Rose-tinted specs. We’ve all wore them at some point. Resident angry man Matt Reynolds believes there’s no place for them in gaming – we should be looking forwards, not back. HATE-BOX returns…
An interesting thing happened recently during the response to our ‘Greatest Consoles’ Friday Feeling article. It became increasingly apparent that people hold fond memories for very old machines and games, with a lot of folks complaining that we only included ‘recent’ consoles in our list.
I’m here to tell you one thing and one thing only – gaming ‘back in the day’ was shit.
Let’s clear up something important first; machines like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 were NOT consoles. They were home computers that you could play games on. The Colecovision and Atari 2600 were games consoles. So now that’s cleared up you can stop complaining that we didn’t include them. I believe any machine that required loading times of about twenty minutes for a single level can be dismissed on principle. Ain’t no one got time for that.
I owned an Atari 2600 for my first console. It was fucking shit. Its game consisted of collections of large blocks and horrible sound effects. Its joysticks were horrible plastic constructs that were about as responsive as a teenage girl after five Bacardi Breezers and a roofy. The games were appalling. The strange thing is, I remember it fondly. But the reason I remember it fondly is the association of childhood memories that the recollection brings. This is pure nostalgia; a dangerous lens to peer through when trying to make an objective list. It’s false memory; the associations you have with an object don’t make that object great, it’s the reason why anyone who says how great the 80s were is a fucking cretin.
Techno, Techno, Techno, Techno!
Go back now to 90% of all games released on all consoles in time and you will find that they do not hold up to your scrutiny. Hell, even half the consoles on our list are pretty rough viewed by today’s standards. The thing is; gaming is different from other mediums such as literature and cinema. Sure, cinema has undergone radical technological reforms in its time, and the way we use language and even consume reading material has changed. But looking at a human being through a camera will always be just that; and words will always be words.
Games and games machines on the other hand are pure technology. Technology in gaming increases exponentially year on year, and we receive better gaming experiences because of for it. Precision control has never been better; the Xbox 360’s controller being the pinnacle of mainstream gaming evolution to this point. Graphics and sound are capable of incredible feats, from the immersive fear of Dead Space’s incredible lighting to the grandiose; tear-jerking refrains of Mass Effect and Bioshock Infinite’s stirring musical scores. Anyone who claims that gaming was ‘better back in the day’ is either deluding themselves, or is simply a moron with bad taste.
It’s at about this point that someone will inevitably drag up the ‘games are too easy these days’ argument. Shut the fuck up. Most games in the past weren’t difficult by design, they were difficult because they were badly designed. Developers were only just beginning to explore the creation of games, and the hardware they were forced to use was extremely limited. Controllers were extremely poor; input was binary; it just plain sucked, ok? If you want hard games today then great, almost all games have extreme difficulties built in for you. Go play. Even hard difficulty levels are superior today, because they are well designed and fair. Back in the day they were unfair due to bad design and tech limits. Back to the point at hand the clue is in the title; games are games. They are by definition supposed to be fun activities that you participate in for recreation.
This generation that is finally coming to an end has been the finest generation of all time. And guess what? The next generation is going to be even better. It comes down to simple evolution and expansion. Every generation has had its classics and its watershed moments. But to claim that gaming has already had its heyday is a fool’s perspective – the best is yet to come.
– Matt Reynolds. Feed his hate on Twitter @thelostmoment