Missed Treasure of the Week – Contra Edition

I stumbled across this article/video from Kotaku earlier this week, and I passed over it fairly quickly.  Well just today I remembered it and decided to give it another read and I’m glad I did.

The article and accompanying video are about a precocious young boy named Dylan and his older counterparts put him up to the challenge of playing Contra on an emulator for the original NES. What transpires is something most old school gamers would consider bloody murder. There is truth to the fact that the boy makes in his short impression of a game that is considered one the greats.  It just depends on how you look it at.

Its been 22 years since Contra was released on the NES.  If you were to put this game in front of a child one of 3 things could happen based on that child’s experiences.

Exhibit A.  If the child has never played a video game before or has only been exposed to games of this graphical quality, or style of game they would either enjoy the challenge or become frustrated.

Exhibit B. If the child has grown up seeing the changes in video gaming and has been exposed to multiple generations of games they might be more inclined to play a game like this.

Exhibit C.  If the child has grown up playing current generation video games only, and playing a game like this is his first exposure to a previous generation console game they will more than likely be turned off by the graphics and simple game play.Up, Up, Down, Down, B, A, B, A, Select, Start

Exhibit C closely resembles Dylan as he is asked a series of questions regarding his experience with Contra.  I should preface that this is not a “study” of any psychological caliber.  It was put together by a few of the guys from www.nerdballon.com.  They decided to start a series of 5 videos giving the thoughts of an 11 year on some of the hardest games ever released.  The games are all older as this is meant to give the impressions of a young boy on the games that we used to play.  These were games we bragged about for months when we beat it, and the games we used to want to break our controllers over.  What better idea then to see how an 11 year old kid describes his experience with something like this, in today’s world.

What interested me is in listening to the video, the kid seems to not want to speak much about it.  He seems centered on two games that he must play a lot… Call of Duty: World at War, and Halo 3.  Now for serious gamers who know these two franchises, they know about the swarms of pre-teen kids who are always online, smack talking, and kicking their asses day in and day out.  They obviously have more time than us and kids to pick up things quickly.  They are our competition and in many cases they are better than us.  This is fine because they do spend most of their time playing these games all the time.  this also brings me to the point of the Halo and the Call of Duty Generation.

So Easy if you know where to stand.We know these types of players.  They are the ones that only play these two games, and seem to base everything around them.  Granted, this is the type of game they seem to really enjoy and more power to them.  Myself as the type of gamer who plays just about everything, except most sports games, think that these kids need to expand their horizons a bit.  Try an adventure game, or a role playing game.  Maybe a puzzle, or a simulator or maybe an RTS.  Point being, don’t be that kid who only plays one genre and thinks all games beyond that are stupid.  Now I don’t know if Dylan does play anything else, but from the video it sure seems as though he doesn’t.  Which frustrates me.

In watching the video I gathered a slew of impressions which I have put to make things easier…

“Contra is hard compared to Halo 3 or Call of Duty: World at War”

“Never played a game like contra before, didn’t want to expand on as to why”

“Graphics suck compared to Halo and Call of Duty.  When a guy is shot, his head doesn’t blow apart, or any sort of dismemberment appears”

“Thinks the music is boring”

“Other games you can take a few hits, but in this game 1 shot = instant death”

“He was only able to get to the boss of level 1”

“On a scale of 1 – 10 this game is a 9 on the hardness scale”

“Says if he had the NES and a Contra game in front of him he would play it and put some time into it.  Then immediately changes his mind”

“Would rather play Call of Duty or Halo 3”

Now like I said, I get it.  I understand this is a different generation of gamers.  But it never gets easier to SPOILER ALERT!  This is the last boss!see new gamers turn the other cheek to the games that paved the road for games like Call of Duty or Halo.  I also realize that in everything with a history to it, that the old timers tend to wonder why the kids today don’t appreciate such things.  I guess as a 28 year veteran of gaming, it makes me feel old that I am sitting here 23 years later complaining about a kid who doesn’t like that games that I liked when I was a kid.

Graphics tend to be the selling point for most gamers.  The difficulty will set some apart, and bring some people together, it just all depends.  And the “Name” is the most important part.  Cause if its not recognizable, or hasn’t had a prequel, or trilogy then the game means nothing to those who aren’t versed in checking out a new IP or doing their research.

I think the point that I’m getting at is this.  If you are an adult with influence over young gamers, or possibly even a parent, do your part in educating your child into what will become a big part of their lives.  Like father like son, is pretty accurate cliche’ considering gaming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Make sure your kids know what started all this, let them experience these kinds of games that made you into the enthusiast you are today, but do it at an early age or it might be too late.

We need to preserve these games for ourselves but also for the newcomers.  We can all argue about which games are good and which aren’t.  Which game had the better graphics or the most substance.  These arguments will go on forever but you have the ability to influence the ones around you to learn to appreciate where games started.  I think its important and I hope you do to.

Be sure to check out their next episode entitled “Project D: Episode 2 Battletoads” which will have young Dylan playing Battletoads for the NES.  This is arguably one of the harder games on the NES (Hence the point of their project).  Seriously guys are you trying to piss this kid off intentionally?  Make sure you put Fester’s Quest in there for good measure.

One response to “Missed Treasure of the Week – Contra Edition

  1. It’s an interesting study, but one thing I’d like to say is that this gamer doesn’t want to play hard games anymore either. Contra? Fuck that. Ninja Gaiden? Fuuuuck that. Battletoads? Fuuuuuuuuuuck that.

    The thing with gaming difficulty, to me, is that it is a byproduct of a time when games had to be made more difficult just to lengthen the amount of time a player would get out of it. As time has gone by and games have become more cinematic, people have become more comfortable with a shorter game as long as the quality is there.

    And it’s not just the kids – I’m a grown ass man, who played all of those hard games of yesteryear and I am totally comfortable with saying that I would be completely fine if I never had to play a game like that again. For me, it’s not the graphics or the music or the simplicity. All of that nostalgia is still there. But as games have evolved, so have my tastes.

    Games are better now. Plain and simple. Doesn’t mean those old games aren’t an important part of our hobby’s history – or even my own life’s history; but the medium has evolved to a point where we really are in the golden age of gaming – the age where our ‘nerdy’ hobby now rakes in more money that the film industry. Where a story can be told in a way never dreamed by the team working on the original Zelda. Where a game doesn’t have to piss you off to make you want to beat it. And to that, I’ll raise my glass any time!

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