Where my games at!?!

Hit one to the parking lot!!!

Hit one to the parking lot!!!

Over my 27 years of life I have been privy to some pretty significant technological advances.  Some would focus on advances like the Internet, or cell phone technology, or even hybrid cars.  But the one technological advancement that has gotten my , my parents, and my wives’ money for those 27 years is that of video games.  In the early days(the 80s) i was mainly a follower of my brother and would watch himplay Coleco vision, or Sega master system.  It wasn’t until 88 that I really picked up the sticks for myself. The occasional game of Great Baseball, Rambo, or the excruciatingly difficult Ghostbusters were my first forays into the digital world.  For me then it was mainly to keep up with my brother, but that all changed Christmas of 89 when I got my NES.  Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘jeez what took you so long’ but you must understand this was a time when video games was strictly seen as a toy, nothing sophisticated about it.  And most sane parents, like mine, would not spend 300 dollars on video game systems for their sons, but on this magical Xmas that is just what happened.  While  i broke blocks with Mario on my NES, my brother mutated into a flying humanoid dragon on Sega Genesis’ Altered beast.  On this faithful day I became a newbie to the video game world and from there I could not be stopped.

My brother also got game boy around this time and it was clear that of the two of us he was the veteran gamer but I was slowly catching up.  Its not like I didn’t get to play his Genesis, quite the opposite actually.  When I wasn’t jumping down green pipes or shooting ducks, my brother would often enlist me to receive a pounding on Tommy Lasorda Baseball or Joe Montana sports talk football(unheard of technology).  This was an era where the most impressive graphics were that of the Mortal Kombat franchise, and every game was a 2d sidescroller.  As I reached age 10 the scene was really beginning to change Super NES was making a huge buzz in the game world and Sega was releasing a new upgrade for the Genesis every month or so.  It was to me the golden age of gaming.  I remember going to Movie Time or Video Magic and struggling to pick from classic genres like 2d shooters, arcade racing, and the occasional fighter.  There seemed to be hundreds and hundreds of games to choose from every week.  I remember my brother reading Game pro magazine and marveling at the fact that most of those magazines were over 300 pages long.  The advent of 3d technology changed all of that though.

With the introduction of powerful systems like PSone and Nintendo 64(around age 12, 1994) it was beginning to become clear that video games were here to stay.  For me it was bittersweet, since I was a Nintendo man I stuck by them with the short lived Nintendo 64 while my best friend was one of the first folks to have the $400 PSone.  Though I enjoyed all that the 64 had to offer I began to see that the old way of gaming would be just that.  The advent of 3d technology meant that no more classics like Contra, or the space shooter Sagaii would be gracing the ,instead we would be flooded with over produced clunky 3d games for the next 10 years, this would have been very exciting save for the fact that most of these 3d games were basically trial runs at the technology and many franchises suffered during this period.  One example is the Donkey Kong franchise.  Donkey Kong country for the SNES was gem of a game, beautiful colors and stages, great music and challenging platforming levels, I feel safe in saying that this was the last great 2d game that I have ever played.  With the 64 Nintendo tried to reinvent the wheel and totally took away from what the game on SNES had accomplished for the company.  This trend happened more often than not and would remain the case until PS2 and later Xbox came out and made better use of the technology that had been in use since 1994. 

Another thing that occurred during this time was that many people who had played games since the 80s began to stray away from them.  Instead of evolving with the technology many gamers felt that the new wave of the industry had washed them out, and in many ways it had.  2d scrollers, puzzle games, and space shooters had been the bread and butter of the industry for almost 20 years.  Now 1st person shooters, 3d flying sims, and confusing role playing games inundated the shelves and many gamers felt spurned by the now slight game selections.  With greater technology came greater prices as well another factor that changed the gaming landscape.  Where once $40 bought you a brand new game, some newer gen games were asking $60(that’s what they want now) back in the late 90s.  Unfortunately this was a trend that would not change and is now the norm for the industry and don’t be surprised if they go up another $10 bucks in the near future.

As I went away for college the 3d era was in full swing and beginning to take hold across the country.  In 99 Sega released Dreamcast which i promptly spent $300 on in order to have a true current gen system, not knowing that within 4 years the system would be defunct.  Part of the reason for this powerful systems demise was the lack of gaming library available both at launch and throughout the life of the system.  Although the system introduced some key components of gaming like online gaming, and voice recognition it was too ahead of its time and fell victim to the mighty PlayStation.  It was during this time that gaming almost lost me as well, if it weren’t for the release of Xbox in 2001.

One word: Halo.  Halo changed it all for me, now I’m not saying that I’m some Halo freak but that was the first, then next gen, game that I truly invested myself in and I began to see what was right about gaming instead of beating so cynical.  Even though these newer systems handled the graphics well and gave you experiences that once seemed like fantasy there was still a couple of major problems.  First there was still not enough games to choose from, nowhere near the days where I could rent 5 quality and then rent them again because I’d enjoyed the experience so much.  Now I found myself forcing games down my gaming throat.  Games that consisted of cliched story lines and pathetic characters that you really had no attachment to at all.  Some games stood out like the Max Payne series, or Soul Calibur, but for the most part it was nowhere near the quality of my golden gaming years.

Then we arrive here, at the current gen of games.  X360 and the PS3(i wont include Wii because they are actually getting it right) both systems that were overpriced and under-supported(especially the latter) when it came to game library.  I will say that of the two systems they both have there merits.  Playstation is a technological marvel with its built in blue ray drive, and wireless internet setup, and Xbox with its extensive online community.  But the problem is not the systems anymore, its the games.  How many times can I stand behind a gun and shoot zombies, thugs, mobsters, mutants, you get the picture.  Its all the same now.  How many buttons do I have to learn in order to get through the level, or how many crappy movie licensed games do I have to go through before the industry realizes what the hell is going on.  Gamers want games.  Not just one type of game but the grand selection that we once had across all the systems.  So to all you game makers and publishers out there heed the words of a true blue gamer, get back to basics and maybe I’ll remember this period as fondly as I do the golden age.

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~ by asmithjazz on July 30, 2009.

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