the game keeps their attention constantly.
The Future of Gaming
Despite all this, video games are still relatively new in the scheme of things. With inventions such as Virtual Reality headsets, who knows which direction gaming will go next. The controls could end up completely revamped for all we know, though I would hope they would still remain somewhat similar so as to not become overcomplicated. No matter where gaming takes us, you can be it will still be enjoyable – and I bet if you looked really closely, you would still find inspiration taken from the good old classics.