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Game Room: Lame Room, or Why It Failed

cryingWhen Microsoft announced it was bringing a new feature called Game Room to the Xbox 360, I was intrigued. It announced it was going to recreate games from the 80s arcades, the Atari 2600, and Mattel Intellivision, to name a few. The focus was going to be on making this game as close to the originals as possible, with original graphics, music, and the like. It even went as far as to say it would release new games on a regular basis for the Game Room. Sweeeet.

This had me digging through boxes in my basement to find my cassette Walkman and my mix tapes. I was all set to have my own Hot Tub Time Machine in my basement.

Then it was released. There were all sorts of problems getting it to load right off the get-go. This should have been a sign. Eventually the early bugs were worked out, and we all could play the first round of games.

But something wasn’t right. I wasn’t having any fun. The games? They didn’t play like they did on the original consoles. I was freaking out. I was supposed to love the Game Room. It was my past. My destiny. A trip down memory lane and back to the future all in one package. How could anyone screw up an old, simple game so badly?

After trying every game at least once, and several more than once, I finally figured out why I wasn’t reliving my past on the Xbox in all its glory and in my mind it had failed.

The first problem was how the game physcially played with the Xbox controller. This wasn’t Microsoft’s fault. Back then most of the games were designed for a joystick and a button or two, or a paddle. This didn’t translate well at all to the more sophisticated Xbox controller. Without the actual joystick or paddle in your hand, the game just didn’t play the same. In fact, it didn’t play well at all, making it very frustrating to enjoy. The Intellivision game controls were even worse in the Game Room, as you had to hit a button to call up the old clunky Intellivision controller, then move around on the game pad to press buttons. This made just about every Intellivision game unplayable in its original format. It as a nice try, but it sadly failed in my opinion.

Second, there was no online head-to-head play (at least as of this writing). Most, if not all, of the Intellivision sports games required two players. Unless you had a second person in the room with you, there was no way to play. Even some of the Atari games like Outlaw and Combat were no fun without a friend playing. Without the ability to play online with someone, a lot of these games were dead in the water. Yeah, you couldn’t play the original version with anyone online back then because there was no online back then. But this is something that should have been added. I’m gonna put this one on Microsoft.

Third, and this one falls on Microsoft too, was the price. Paying $3 to play on Xbox or Windows Live or $5 to play on both was just way too much for these games. Perhaps if they played better I may have purchased one or two at this price. Or knowing that they played badly compared to the original, I may have bought a few at fifty cents or a dollar each. I could deal with one or the other, but not both. At this price, it just didn’t work. Especially since these games are just so simple and so dated.

Which brings me to my last point: Yes, these games are just plain old. They were fun back then, but they are just not much fun anymore. Not for more than a quick game and some personal nostalgia. I thought I would enjoy playing these more than I did, but 30 years or so haven’t been kind to these boys. Not considering what you can play on the Xbox today.

If all the pieces had fallen into place, Game Room could have been a blast. But janky controls, no online play, and an expensive price for what you get have left these fossils in the dust. I feel bad for the people who have to keep pumping out games to the Game Room, just to keep their word. My Game Room has long since been uninstalled.

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