Jun 27 2012
I almost fell into another blogging trap where I was tempted to write about how good games used to be, and how things have changed for the worse now. The whole Mass Effect 3 ending debacle was torn open as a fresh wound when Bioware released the “extended cut” DLC yesterday, and now when we’re getting “proper” endings as downloadable content, I can’t help but thinking we’re moving in the wrong direction.
But it’s not fair to dismiss the progress of an entire industry because of Starchildren or the fact that I can’t play any good local multiplayer games any more. The fact is, the industry has come a long way from when we were kids, and it would be good to remember that. That’s what this post aims to do.
I’m trying to get past all the negativity that surrounds gaming these days so we can remember why we have so much fun with them in this day and age. Possibly more than we even used to. Read on to see how gaming’s gotten better.
These Worlds are Almost Real Now
The first and most obvious thing to address is how games have evolved graphically over the past two decades. When I was born in 1987, Final Fantasy games looked like this:
Today? We have this:
The same could be said for countless other series as well, as many of them are still around today. Whether it’s humans that almost look photorealistic in games like Heavy Rain or LA Noire, or environments that couldn’t seem more real and expansive like Skyrim and Just Cause, games can now give us an immersive experience that past consoles simply couldn’t. We had to use our imaginations to make the pixels epic before, but now games are richer than anything we could envision in our own minds.
No More Blowing
Hardware has evolved to the point where it’s no longer a gamble whether or not a system will work when you turn it on or not. It seemed like every other time I wanted to play a game, I was blowing in a console cartridge, but now, we can pop in almost any disc and it will work without hesitation.
The obvious exception to the rule would be the fact that every single Xbox 360 will self-destruct at one time or another, and there are some ancient Game Boys that work even after being exploded by bombs. We may have more consistency now, but I think old systems do win for pure durability.
Multiplayer Knows No Borders
As much as I lament the fact that there are very few games these days that I can play with three other friends who happen to be in the same room with me, multiplayer has expanded in ways that allow old friends to stay in touch, no matter where they are in the world.
As we grow older and not everyone lives in the same neighborhood anymore, it can be hard to keep in touch. And which would you rather do? Write on somebody’s Facebook wall or spend an hour blasting Russians in Call of Duty? Online multiplayer may have brought us screaming twelve year olds in our ears, but it’s also kept old friends together as we grow older and our lives expand outward across the country.
There Are These Things Called Plots
With greater graphics come greater storytelling experiences. It’s hard to name a game that’s more than ten years old that had a truly compelling plot. What’s your favorite video game story from the ’80s or ’90s. The President who was kidnapped by ninjas? The battling toads with a death wish? The hundreds of protagonists who wanted to save hundreds of princesses?
Today we have actual stories to our games, and ones can be as compelling as anything we see in TV or film. Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock or Mass Effect (most of the time), have all delivered truly memorable experiences in a way that doesn’t solely rely on gameplay alone. It’s the stories that have captivated us, and it’s why video game characters are now more than simple mascots. Mario and Sonic are logos, Commander Shepard and John Marston are heroes.
Gaming is No Longer for Little Boys
The truth is, if you were an avid gamer twenty or thirty years ago, it was most likely the case you were a young boy, and your parents had never touched a console themselves. It was an activity primarily dominated by children or young teens, and was the geekiest of geeky past times. Yes, girls played games, but in far, far fewer numbers than boys overall.
Now, things are different. Little girls are growing up with games nearly as much as boys are. And their parents? They’re gamers too. We’ve now learned that gaming is not a “phase” you have to grow out of. Rather, it’s shaping up to be a lifelong past time the way watching movies or reading books is. As such, it’s no longer this nerdy, dorky or geeky activity relegated to a certain age group or gender. In 2012, everyone is gaming, and that’s something you couldn’t say in the whimsical time of yesteryear.
Things Will Only Get Better
Few things get me more excited than anticipating all the great pieces of pop culture I haven’t experienced yet. All the great movies or shows I have yet to watch, but more pressingly, all the fantastic games I haven’t gotten to play. Each new console generation drives the industry forward to an even greater degree, and it’s downright impossible to predict what gaming will look like ten, twenty or thirty years from now. I bet gamers then will be waxing poetic for the simpler time of Xbox 360 and PS3, but they’ll probably have some pretty kickass games as well. And I can’t wait to play them.
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