Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are Youngsters Really Brain Dead?

Just found this link.

Are they serious? How do you look at people like that with a straight face?


  1. At least they like Defender. I remember purposely sacrificing the humans to prevent them from turning into aliens. Sorry, little buddy, but better dead than Red!

  2. Huh, Ultima IV is unplayable? Well, maybe they are brain dead.

  3. No they aren't. I just presented a paper at a mini-conference called "The Kids Are Alright: Technology and Media Use among the Millennials"

    The newer generation is no more smarter or dumber than we were (I'd vote smarter given some of the crap going on in the 70's and 80's when I was a kid), they just attend to different things than the generation before.

    Read any old educational research, people have been saying the same things for the last 100+ years.

  4. I'm not very good at articulating myself over the internet but I'm going to do my best.

    Young people are just as bad as they've ever been.
    A very small minority of young people today have the patience or the temperament or the autism or whatever it takes to play old games like early ultimas and roguelikes and zork and planescape and xcom and etc etc.
    Most of them do not.

    This isn't so unlike twenty-five or however many years ago; only a small minority of young people played these games then. The difference is that now there are so many other video games and you erroneously try to compare the players of these games to the players of those games.

    That article talks about the skill-set and assumptions which the modern video game playing students don't have.
    To put that in perspective: twenty-five years ago it was assumed that most people using a computer, even one with a graphical OS, would be comfortable using a command line. Today barely anyone using windows or macos can use the command line or terminal.
    On the one hand, yes, this means that 99% of the user base are idiots who don't understand how their machines work. On the other hand, if this skillset was still necessary, 99% of those 99% probably wouldn't use a computer.

    The original point I was hoping to make wasn't to argue in the defense of the players of the brain dead video games but rather to point out that many young players who enjoy the kind of gameplay found in older games like Ultima IV still exist, and that most modern videogamers probably wouldn't have played Ultima IV if they'd been this age when it first came out either.

  5. Yeah, I don't recall most kids in my high school being really into Shakespeare, or Beethoven, or Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, or D&D for that matter.

    It's not just teenagers. Go to your local shopping mall, grab 100 random people of ages 18-55, and see how well they like Ultima IV.

    People of all ages have always kind of sucked.

  6. @Tim, when I was 19 I could use and enjoy 20 year old technology.

    People have been saying the younger generation is spoiled,rude, poorly educated and not so bright for a couple thousand years now, and in the mean they've been correct. ;-)

  7. I dunno, when's the last time you tried playing Ultima IV? Call me brain-dead if you want, but I downloaded it a few years ago and quickly lost interest. Now Ultima VI? THAT'S still a damn fine game.

  8. Ultima V was my favorite, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the gameplay improvements from IV to V wouldn't have saved the game for this class. (being able to shoot at angles, for the most part)

    I didn't much like Part VI... the interface made things complicated (frickin mouse) and the advance in graphics made Britannia seem very small (a problem that was exacerbated in Part VII).

    I've played both V and VI extensively within the past couple of years - complete with notebooks by the computer to keep track of who said what.

  9. Me, I never liked Ultima 4 because of the heavy-handed way it forced its agenda on the player. You have all this freedom, but the game expects you to use it in only one specific way if you want to be able be successful (be a goody-good paladin type).

    But the murdering, stealing, and generally being an asshole was so much more fun!

    Dumb way to design a game, IHMO. False choices suck. But that's what happens, I guess, when part of the designer's motivation was a desire not to offend BADD, of all things!

    Anyway, graham is right. What percentage of kids were running Ultima 4 on a home PC back in 1985 anyway? Of the small number that were, circumstances would dictate that most of them had previous PC adventure game experience, as well. So what would their much more numerous peers who were playing Gradius at the arcade and Super Mario Bros. at home have made of Ultima? Probably, you'd see quotes similar to the ones in that article.

  10. So after reading that I feel extra smug, because the way we got games back in the day was cracked copies passed hand to hand, with *no* additional supporting material. So I played, to completion, Ultima IV, ab nihilo, figuring out everything by trial and error, trading information with the couple other kids who were playing the game. Of course it took us months!

    But I agree with Graham, even back then most of the other kids would have agreed that what we were doing was "dumb & boring".

  11. Let's not forget that these Ultima games were HUGE back in the day. They were not obscure cult classics that only got recognition later.

  12. "Let's not forget that these Ultima games were HUGE back in the day."

    Huge for what they were. It would be a mistake to hold any Ultima title up against something like a flagship console title for total sales.

  13. I'm sure that Nintendo or Atari or whichever was the big one at that time was bigger than PC gaming, but that doesn't mean that PC gaming was insignificant even back in the mid-80s.

  14. Insignificant, no, but the whole point is that complex adventure games like Ultima were completely foreign to the majority of children at the time. Thus, they would, arguably, have been no less loss, frustrated, and dissatisfied with them on average than the children described in the post you linked.

  15. One problem with examining the case of Ultima IV (and other games like it that came with boxes full of stuff) in this context is that for many of us U-IV isn't solely a computer game, it's a multimedia experience. Pawing the occult tomes and puzzling over the enruned maps were important parts of the fun for those of us who, unlike Rafial, who owned legit copies. Computer gaming is much more ephemeralized nowadays since so much of the raw text intended for the user to digest is presented onscreen, via cutscreens, etc. Remember the dungeony games that came with cluebooks you had to look stuff up in? Same basic conceptual problem. There's no good reason for kids today to understand the concept unless you teach it to them. And once they understand, there's no real reason for the majority of them to prefer the old ways any more than you would expect ordinary music listeners to pick Edison's wax cylinders over CDs.

  16. It's also likely that kids these days have a much higher standard of what they expect from a game in terms of accessibility, usability and flow. I didn't used to mind sitting for hours hammering on a bad interface, with no discernible purpose to the "game". Also, it's possible that they are not willing to spend 100 hours before the "fun part".

    To put it in terms I know you'll appreciate - I used to be willing to read entire David Eddings series... but now I'm not - should I subject kids to that, just because I subjected myself?

    Word verification: Abworr - pretty much how I feel about David Edding's stock characters now.

  17. ... I think Ultima IV, because of its lack of an obvious "purpose," is the coolest damn thing ever. I liked V's gameplay better but hated that there was an overbearing quest driving the game.

  18. Actually one of the people I always played Ultima IV with reads this blog. I'm sure he remembers all that time spent on IV before we figured out what we were supposed to do with it. :)

  19. Heh, well, you can probably sympathize with these kids who were asked to figure that out in a five day period, then.

  20. But we enjoyed the exploration and the fact you could talk to all these people about anything! Or so it seemed...

    Be a Joe!

  21. James, perhaps you refer to Ultima IV and V sessions where at 11-12 we played alongside one another.

    Let me preface this by saying, I believe that Ultima V and Ultima IV are both in particular easily in the Top 5 of computer games of all time. Still I have played Ultima V as James has recently, both the original version, and the Lazarus remake.

    How can we not mention Lazarus here - leveraging Dungeon Siege engine, modernized, would the kids still have not liked it Ultima V?

    I think this is whole thing is multi-factorial:

    One, if we include @Will's comments re: total reach of the audience despite Richard Garriott living in a mansion and vaulting into outer space as testimonial to the $$ he accrued, it is accurate. In the public consciousness, 80's turn-based, top-down RPGs never had the ubiquity of Mario.

    Two, if we had the subset of young pen & paper gamers who now play WoW pick up Ultima IV, I'll bet they'd like it once settling in and make progress.

    Three, the injection of adhering to moral code as a path to victory when frankly in all other games the tendency is to encourage the opposite is contrary to like, every game out there. You have to be nice to strangers, never flee.
    You have to not just indiscriminately use the skull of Mondain to slay villages. Not rob the blind magical reagents merchant.

    Four and lastly, and obvious: the other games he teaches have far shorter completion hours estimated than Ultima does. In fact, even without waiting to change discs each time I entered a town, progress is inherently slower.

    You have to spend lots of time learning virtue, and acting like it.
    You have to talk to citizens and learn mantras, lessons.
    You have to like all games, grind it out fighting monsters repeatedly earning XP and gaining treasure.
    You have to walk your character across a big map with interferences, navigate dungeons, etc.

    Anyway, you get the point. There are many reasons it doesn't resonate. The last may be the most important: After a few days, I felt like I had made no progress either when I was 12... but I still loved it.

  22. Don't know anything about U-IV but I do know a few things about teaching. The future belongs to creative problem-solving lateral thinkers. Young people who excel in these areas will be the leaders and innovators of the future. The rest will work for them. Game on!

  23. Kids nowadays are pretty fucking smart. Each generation gets smarter. Pop culture is what is getting stupider by the minute. If the majority doesn't blow up civilization first, I'm fairly certain my descendants will be doing crazy sci fi shit as if it were normal. Think about every time an old person has looked at you using a computer as though you were a genius.

  24. I don't think that being able to use technology is a sign of intelligence. (building/programming that technology is different matter though)

    Being unwilling to read a manual falls under the "dumb as a box of rocks" category to use the example given in the story. Remember these were college freshmen, theoretically fully functioning adults, not little kids, being discussed.

  25. IMO, it's much more a conflict of expectations than an indication of intelligence. Things called "games" now don't have the same expectations of the user than things called "games" then did. Unsurprisingly, when one brings users expecting explicitly-stated goals and easy-to-learn elaborate tutorials designed to decrease learning curves one should expect this kind of result.

    The existence of a long manual that's required to understand a game is somewhat analogous to having to hit the choke to start a car for a modern user. The users expectations are more a sign of *age* and *experience* than intelligence.

  26. http://www.80sgaming.org/ultima-parody/

    Wow. Playing it now, on work time.

  27. "Being unwilling to read a manual falls under the "dumb as a box of rocks" category"

    Not at all. jgbrowning is right: It's a matter of how information is exchanged in the current cultural climate and more specifically multi-media approaches and the modern paradigm of videogames. Your conclusion is weak and you should look into why a smart person like you rests on such a weak conclusion instead of pushing onwards to achieve a more informed opinion.

    I speak as a 26 year old who has finished several 'Temple of Apshai' games (where you would read the descriptions of rooms from the manual while playing a very bare-bones schematic representation of single-character d&d on your c64), originally published in 1982-4. I finished them fairly recently. You go in a room and there's nothing there on the screen, it says 'room 8' on top and you read the entry for room 8 in the manual that might mention a tapestry in the NW corner of the screen. You'd then go to the NW in the game and give the command 'examine' and you might find a secret door there. You get how ass-backwards this is a way to play a videogame today? I realize the challenges of that sort of gaming very well and I think comparatively, those kids are making an informed (not right, nor wrong) choice on how to spend their gaming time by not reading the Ultima IV manual.

    What's important to keep from my comment is that you're wrong and you should research more to become right :)