Nostalgia, and the feeling of being late to the party.

NOTE: I have to warn you, this is a VERY long blog post. It goes through 3 "movements", if you will, each of which is relevant and has its own style. I apologize about the dithering-ness of the first portion, but it was somewhat necessary to give that exposition. 
 
Thank you for your patience.
 
Quake. Starcraft. Half-Life. Counter-Strike. Baldur's Gate. Doom. Warcraft II. Command and Conquer. X-COM. Civilization. Diablo. Alpha Centauri. Age of Empires II. Total Annihilation. Need for Speed III. Marathon. Gran Turismo. Metal Gear Solid. Twisted Metal 2. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Halo: Combat Evolved. Super Mario 64.
 
What do they have in common? 
 
They are all old games that are revered and played to this day, and set industry standards and conventions that some dev houses still can't quite reach. 
 
And they all came out before I was 10. 
 
As of this writing, I am 17 years of age. I first got into "mainstream" gaming in 2007, when I discovered that Halo was not an evil game, courtesy of my best friend. After that, I began to search for other shooters, which led me to Crysis, which led me to construct my own computer in 2008.
 
Before then, I grew up on LEGO Racers, Jak & Daxter, Age of Empires, Crash Bandicoot, and a handful of other, incredibly obscure games (ever heard of Gubble? Yeah, I didn't think so). For me, high-tech meant using Windows 2000 instead of 98 SE. After I discovered mainstream gaming, I "grew up" on such blockbusters as Call of Duty 4 (although I joined that particular party a year late), and downloaded literally dozens of demos - Crysis, Call of Duty, Quake 4, Unreal Tournament 3 - pretty much anything that didn't suck in everybody's eyes and had a trial version.  
 
For the record, I appreciated RTS and other genres just as much as FPS. I'm just giving the above shooters as examples.
 
Obviously, having seen such modern titles, I was spoiled on the stellar graphics of our time. But I also wanted to know where we came from. So I searched for older games - the Quakes, the Half-Lifes, the Starcrafts of the past. And I enjoyed those games just as much as the new titles we have. But they didn't stick the same way. 
 
Then, I saw the archived TNT that Giant Bomb had hosted for Quake, and it looked so incredibly fun that I wish I had Quake 1 so I could've been there. 
 
And then I was sad. 
 
-
 
What have new games done to us? What simple, raw enjoyment - wrought in the past though it may be - has been denied to us by the present? Persistent profiles, cinematic experiences, photorealistic graphics - what have these industry-changing developments done to the days when all you needed to have fun was a single, simple mechanic that worked flawlessly? 
 
Obviously, such inventions were necessary. Nobody is going to play the same game, remade over and over by different people, for 20 years. But this inescapable tide of progress has, in sweeping our dearly beloved friend that is Gaming towards the masses, taken away the soul that brought it into our hearts in the first place.
 
It saddens me that I was too young to enjoy them, but still I yearn for the days when the sheer act of innovation was the impetus driving the industry. 
 
Still I yearn for the days when skill was not dictated by Gamerscores or Trophy Levels, but rather by the noble and timeless way of challenging your fellows and defeating them through naught but skill alone.
 
Still I yearn for the days when the games we now call "Indie" were not relegated to the ten-dollar bargain bin, but were considered the AAA crop, the kings of kings, the uppermost of the crust. 
 
Still I yearn for the days when gaming did not seek the casual gamer, but was instead its own man, confident in itself and unabashedly self-confident. 
 
Still I yearn for the days that I was not there to see. 
 

 
What do I do? 
 
Gaming has brought itself to a new era. I will not discount the quality of the New Games, because they have done so much good for the industry that in the eyes of many there is no going back. 
 
But at the same time, the games of the past cannot and will not be forgotten. Silent monoliths, watching the growth of That Which They Helped Create, while standing guard over one another - the remnants of a dying breed. 
 
What can I do? 
 
There is a popular story that goes something like this: A United States Patent Official once retired out of frustration, believing there was nothing left to invent. In the following decades, we saw the introduction of automobiles, airplanes, television, and electric computation devices. 
 
I find myself feeling markedly similar, and yet completely different. As far as I can see, there remains no undiscovered game, no unique genre or mechanic that has not yet been made. And yet the amount of novelty that games have brought to us feels so stifling that I cannot help but feel overwhelmed. 
 
What can anyone do? 
 
The strength of the present is dwarfed by the immortality of the past, and yet I am afraid to jump in to this strange and beautiful world. Those who remained faithful to these giants, these wonders of gaming history, have accrued such absurd skill from playing the same game day in and day out that a newcomer has no hope of joining them. 
 
And yet the prospect of becoming a part of these experiences - the Quakes, the Starcrafts, the Counter-Strikes - whose brilliance and raw strength as games may never be rivaled, is simply too tantalizing to ignore. Would that I could have been there during their heyday.  
  
What is there to do?



Thus I am left here, with these conflicting sentiments. 
 
Struggling to identify the question I need to ask. 
 
Left with only nostalgia, and the feeling of being late to the party.

14 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by shazb0t

NOTE: I have to warn you, this is a VERY long blog post. It goes through 3 "movements", if you will, each of which is relevant and has its own style. I apologize about the dithering-ness of the first portion, but it was somewhat necessary to give that exposition. 
 
Thank you for your patience.
 
Quake. Starcraft. Half-Life. Counter-Strike. Baldur's Gate. Doom. Warcraft II. Command and Conquer. X-COM. Civilization. Diablo. Alpha Centauri. Age of Empires II. Total Annihilation. Need for Speed III. Marathon. Gran Turismo. Metal Gear Solid. Twisted Metal 2. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Halo: Combat Evolved. Super Mario 64.
 
What do they have in common? 
 
They are all old games that are revered and played to this day, and set industry standards and conventions that some dev houses still can't quite reach. 
 
And they all came out before I was 10. 
 
As of this writing, I am 17 years of age. I first got into "mainstream" gaming in 2007, when I discovered that Halo was not an evil game, courtesy of my best friend. After that, I began to search for other shooters, which led me to Crysis, which led me to construct my own computer in 2008.
 
Before then, I grew up on LEGO Racers, Jak & Daxter, Age of Empires, Crash Bandicoot, and a handful of other, incredibly obscure games (ever heard of Gubble? Yeah, I didn't think so). For me, high-tech meant using Windows 2000 instead of 98 SE. After I discovered mainstream gaming, I "grew up" on such blockbusters as Call of Duty 4 (although I joined that particular party a year late), and downloaded literally dozens of demos - Crysis, Call of Duty, Quake 4, Unreal Tournament 3 - pretty much anything that didn't suck in everybody's eyes and had a trial version.  
 
For the record, I appreciated RTS and other genres just as much as FPS. I'm just giving the above shooters as examples.
 
Obviously, having seen such modern titles, I was spoiled on the stellar graphics of our time. But I also wanted to know where we came from. So I searched for older games - the Quakes, the Half-Lifes, the Starcrafts of the past. And I enjoyed those games just as much as the new titles we have. But they didn't stick the same way. 
 
Then, I saw the archived TNT that Giant Bomb had hosted for Quake, and it looked so incredibly fun that I wish I had Quake 1 so I could've been there. 
 
And then I was sad. 
 
-
 
What have new games done to us? What simple, raw enjoyment - wrought in the past though it may be - has been denied to us by the present? Persistent profiles, cinematic experiences, photorealistic graphics - what have these industry-changing developments done to the days when all you needed to have fun was a single, simple mechanic that worked flawlessly? 
 
Obviously, such inventions were necessary. Nobody is going to play the same game, remade over and over by different people, for 20 years. But this inescapable tide of progress has, in sweeping our dearly beloved friend that is Gaming towards the masses, taken away the soul that brought it into our hearts in the first place.
 
It saddens me that I was too young to enjoy them, but still I yearn for the days when the sheer act of innovation was the impetus driving the industry. 
 
Still I yearn for the days when skill was not dictated by Gamerscores or Trophy Levels, but rather by the noble and timeless way of challenging your fellows and defeating them through naught but skill alone.
 
Still I yearn for the days when the games we now call "Indie" were not relegated to the ten-dollar bargain bin, but were considered the AAA crop, the kings of kings, the uppermost of the crust. 
 
Still I yearn for the days when gaming did not seek the casual gamer, but was instead its own man, confident in itself and unabashedly self-confident. 
 
Still I yearn for the days that I was not there to see. 
 

 
What do I do? 
 
Gaming has brought itself to a new era. I will not discount the quality of the New Games, because they have done so much good for the industry that in the eyes of many there is no going back. 
 
But at the same time, the games of the past cannot and will not be forgotten. Silent monoliths, watching the growth of That Which They Helped Create, while standing guard over one another - the remnants of a dying breed. 
 
What can I do? 
 
There is a popular story that goes something like this: A United States Patent Official once retired out of frustration, believing there was nothing left to invent. In the following decades, we saw the introduction of automobiles, airplanes, television, and electric computation devices. 
 
I find myself feeling markedly similar, and yet completely different. As far as I can see, there remains no undiscovered game, no unique genre or mechanic that has not yet been made. And yet the amount of novelty that games have brought to us feels so stifling that I cannot help but feel overwhelmed. 
 
What can anyone do? 
 
The strength of the present is dwarfed by the immortality of the past, and yet I am afraid to jump in to this strange and beautiful world. Those who remained faithful to these giants, these wonders of gaming history, have accrued such absurd skill from playing the same game day in and day out that a newcomer has no hope of joining them. 
 
And yet the prospect of becoming a part of these experiences - the Quakes, the Starcrafts, the Counter-Strikes - whose brilliance and raw strength as games may never be rivaled, is simply too tantalizing to ignore. Would that I could have been there during their heyday.  
  
What is there to do?



Thus I am left here, with these conflicting sentiments. 
 
Struggling to identify the question I need to ask. 
 
Left with only nostalgia, and the feeling of being late to the party.

Posted by Horsepuckishness

I read that entire post and I don't even no what to say. 
 
Maybe you should just continue playing stuff that you find interesting. As for the old stuff...you should just realize they are outdated. I used to play Halo:CE day in and day out. Religiously. then I went about 2 years without touching it. I picked it up again to find that even though I had fond memories and skill to back up my talks of how good I was, I realized that as compared to most things being made today it wasn't very good. Go pick up Starcraft 1, Super Mario 64, whatever and play it....really play it. then compare that gameplay to lets say Portal, WoW, Halo3, Super Mario Galaxy, anything of this age. You'll realize you simply missed fads.
 
I say all of this with respect for old games, however just gotta wake up and move on.

Posted by SBYM

No way, keep playing stuff as long as you're enjoying it; regardless of when it came out.

Edited by Diamond

I think some games have aged fine and others not so much.  If you can't enjoy the games that have aged well, then you have a different problem.  Not being able to enjoy Twisted Metal 2 (hell, I thought that game was SUPER janky even BRAND NEW)... that's another matter.
 
Just enjoy games for what they are now.  Don't get worry about names or platforms or how old games are or any of that BS.
 
Otherwise I don't know what to say.  As someone who did play many of those games new and thousands of others, yea I think you did miss a lot.  The 'feel' of gaming is constantly changing, but I still have fun with games.
 
I guess if you want to drown yourself in someone else's nostalgia you could check my Youtube account.

Posted by RankRabbit

Nice post, and I still play old ass games, for example Roller Coaster Tycoon.

Posted by supermike6

Just remember, in ten years, someone will be saying the exact same thing about now.

Posted by Maxynator

Wow, thats the story of my life. Yet I do feel like I was born just around the right time. I was born in 1993, and I lived in the time that TV's and PC's were not everyday things, but when I grew to conscience, around the time of the internet boom, I experienced how fast the technologies changed. I played Super Mario 64 and a few years later Black on the PS2. It's still weird, and I do feel like I skipped the few real classics like Halo:CE and Half Life, and now there are many new games which look more appealing then those old classics. Still I do try to make time to play them, I'm playing Super Mario 64 on the emulator as we speak, and this time I understand English. Its a lot easier now...

Posted by sodiumCyclops

I think you were born in the years that kinda didn't allow for the best games to be absorbed properly.
 
I'm 22 and I sometimes feel like I missed out on the best of gaming as most of my fondest memories of games are of those games that most people had already played years before me.
 
Sometimes, I wish I was maybe 5 years older so that I could better appreciate a lot of the games that I barely remember.

Posted by Jeust
@SBYM said:
" No way, keep playing stuff as long as you're enjoying it; regardless of when it came out. "
Keep discovering video games, till you feel like patents guy and decide to hang your boots. ^^ 
 
Great post! You write very well.  
Edited by Underachiever007

I sort of know how you feel. I'm 17 as well, and I live in India. Video games (at least console games) didn't really become a real thing here until 2000, a few years after the economy was liberalised. You could go into a store and very easily find a PS1 in 2004. When change did come, it came pretty fast, and I "grew up" on late gen PS2 games. Whenever I get into an argument about games I always feel very uninformed because I've never played any of those canonical gaming classics.

Posted by Choi

If you play older games, you need to put them in the context of the time they came out. Some stand the test of time better then others, of course, but most of them are little peaces of gaming history and you can have fun learning that history through them. 
At least watch this very informative playthrough of Trespasser to get an idea of what you can learn about the games you know and love today- how they came to be and what lead to them. 
 
I'm playing System Shock 2 at the moment for the first time and it changed my view on Bioshock 1, 2 and Deus Ex completely. 
 
Also, I remembered I liked In Cold Blood in it's day, played it on the PS when it came out. I was like 13 at the time and got stuck on one of the missions. Replaying it now- game is amazing! Way ahead of it's time and worth checking out if you like action-adventure games.  
 
Don't be bummed out you don't enjoy playing old games- I think the problem is you just haven't found ones you'd enjoy, that's all. 
Go with the more recent ones- Playstation 1, Dreamcast, N64 games- I think you'll have a blast! 

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I'm in my late twenties, and I've been gaming since I was five.  I agree that games in general don't give me that sense of wonder that they did as a child or a teenager, especially when seeing the difference between NES and SNES, or the SNES and the N64 or the Playstation.  But that's not really a problem with the industry, it's more or less a problem with us as gamers, and unfortunately it's not one we can easily fix.  We've become desensitized to the amazing little things new games bring us, and so we're always looking for something hugely innovative to really impress us when in fact we've got some of the best games ever created sitting right in front of us right now.  And recent innovations like the Kinect, Move, and the Wii control scheme may not seem like much, but to a long time gamer, this almost like seeing a science fiction movie come to life (without the psychotic army of evil robots trying to enslave us, of course).  The quality of the games associated to that technology have seen some fits and spurts, but believe me, in a few years when the developers and publishers have had a chance to figure the stuff out, we will see some insane new gameplay innovations and awesome moments. 
 
For the short term, I suggest taking the time in every game to appreciate the little details.  Fable 3 might not be the best game on the market, but stop to appreciate the striking visual style and the little day-to-day conversations of the people and you can almost imagine yourself in Albion.  Fallout New Vegas might be glitchy, but stop for a moment and appreciate the sheer scope of the world they've created.  It's staggering.  Playing Red Dead Redemption, I stopped once on the top of a mountain and just looked around at the game's landscape.  That game is probably this year's shining example of just how far gaming has come, and I think it can be appreciated by anyone, new gamer or old.

I've been trying to write a blog recently on why this year has been the best year for gaming I've ever seen, and I genuinely mean it.  The trick to seeing that is by analyzing each game on its own, not as compared to its predecessors or by the merits of any other game.  That would be unfair if you were to review a game, as you almost have to include those ideas in any journalistic piece, but in terms of sheer fun, world creation, and the visual attractiveness of the universe, this year has been stunning.

Moderator
Posted by Penelope

Just wanted to say, great blog.
 
I love old games and fortunately platforms like Steam and Good Old Games allow for easy access to some true gems. My friends and I are organizing a Retro Game night where we go back and specifically enjoy old games.  
 
It's never too late.

Posted by MagikGimp

Time machine?

No but seriously, you might not have been there are the time but the history still remains. The experiences we had are archived in many places and formats if you go look for them. As for the games themselves, you have the opportunity to enjoy those of your era (when we should be acting more like adults, ahem) or, if you prefer, you now have the chance to play the old classics at next to no cost (if any at all), with all the patches and hotfixes (e.g. texture packs) you could ever want created by fans not to mention mods and custom maps etc. on machines of power unimaginable back when they were released. If multiplayer is your thing then you'll just have to be lucky or talk your mates into joining you instead of getting that next PS3 trophy.

Posted by TheDudeOfGaming

Where's Planescape Torment and Fallout 1 & 2?