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Opinion: The State of Outdoor Video Games

by on February 6, 2018

In the summer of 1998, I was dying to play a new Nintendo 64 game.  As I wasted away in the California heat, my Mom told me the magic words that any gamer loved to here – “while I’m out, I’m going to grab a video game for you.”  I was ecstatic!  I didn’t get my Nintendo 64 until well after launch, and there were plenty of amazing games that I wanted to try.  So when my Mom got home, I couldn’t wait to see what she got.  She handed me the bag, and I saw…..Waialae Country Club Golf.

In hindsight, I should have been way more specific about what I wanted.  However, I also didn’t want to be ungrateful for any game that she bought me.  A game is a game, right?  I decided to not act like an ungrateful brat and give Waialae Golf a try.

Oh, how I loved that game the minute I started playing!!!  Sure, the gameplay wasn’t the most intuitive or groundbreaking.  But everything worked well.  The courses looked great and the mechanics were sound.  I ended up putting in at least 50-60 hours for the rest of the summer.

In recent years, we have seen less and less realistic outdoor sports franchises.  We have yearly installments for Madden, FIFA, etc.  But where are our golfing games?  Our fishing games?  Our hunting games?  And I’m not talking arcade games like Everybody’s Golf.  I’m talking about games that attempt to give a realistic simulation.

The sad reality is popularity is waining, and gamers want something a little more fast-paced.  Current generation consoles (Xbox One and Playstation 4) have had very few outdoor game releases.  A quick Google search will show that in the past 5 years, we have seen 4 fishing games, 2 hunting games, and 4 hunting games.  We had a least double that in previous generations!  So what happened?  Well, we can first look at the technical aspects of these games.

Take Eurofishing for example.  Eurofishing, from Dovetail Games, is a realistic fishing game that features some of the most challenging gameplay that I have ever experienced.  Having to know which fishing pole and bait to use is one thing.  But Eurofishing requires you to be on your game as you reel the fish in specific directions while tightening or loosening the slack on your line.  It took me quite a few tries to get semi-competent at reeling in a fish.   To a newcomer, it asks a bit much.  Not only is the gameplay pretty challenging, but Eurofishing is a little too real.  There is a waiting game to be played whenever you fish, and Eurofishing shows it off to perfection.  It won’t be easy to find a fish, just like in real life.  The graphics look nice but could use some fine-tuning.

I still enjoyed the game, despite the negatives that I mentioned above.  But many others may not have agreed with me.  Sales numbers were underwhelming (90,000 Steam owners have it since 2015, according to SteamSpy).  And the underwhelming critic scores didn’t help.

Golf Club 2 launched last year to fair reviews.  Overall, critics agree that it is better than it’s predecessor.  Yet it may not be accessible for all gamers.  And then there is this dagger from the PC Gamer review: “And it’s not like there’s any competition to worry about.”  Ouch.

What needs to change for realistic outdoor games to become more popular?  I think it depends on how you sell the game.  Emphasis should be placed on the realism and learning curve.  Want something easy and fast?  Throw on Everybody’s Golf.  But if you want a more meaningful experience that requires patience, time, and learning?  Then Golf Club 2 is the game for you.  Or Eurofishing.  Or any other outdoor game.  If anything, we need to advertise the experience and the benefits of spending long hours on these types of games.

It’s easier said than done.  And with the number of games being released every week, it is easy to miss games like these and turn to short, quick gaming experiences.  I hope we don’t lose realistic outdoor games.  I know there are gamers out there, like myself, who want to spend hours in games like these.  We just need to find a way to reach them before we lose the genre forever.

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