Video games are an older form of entertainment than many people realize. They can be traced all the way back to 1947 when a patent for the “Cathode ray tube Amusement Device” was filed. Then came Spacewar! in 1961, Pong in 1972, and Space Invaders in 1978. From that moment on video games have enjoyed some level of mainstream acceptance.
This decades-long history is why people of all ages now play video games. It could be argued that more titles are targeted at adults in their 20s and 30s than are aimed at teenagers, because you don’t generally stop playing video games as a result of growing older.
I’m in my mid-30s and still play video games, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. However, it does mean I’m something of a dinosaur, having lived through multiple different hardware generations and having seen the industry evolve into the sprawling success it now is.
Is it time I, and others like me, gave up playing video games? There are definite signs to look for when determining whether you’re growing too long in the tooth to still be gaming. Seven of which are listed below. You’re likely to be a living piece of gaming history if you remember when…
Games Came On Cassette Tapes
Cassette tapes have been consigned to the dustbin of history by all by the most hipsterish of hipsters, and I suspect younger gamers will find it hard to believe that video games once came on cassette tapes. Cartridges, CDs, and Blu-rays really have spoiled these innocent young’uns.
There was a certain appeal to playing games on cassette tape though: the sounds made when one was loading up now fill me with nostalgic joy, and it meant sharing games with friends was much easier than it is now. I’m not sure I’d welcome these things back if it meant also accepting those long loading times, however.
Button Bashing Was King
Fighting games and sports games are now fine-tuned to sort the wheat from the chaff. You’ll either be very good at one of these titles, or stand no chance of winning. And yet there was once a time when anyone could succeed, and all they had to do was mash the buttons in as random a fashion as they could muster.
To be fair, you still get modern games which let you button-bash your way to victory. Developers still haven’t worked out a better way to implement Olympic Games events than making you press two buttons in quick succession, as just one example. However, at one point the majority of games could be won by a combination of luck and button bashing.
Sonic Vs. Mario Was Bigger Than PC Vs. Mac
The PC vs. Mac battle is raging as hard as ever, even though Apple itself appears to have backed away from the aggressive advertising campaign. But 20 years ago the equivalent of PC vs. Mac was Sonic vs. Mario, or to give them their full titles, Sonic The Hedgehog vs. Super Mario.
The characters were polar opposites, the games they appeared in appealed to different sets of people, and they also lived on different systems, Sonic being Sega’s mascot, and Mario being Nintendo’s. I was always a Sonic fan, but even I have to admit Mario won out in the end.
2D Gave Way To 3D
With the supremely impressive visuals on display in modern video games it’s hard to remember a time when even 3D was too big a task for even the newest gaming hardware to handle. Play any game released before the mid-1990s and it will be in 2D, and back then it was all us gaming pioneers knew.
Games such as Alone In The Dark, Virtua Racer, Final Fantasy 7, and Mario 64 led the way in changing our perspective from flat 2D plains to atmospheric 3D vistas. Interestingly, 2D games have made a resurgence of late, with indie and mobile titles showing how it should be done.
Mortal Kombat Was The Height Of Controversy
There have, for a long time, been suggestions that video games are somehow harmful to society. I personally don’t buy the argument, in the same way that I don’t think listening to death metal or watching Scarface is going to turn anyone into a monster. But this connection has been used as a form of word-of-mouth viral advertising over the years.
The first game I remember as being highly controversial was Mortal Kombat. Here was a beat ‘em up in which each bout ended with a fatality that saw one character pull off a special move that finished their opponent off in a gruesome way. Looking back now Mortal Kombat seems very tame, but in the early-90s it was as shocking as video games got, and was banned as a result.
Multiplayer Meant Playing People In The Same Room
All of the major games consoles available at retail now connect to the Internet. In fact, doing so is seen as a prerequisite to offering gamers the full gaming experience. The online multiplayer elements are often a main focus of a developer’s attention, as they know this is where most people will spend the majority of their time playing the game.
However, something has been lost in this switch to online multiplayer; it has made the very notion of playing against someone sitting in the same room as you novel and alien. The Wii brought it back to some extent, but in reality the days of split-screen multiplayer action have disappeared into the past.
Games Were A Challenge To Complete
Last but not least is the difficulty levels of modern games when compared to the games of yesteryear. The occasional game is still released that will leave all but the most hardcore of gamer weeping into the remains of their smashed controller, but generally speaking games are now easier than they ever have been before.
This is mainly due to the change in scope and scale of video games. You can now expect to play for 20 hours or more through the single-player story mode without seeing the Game Over screen. But back when games had a limited number of levels, the difficulty, and chances of getting beaten into submission, were ramped up to save the average gamer from completing a game in record time.
I feel quite old after all that. Probably because I am old. But I don’t think I’ll be giving up gaming just yet, mainly because I enjoy it too much. The good thing is that the industry is maturing with me, so more games are being developed with people of my age in mind. So all I can do is wear my living piece of gaming history badge with pride, and suggest you do the same.
How long have you been a gamer? Do you remember the olden (golden) days of gaming with happiness or do you think the modern day titles are better in every way? Do you miss any of the things associated with gaming several decades ago, or are you looking forward to the advances the next-gen consoles will bring? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Rob DiCaterino, Danny Nicholson, Bryan Ochalla, Johnathan Noechel-Shunn, Post-Apocalyptic Research Institute, TenThousandCubans, Wlodi, Josip2