This week Destructoid is sponsored in part by Wendy's, who revived their classic "Where's the Beef?" campaign with a T-Shirt making contest that can land one lucky winner $5,000. Don't vote for mine (pictured above). Vote for someone with a serious student loan or someone who will pledge their winnings to Child's Play. You can be a hero! Also, go buy some square-shaped hamburgers so we can keep the lights on. Were any of you even born when this commercial was airing?
Speaking of feisty old people, I'll share an old story. Back when I covered the news beat at Destructoid, one of my favorite things to do was grill industry juggernauts for saying incredibly stupid things they'd soon regret like this quote by walking legend Nolan Bushnell, creator of Atari and Chuck-e-Cheese, extolling that "Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I'm sad for that." Free facepalms for everyone from the father of videogames! I think it's safe to say that's perhaps a more fitting description of Atari's portfolio that calendar year.
Mr. Bushnell has long since redeemed himself ten times over, and I think most of us will agree that there's never been a better time for videogames than today. Still, there's just something about those classic games that make us retro-loving old-timers say the darndest things.
Still, a small part of me agrees with Mr. Bushnell's bold sentiment. You'll cry yourself to sleep tonight when I remind you that last year's best-selling UK title was Zumba Fitness, not the brilliant Super Mario Rehash 5000 or Zelda: Cool Sky Story Bro. Still, breakout titles like Minecraft, Katamari Damacy, and Angry Birds prove that "the hook" of a pure and fun game can outsell a mass-market budgeted copycat production. It's a reminder that classic games weren't just greatly designed. They were first and unique, and our insatiable appetites for something new is what makes us love and remember those oldies.
Classics like Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Space Invaders would seed countless sequels and clones. These games were mind-blowing at the time, but more importantly they were first to deliver a unique gameplay experience you couldn't buy anywhere else. Even the best-selling Wii titles of today aren't sequels: they're games that exploit new gameplay mechanics. Today's jaded gamer can choose a thousand titles exploiting the same root game mechanic, and that is kind of sad.
Perhaps the next time I sit down with another game design team whose working another World War II shooter or better-than-Warcraft hopeful, I should just interject: "Stop! It's been done! Where's the beef?"