Gaming in today's day and age is great

Discussion in 'General Gaming Discussion' started by Taleweaver, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. Taleweaver
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    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    There. It had to be said. Every so often I visit these threads, I pick up parts of posts that seem to imply doom and disaster in the gaming world. If a game is unoptimized at launch, it's a scandal. If a game is delayed, canceled (project cars on wiiu) or doesn't live up to expectations (watch_dogs), it's a prime target for mockery. Franchises have become stale, the new consoles are inferior to PC's, nintendo is doomed, and so on, and so on. This is a nice example.

    I'm now 34, which probably means I've been around gaming longer than many other gamers. And while it's certainly true I'm a bit nostalgic, I'm wondering if some gamers are only remembering the good side of reality. Hence this article. I'll probably sound like an old fart mumbling something about whippersnappers needing to get off my gaming lawn...but here I am proclaiming gaming is now better than...well, perhaps not better than EVER (I'm not blind to today's imperfections), but sure as hell better than it once was.


    1. gaming was EXPENSIVE

    I had a game boy when I was young (say...20-25 years ago). And I still remember the prices: 1500 Belgian Franks for most games, give or take a couple hundred. Console and PC games were around 2000. That's 37 euro, respectively 49.5 euro's. Not taking inflation into account, and especially since the switch to the euro, everything got a hellovalot more expensive. Except games, that is.
    This was also before retailers (at least in my country) got the idea of selling second hand games directly next to new ones. Sure, we traded games a lot at school, but in stores, prices stayed steady for months and probably years after release.

    PC gaming was a bitch as well. Or owning PC's, for that matter. Before windows XP and dual core processors, PC's were (relatively) flaky, unreliable and outdated before you could even install the damn thing. Reinstalling your PC every year or so was very common, and unless you had way too much money, you really had to check the required specs on new games to see if your PC met the demand.

    Compare that to today. Consoles and handhelds...sort of kept the same price range (probably a bit cheaper if you compare it to the price of other items then and now). But games' prices have plummeted to an almost embarrassing level. Wait a couple months after release date and you'll easily find any game half the price (EDIT: okay, admitted: nintendo's games are an exception here). The indie scene provides plenty of awesome games for the price of a freaking soda, and old games...well, there ARE old games now (getting retro games before internet went mainstream was more a matter of luck than skill).

    And of course gaming PC's became affordable. Okay, it'll still cost you a pretty penny if you want top of the line, but today all it gets you is +60 FPS at maxed settings. There was a time where you needed to spend that money if you wanted the modern games of that day to run faster than a slideshow. If you bought a brand new rig in 1990, it was average or even outdated in 1995. If you bought a brand new rig in 2006, it may still serve as a decent PC for indie games (or some AAA-titles at low settings) now.

    Oh, and something I downright forgot to mention: (standalone) mods, abandonware, fan remakes and freeware. The latter was...somewhat around on PC gaming, but was hardly ever anything more than tech demos or disguised shareware (and later on: flash games). While freemium is still somewhat rampant on mobile platforms (usually in the form of 'it's free if you watch some advertisement or let us spy on everything you do'), there are quite some projects that were simply unthinkable before. Trackmania, openTTC, openRA, fistful of frags, team fortress 2...you really don't have to look hard to find more than decent games for the price of zero bucks (check here for just one list).

    2. information was scarce

    this may sound odd, as I'm sure plenty of gamers from my age will rack up piles and piles of magazines of those days. But no matter how high you stack it, it's no comparison to the internet of today. And that showed: though I consider myself a gamer, I rarely knew release dates of games. In today's day and age, it's perfectly normal to hear about games months and even years in advance, back then you usually heard about it when it was released (keep in mind this was before companies truly realised the value of franchises). Today, knowing which games are out in Japan is but a google away. Try getting that information without using the internet and you'll see the difference.

    Perhaps it sounds controversial, but the very fact that gaming journalists are sometimes accused of being subjective is a very good thing. If you still have old gaming magazines, check out a game you know is bad and read "reviews" for it. Those guys were simply paid by the companies to write propaganda, and who was going to complain? Adult gamers were relatively rare and children like me were just too dumb to realise it (I bet at one point or another, we've all bought a terrible game and learned that way that objectivity was a lie).
    Needless to say: no youtube means no let's plays, critic reviews or independent reviews. And while nostalgics sometimes bring up that thrill of finding a new franchise entry in stores (super mario land...2???? :D :D :D ), it's not like any of us actually want to go back to that time.

    3. not all games were great

    When nostalgics talk about the games of yore, notice how they'll only mention a fraction of the games that were available. It's as if the early nineties were a parade of great games like Castlevania, Super Mario, Contra, Sonic, C&C, pac-man, mega man, tetris and what have you. They weren't. Sure, those games were there. Sure, they quickly rose to the top of popularity. But they were NOT the only ones. For every game that was considered good or great, there were at least as many mediocre to bad games out there. And that's not including the knock-off's, because developers copy-pasting what worked for others was just as much an issue as before (double dragon, streets of rage and final fight are considered classics, but how are they different?).
    And figuring out which games were good was mostly a matter of mouth-to-mouth. There's no other way to tell whether "metroid" is better than "slalom"...the box art certainly doesn't tell you (*insert notorious example*). Just take a look at a game list of just about any retro console and think about how many of 'em you've never heard of. Nonetheless, all of these were marketed and sold at some point, at a price point that's higher than any game by today's standards.

    ET often gets pulled up as the worst game ever, but while it's certainly true, you have to look at that in perspective. Games weren't an industry back then. ET was before my time, but everything points in the direction that large companies regarded video games as a fad, something in the same lines as seventies music and rollerskates. It wasn't until nintendo came along and set some standards on developers in order to even create a game for their console that things improved for the customers. As said, this was before my time, but when I look at some of the games I've played in my youth I'm horrified as to what shit gamers had to endure just to play a game. Which brings me to my next point...

    4. standards weren't what they are today

    When playing retro games, they are often found to be hard to today's standards (usually as an excuse to use save states to save/load everywhere). This is because console and PC-games started out as arcade games, whose aim is to drain you from as much pennies as possible. It may sound strange now, but it took companies a while to figure out that you don't have to feed coins to a console. Password screens and savegames still had to be invented. Same for ergonomic controllers and responsive movements. Nintendo's role in this isn't to be underestimated. Perhaps not so much as innovative controllers go (I don't want to dish others), but because they at least inspired others, which thus upped the standards as to what gaming is and can do.

    Obviously, graphics and sounds weren't what they are today. But while that evolution is pretty obvious to everyone (most of the first 3D games look horrible nowadays), it was never about what capabilities you had but how to use what you had. Nintendo knews this (and still knows this, though they currently lost track of their audience). And the indie developers of today certainly know this: these guys don't just slap some sprites together and call it a game but rather use what they know to chase their vision. And to be honest...slapping sprites together to clone another succesful game was done a lot more in the past than it is today (yes, I'm calling the fact that it's much more expensive to create a game nowadays a plus). Especially if there was a franchise involved.

    But it's worse than that. New game+? Not present (okay, okay...Mario land had one. It must've been one of the only games of that generation). Unlimited continues? Some had 'em if you were lucky (if not: buy a game genie). Decent music? There were some classics, but not the majority. Music nowadays isn't always great, but at least it never makes you wish you were deaf. Tutorials? None but the instruction booklet.

    Meanwhile, on PC, things weren't much better. I already outlined the need to upgrade practically every time a new actually GOOD game came out, but before windows XP, directX and (later) steam came around, things could get messy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who started searching the 'net looking to pirate games. Not because I was too poor to buy games but because (ironically enough) the antipiracy measurements prevented me to play it. Yes, I'm serious about this. You had to enter serial keys, retail CD's were of a certain material which meant that my CD-reader sometimes refused to read them, some had you look through your manual to look for certain words, and so on, and so on. One of the most strange by-effects is that my friends and me actually learned more English cracking the quiz/adult verification from Leisure suit larry than from school. I should probably thank those devs for that. :P
    When steam came around, it was controversial because you had to stay online for the verification. I admittedly didn't start using it right away so I missed the large issues, but even then...things are a breeze now. You pay...you get it. And if you want even less antipiracy, you head over to gog.com.

    One more thing about PC gaming was on controls and hardware. FPS'es and RTS'es are still the best games on PC...but playing online (which is why the types are popular) required the best gaming PC (okay, it still does...but now you can at least scale things down so even an average PC isn't TOTALLY crippled) and the best connection. Yes, the latter is still an issue, though today's speed differences aren't as big as 56k vs ADSL.

    5. today's developers grew up with games

    The least noticeable difference is probably the most influencal. It used to be that games were made by programmers who mimicked board games or threw something together that might be fun. The fact that of all companies nintendo - a company rooted in card games - pushed the industry more than atari says something. And the very least you can say when reading or hearing about indie devs is that they're passionate about gaming. They have an advantage the previous generation of developers didn't have: they grew up playing games. Remember that even kids can quickly distinguish a good game from a bad game (though they can't always pinpoint the why). There are schools teaching about games and plenty of development tools that also become cheaper and more user-friendly pretty much each year. You only have to look at the steam release page to see the result, though this happens on consoles and mobile devices as well.

    ...and that last thing is one of the most remarkable things since...well...ever. I can use my cell phone or tablet and download a game for nearly free, and have as much fun as in most games I played in my youth. In fact, just yesterday, I heard my girlfriend say her mother bought a tablet specifically for games (her family never used a computer, mind you. A statement that baffles me even more than the tablet-remark). How's that NOT amazing? On the first cellphones, you could play snake on a black-and-white screen. I'm not sure if I should call that retro, as it's only old school on that particular medium.


    In any case: I sometimes wonder if others realise just how rich today's day and age is in terms of gaming. Again, I'm not blind for the shadowside to how things are going. Ninty's making a loss and AAA-gaming may someday fail as well. But gaming will certainly survive. It's not like we will ever fall short of games to play (even if we leave out "backups" or emulators). All the complaints and worries are luxury problems. It's like I'm standing in a free candy store and some other kid is worried that he'll get too sick of eating. Or no longer sees what's available because there is some NEW candy going to come that's somehow EVEN BETTER than we have now.


    Okay...in conclusion: thanks for reading. Hope this brings you some insights and thoughts. If you have comments or nitpicks (I don't do thorough checks), leave them below. I'd made this a blog post, but it'll get more attention here. And it might make for some interesting commentaries. :)
     
    Last edited by Taleweaver, Jul 25, 2015
  2. HaloEffect17

    HaloEffect17 Splatoon Fan

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    Hey, @Taleweaver! This was a very insightful read; thanks for taking the time to write this. I do agree that gaming has evolved to a new level that many of those thirty years ago would have never foreseen. Putting nostalgia aside, I think people can see that today's gaming has been more accessible in terms of going beyond its target audience. This could have been because video games in general have become increasingly popular over the years, but like you have mentioned, the ability to play quality games on your phone or tablet has been an innovation in itself.

    Interestingly, the only thing I partially disagree with is when you mentioned that "a couple months after release date...you'll easily find any game half the price". While this is very true to indie, Xbox, or Playstation titles, I think many can agree that several Nintendo first-party (and even some highly anticipated second-party titles) seldom have their respective prices reduced. For instance, that are some aged DS games in retail stores that are still pricey to this day. It has always been a frustration of mine that Nintendo is apprehensive to cut back the prices of their games, and it has been a continuing trend after many years.

    All in all, thank you again for sharing this. It really allowed me to reflect and give more appreciation for today's gaming and cherish its innovation.
     
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  3. Taleweaver
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    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    Not entirely. Video gaming hasn't so much gotten "popular" over the years as rather it has become a staple thing. A hundred years ago, television and computers didn't exist (at least not in a noticeable form). Saying that they have become more popular isn't exactly doing it justice. It has become so very obvious, available and user friendly over the years that nobody in their right minds would call these things doomed if a computer virus breaks loose or Hollywood makes a bad movie. All the doom and gloom that gamers predict only showcase their own inability to see where the standard is currently at. Gaming (as in: video gaming) won't ever disappear. If for nothing else, it is already too common for everybody to think otherwise.

    You got me there: I can't but agree with you completely. I could speculate a bit as to why this is the case, but truth be told I don't know for sure (and it's off-topic here). But it's certainly true that most first-party nintendo games just keep their regular price much longer than other games.

    You're welcome. :)
     
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