We all love a list, so every Tuesday we’re posting one, on a variety of retro-themed topics! Feel free to share your own favourites down below — and let us know what other lists you’d like to see on future Tuesdays!
NFTs suck and, pretty much without exception, the people pushing NFTs suck too. They’d like us to believe that their environment-ruining, smug Twitter user-producing virtual bellend factories are the way of the future, not just in gaming, but in all aspects of life.
Trouble is, you see, NFTs are solving a problem that doesn’t exist. And by introducing them into games — as Ubisoft announced they are going to be doing very soon — you’re taking video games, a simple entertainment medium, and turning them into yet another means for grifters to cynically make money by exploiting others.
And the stupid thing is that NFTs really don’t need to be part of games, because there have been gazillions of games up until this point that feature a significant collection element. And you know what? They were good games — because they were built as good games, not as business platforms.
Let’s celebrate ten examples of developers Doing It Right, then, shall we? And join me in a rousing chorus of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, If You Love NFTs, Get In the Bin” before the night is over.
This one needs no introduction, surely. A game based around collecting things, where your ability to collect said things is based around a combination of your skill, your strategy, your knowledge of the game world, a healthy dose of good old-fashioned dumb luck — and occasionally your willingness to negotiate a mutually advantageous (and money-free) trade with a friend.
Now imagine how much Pokémon would suck balls if you could just pay up three thousand non-existent space dollars to get the exact slight variation on Pikachu you wanted as an NFT — only to discover that it’s not actually any use to you whatsoever, and whoops, the market has crashed in the last five minutes. Sucks to be you!
Whatever you may think of Activision and Blizzard these days, there’s little denying that Diablo II remains one of the finest loot-whoring action RPGs ever created. With a seemingly endless amount of items to acquire, allowing you a ridiculous level of customisation over exactly how your character plays, Diablo II has never quite been matched by any other loot-centric action RPGs — not even its own follow-ups.
Now imagine the thrill over a boss dropping a Legendary item you weren’t expecting being replaced by paying up three thousand non-existent space dollars to get the exact item you want as an NFT. Somehow wouldn’t quite be as satisfying, would it? Some might say it would make the entire experience of playing the game a bit pointless.
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 features 120 collectible stars, each with their own name and designed to be a reward for accomplishing a particular objective in the game’s wonderful playground-like levels. They each have meaning; as you acquire them for yourself, you build up a collection of your own personal stories about your struggles to succeed against increasingly unreasonable odds. And when you finally complete that collection — man, it feels good.
Now imagine if you could just pay up three thousand non-existent space dollars per star just to say you had it as an NFT. They have no effect on the gameplay other than their original purpose of showing that you completed a particular challenge — meaning that if the option to purchase them was present, they would be completely meaningless.
Ridge Racer Type 4
Ridge Racer Type 4 is, as we’ve previously discussed, the best racing game of all time. And its main replay value comes from its significant collection aspect: pretty much every combination of difficulty level and results it’s possible to attain in the game results in you acquiring a new car, with 321 in total available for you to get your hands on. (The secret “Pac-Man” car is your reward for collecting all 320 of the “main” cars.)
Like in Super Mario 64, your car collection in Ridge Racer Type 4 is a sign of how much you’ve played the game — and perhaps how your skills have grown over time. Spend three thousand non-existent space dollars for an NFT of a car and it doesn’t exactly have the same meaning, because you haven’t earned it.
The same is pretty much true for Gran Turismo — only in the case of Gran Turismo, the game’s significant simulation element means that each and every car you own in the game can potentially be a real labour of love that you’ve put genuine effort into. I have particularly fond memories of my friend and I getting a battered old Mitsubishi pile of shit up to over 400 km/h on a straightaway. Okay, it couldn’t go round corners, but on the plus side, it would kill you instantly as soon as you smashed into the wall.
Now imagine if instead of earning the in-game currency through your own efforts at the races, spending that in-game money on the car and then tweaking all those settings to your exact specifications, you simply bought a tricked-out car as an NFT using three thousand non-existent space dollars. Wouldn’t really feel like “your” car any more, would it?
In some respects, we can look on the SNES version of the original SimCity as inventing the concept of achievements — by accomplishing various specific tasks in the game, you’d be rewarded with special buildings that you could place anywhere in your city, and which would bring prosperity to the area around them. You had to work for these buildings, sure — and some of the requirements were a little esoteric — but when you finally got your hands on one, it was all worth it, particularly when it allowed you to make a favourite part of the city even better than it already was.
Now imagine buying a super-awesome building as an NFT using three thousand non-existent space dollars. Might as well not be playing the game at that point. Go outside and spend your money on something that exists.
Adventure games are, by their very nature, collectathons of a sort. As you explore the game world, you’ll gradually build up an inventory of items, and eventually you’ll figure out the purpose of each and every one of them. Assuming they have a purpose, since particularly in the early days of adventure games, creators were rather fond of including red herring or “treasure” items that had no other function than either cluttering up your inventory or giving you additional points at the end of the game.
Now imagine solving a puzzle you’ve been stuck on for hours, and instead of overcoming it yourself and feeling the warm glow of satisfaction that results from knowing you haven’t resorted to GameFAQs this time around, you instead pay up three thousand non-existent space dollars for an NFT of the item you need. Bonus points if you buy the wrong item and can’t then offload it to some other gullible idiot.
Braben and Bell’s classic space-trading game is all about learning the way the in-game universe works and setting up some in-game shipping routes that will allow you to make the most money, upgrade your ship and generally dominate the galaxy in whichever way you see fit.
Like any other game in which in-game currency is a reward for learning how to play the game properly and discovering things about it, pretty much all meaning of the game as a pure entertainment experience is lost the moment you introduce real money; it becomes a business platform, and you might as well just be trading stocks. Spend your three thousand non-existent space dollars on an NFT of some illegal weaponry, by all means, but I reserve every right to laugh my ass off when you lose it the moment an Ethereum-connected Thargoid pulls you out of hyperspace and blows you to cryptosmithereens.
The Professor Layton series, as well as being a range of charming adventure games, allows you to gradually collect an assortment of puzzles that you can review at your leisure. When you beat the game, you have clear proof of your achievement in the form of that album of cleared puzzles — plus in many installments, there are some bonus puzzles to take on too.
Now imagine that if instead of discovering puzzles around the game world and gradually adding them to your collection as you solve them, you just pay up three thousand non-existent space dollars to acquire various puzzles as NFTs. And then never solve them because you bought them as an “investment”, not to be tampered with. You insufferable wank.
You know what, just thinking about this list is making me angry. Fuck NFTs, and a fat middle finger to any gaming companies who think they’re a good idea for the future of the medium. As I type this, I am sitting amid two full walls of games from a variety of past generations, none of which want any of my money to enjoy continued engagement with them.
NFTs do not belong in video games. So, dear reader, I implore you, please do not go anywhere near them if you want our beloved medium to survive in the way we’ve always loved it.