Depending on when (and how) you were raised, the concept of video games may have a completely different meaning to you. As someone who has played games for a bit <cough> four decades <cough)> things have ever-so-slightly changed.
THEN: I’ll start with the machine that changed everything (at least for me), the original Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. Released in 1985 in North America, it really was a game-changer (ahem) in both quality and game levels. The controller expanded buttons also, adding a second button for games, as well as a few other smaller buttons, which could also be used for gameplay.
NOW: Fast forward to today, where we have three different main systems, The Wii U; Playstation 4, and The XBox One. Besides the gargantuan difference in computing power, we now have many (MANY!) more controls on the standard system, including the virtual thumb controls, triggers and what seems to be a QWERTY-sized selection of buttons. Let’s not forget the endless accessories available, including headsets/microphones, steering wheels and vibrating grips for tactile sensation. Smell-O-games are likely coming to a GameStop near you.
Vintage vs. Vantage
THEN: If you are under 30, you may be shocked to know that old-school games did not have a three dimensional, world emulating perspective in games. You basically had two types of vantage points: The world-famous left-to-right view, or the flat top view. It was a massive limitation on what could be done in the virtual platform, and created extreme obstacles for the creators. I would say that even more than the actual graphics, this limitation is what separates the game experience from then to now.
NOW: Publishers are basically unlimited with how they tell a story and create the game experience. Games can be far less linear, and players can enjoy wide-open worlds to explore. And with the controller and movement advances, players are not restricted to 90-degree movements as they were in the NES and other vintage systems. Subtlety is king.
Blow vs. Suck
THEN: Let’s just say that cartridge technology was not quite comparable with current Disc tech. Most NESers remember having to put the cartridge just right into your machine, or sticking a piece of cardboard into the open flappy thing just to keep the game from blitzing out. Then there’s the dreaded “blowing” into the cartridge or console, hoping to get out any piece of dust that could interfere with the oh-so-tender connection. It was an ironic physical endurance test, being as the last thing we wanted to do was any sort of actual activity.
NOW: For the most part, the days of getting your Disc and Console to connect are seemless. Yes,you may have to clean your CD or get a scratch repair kit, but likely your connection is pretty good. However, the biggest detriment to the NOW part of gaming is if you or someone you are playing with has a suck-ish internet connection. Let’s face it, playing online in any multi-player mode is just not possible without a very good connection. Never experienced that? Try taking your X-Box some place where “high-speed” internet equates to driving with granny on the freeway. Then admire as you get destroyed by an eight year-old with a Swedish Super line.
Codes vs. Code
THEN: For all you cheaters, this will touch your heart strings! in the NES era, cheating usually meant you found a walkthrough in Nintendo Power! Magazine to help you through CastleVania, or a buddy told you to hit pause and hit “A-B-B-A” in Contra for unlimited ammo. Oh, the touch of omnipotence!
NOW: You are online, playing “Halo” in multiplayer mode, and that Swedish eight-year old is at it again. This time, he has hacked his X-Box One, changed the actual code (whatever that entails), making him super fast or giving him the ability to fly. Even worse, some clown with a tricked out modem or whatever causes intentional lagging, basically ruining the game for everyone, just for jollies. Fail!
The Ugly Truth!
As much as I’d like to say video games from the 80’s were better, we all know the truth. While there is a lot of nostalgia, as well as some fun from those games, there really is no comparison. We are now in the golden age of gaming, with immersive, intense and frankly gorgeous games that can overtake your real, breathing life. And while some releases can disappoint, or there may be up-and-down years, the industry is in absolute overdrive. Games are so huge they are now a massive crossover big business, with gamers now entering the mainstream as pseudo-athletes and becoming budding reality stars. They can be madenningly fun, almost too much fun…but, I suppose that’s the whole point, right?