Sunday, September 25, 2011
What 4 Decades of Gaming Has Taught Me (About Video Games)
This year I turned 40. It wasn't a big deal. To me birthdays are just another day, a day where I get some unwanted attention because people feel the need to remind me that I'm one year closer to collecting social security and eating tons of applesauce. That said, it is nice to get presents and make my wife (who's a vegetarian) go to a fancy steakhouse and have her pick up the check. Ha!
While I'm not a sentimental sort I did do a little bit of reflection recently on the one constant in my life - gaming. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of playing video games. Here are a few examples:
- Christmas Day 1979. I was 8 when my dad got "the family" a brand new Atari 2600 (like I was going to share, yeah right).
- Playing Galaga at the NCO club that was between my house and school in 5th grade when I lived in Germany.
- Pumping tokens into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Chuck E. Cheese during my brother's birthday parties in Arizona.
- Playing Mike Tyson's Punchout on the NES while chowing down on Taco Johns after high school football practice in Nebraska.
- Holding NHL '94 and Madden '94 tournaments in my room in college.
I grew up a military brat and moved around a lot, so having something consistent was a comforting thing. This is probably why I'm still a gamer when most guys my age have outgrown it. It's just something that's always been a part of my life. Over the years I've seen first hand the changes gaming has gone through, and since this is turning into a retrospective piece, here are a few observations about gaming I've acquired over the past 4 decades.
The Good Old Days Weren't Always Good - I'm as nostalgic as the next older gamer (personally I prefer the term "classic gamer", but whatever) but gaming's best days are in front of it, not behind it. Besides a PS3, 360, and a Wii, I own a PS1, a Super NES, and an NES. Did you notice that the Atari 2600 isn't on that list? That's because most of the games for it sucked. I'm not saying I didn't have fun with Missile Command, but pretty much every game for the Atari doesn't hold up now. The same thing can be said for most games on every other home console system that's 10 years or older.
Of course, there are exceptions. Super Mario Bros. is still a blast, as are Sunset Riders, NHL '94, and Mike Tyson's Punchout. But those games are the exception, not the rule. There are plenty of gaming aficionados out there that like to blast the current generation and long for "the good old days". But just like every other type of medium - movies, TV, music - most people look back at the past with rose colored glasses. Personally, I'd rather be a gamer right now than back in gaming's early years.
Combat on the Atari 2600 was as thrilling as it looks