Do You Remember When?
(This is another edition of </RANT>, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
Hey guys, let’s have some videogame nostalgia! We all love nostalgia, that’s why we pretend that NES games were ten times better than anything released today when 99.9% of those games were pure, unfettered, unapologetic garbage. I’ll go first with the fond, fond memories!
Do you remember when you’d put a videogame in your videogame machine and it would play the videogame that you wanted to play? It was amazing. You’d put in a cartridge or a disc, and the content that was on the disc would just play, right away, as if the purpose of a game console was to actually play videogames rather than feed consumers a bunch of cheap, extraneous bullshit. There were no huge patches to download, and your system didn’t require some compulsory firmware update. There were no mandatory, forty-minute long installations that slowly sapped your excitement for a new product. I’m serious here — you put your game in, and the game played. No scrolling through advertisements, unwanted applications or television shows, either.
Oh guys, do you remember when unlocking extra content in videogames meant playing, not paying? Do you remember when an entire game was contained on a disc, including extra modes, a full-fledged campaign, and whatever else the developers wanted to include? Do you remember a time when, if you wanted to see the ending of your game, all you had to do was play it until it ended? Man, those were great days, huh. Also, do you guys remember cheats? If you’re old enough, you may. Cheats could do anything from award free weapons to unlock weird, funky game modes or gigantic character heads. All you had to do to access this weird stuff was to discover a code — either from friends or special magazines — and put them in. No kidding, this shit was free! It was already available, and you didn’t have to buy it separately. Same for unlockable costumes and characters, which usually required dedication or skill to win. Once, you had to earn stuff, which added to the longevity of the experience. Surely a few dads at the back can remember this stuff.
Do you recall not being terrified to switch your machines on? Do you remember trusting that your games console was made properly, to the point where even the most devastating of glitches could be solved by simply blowing into the device or giving it a good smack? Surely you do! Surely you remember a glorious time when you could be confident that the expensive electronic device you just purchased would work for the next few years.
Do you recall not being made to feel like a common f**king thief by the industry you loved? Do you remember when you didn’t have to prove to a publisher that you bought a game before half the game would unlock for you? Who remembers when publishers were so busy whining about rental services like Blockbuster that they didn’t pay much attention to the secondhand market? Sure, sure, they tongue the arse of Blockbuster now because it’s the lesser evil, but oooh did the industry dislike it back then. I remember when the games industry was a lot less whiny about piracy and secondhand sales, even though it made a lot less money back then than it does now. Apparently, the richer it got, the closer to extinction it pretended to be. How odd. Still, I remember the good old days!
Speaking of online passes, I remember when being online wasn’t obligatory. That’s right, games could once be whatever they wanted to be, without shoehorning in extra modes! If a successful single-player game got a sequel, it didn’t need to split itself into two with some arbitrary, me-too, multiplayer waste of time that almost always existed just to force more f**king online passes. It could just — amazingly — BE a single-player game. Indeed it could be! A studio could dedicate all its time and resources into crafting the thing they are good at. Money didn’t have to be diverted into extra modes that were included just for the sake of having them. Executives did not ignorantly claim that single-player was dead in the face of evidence that proves such a claim far from true. Games that had no hope of maintaining an online community didn’t bullishly try and forge one anyway, just because. Games were just whatever they were supposed to be. They were more focused, and more pure in their goal. Oh, those crazy times. Crazy times.
Most of all, do you remember when games, for all their technological worth, weren’t lagging so pathetically fu**ing behind the rest of the media out there? Indeed, while iTunes delivers music instantly and Netflix can stream movies on demand, the videogame industry still desperately tries to create more barriers between the user and the content. Nowadays, I can just decide to watch a movie, use a legitimate service provider of my choice, and watch that movie. If I fancy getting a particular song, I can have it as soon as I can type its name into an online Mp3 store’s search box. But the console market in particular is going backwards, not forwards. In a generation used to on-demand, instantly available content, publishers are still making us put 25-digit codes into our machines. When you can play a song on your computer, phone or television, big videogame platform holders scrabble for exclusivity and proprietary delivery methods. Do you remember when games looked more modern than the so-called “old media”? I do. I remember it fondly.
In the age of Netflix, the game industry looks like a ragged collection of Commodore 64s. The current way in which the console market delivers content makes me wonder if we’re not going to end up using cassettes for our games again. Some of those forced installs and day-one patches remind me way too much of them as it is.
You remember when it wasn’t quite this shit?
Nice, wasn’t it?