What was gaming's dark age?

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bobeta

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Inspired by the more positive thread going on, I want to know when you think games were at their least enjoyable.

Mine would have to be 09-11 or so, which is tied to the spawn of so many things I dislike about modern games (day-1 patches, micro transactions) as well as stuff like project $10 (remember that bullshit?)

This period was also the rise of Activism and EA at their most evil, and perhaps most of all, this was the time when every other game was a terrible Call of Duty shooter. Any era that produces shit like Haze and the Medal of honor reboots isn't an era I wish to return to.

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csl316

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#2  Edited By csl316

If we exclude the crash and talk about games that hold up, the early 3D games of the mid/late 90's are EXTREMELY hard to go back to. A time of innovation and experimentation, but the limited graphics, crappy frame rates, fog, controls, and gameplay design are miles better these days.

At least for action games. The RPG's of that era were quite alright.

Or the era of motion controls and press conferences focused on TV and apps.

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Shindig

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Gaming's not had one yet. We'd require a situation where electronics and development costs become so precarious that development would cease or dwindle.

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BigBoss1911

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#4  Edited By BigBoss1911

I wouldn't call it a "dark age", but I feel like we are in an era of innovative and creative stagnation, at least when it comes to AAA titles. Doesn't necessarily mean the games themselves are bad, it's just we haven't seen any real gameplay innovations in quite some time.

When I think of an innovative time in video gaming, I think of 2001 particularly.

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OurSin_360

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@shindig: there was a gaming crash after the atari era and before nintendo, i think that would be the actual dark ages. Dont know the details off my head, bit before my time.

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BeachThunder

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It's hard to throw an entire time period under the bus, because even the worst years still have their fair share of gems. But I'd pick roughly 1996-2003 - Adventure games had started to dry up and people seemingly felt that anything polygonal was good enough, even if the controls were clumsy and everything looked like a hideous, smudgy mess.

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Shindig

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#7  Edited By Shindig

@oursin_360 said:

@shindig: there was a gaming crash after the atari era and before nintendo, i think that would be the actual dark ages. Dont know the details off my head, bit before my time.

Nah, not for me. That only struck one territory. By July '83, the NES was out in Japan and Europe was a computer market. It was a dent in consumer confidence in the US but not a regression.

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deactivated-5e60e701b849a

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The times when we had booth babes.

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DevourerOfTime

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The thing is that, there's the crash, but nothing before the crash really holds up that well, so it's hard to say that, from a purely modern player perspective, that it was a dark age. It's just that video games were a burgeoning art form that needed to find its legs.

So if we take a purely post-NES launch perspective... it's really hard to point out a like dark age...

Like I at first want to jump to like the PS1 era. It's a system that, beyond a few genres like 2d platformers and RPGs, does not hold up well at all. And, at the same time the N64 has some classics on it, but they were super few and far between. Game Boy was really showing it's age and there were so, so many flops, like the Saturn, the PC-FX, the 3D0, the Jaguar, the Nomad, the Virtual Boy, the Pippin, etc.

But, even until 1996 there were just some true classics coming out of the SNES. The Game Boy saw a revitalization with Pokemon and, eventually the Color gave the system a last gasp at life. The N64, again, was dripping out games, but there are a ton of classics on the system. And even though 99% of the PS1's 2413 library is very of it's time, there are still fantastic games on the system that hold up. Hell, even the Saturn was a fantastic little system with it's own niche, reminiscent of the Wii U today.

But the biggest reason to dismiss that time was the PC, which would see it's biggest boom during this time until after the later PC crash until the mid-late 2000's. You had Warcraft II, Diablo, Starcraft, Grim Fandango, By the time the millennium rolled over, we were getting the last great games on the Game Boy, PS1, and N64 and then the Dreamcast just hit the ground running.

And let's not forget about the arcades. They would see a similar fate to the PC, dying by the early 2000's (yet never quite resurrected), but it was the last golden era of PC games with a ton of stellar fighting games, puzzle games, and, of course, Dance Dance Revolution.

My second gut reaction is the early Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. The Wii launched with a mediocre zelda game and Wii Sports, but severely lacked software for a long time. The PS3's lineup was a joke for at least the first three years of it's release. And Xbox Live Arcade had not really hit it's stride yet, leaving Xbox 360 owners with a mediocre initial retail lineup lead by games that haven't exactly held up.

But portable games are what save that time period. PSP was becoming a system with a healthy number of must-have games and the DS... oh man, the DS. The DS was red hot following the 2005 holiday season, producing what I would argue is the finest library of any console to date, home or handheld. Just nonstop great titles hitting the system until it petered out in 2011.

The PC didn't have a breadth of quality, but a single genre seemed to keep it as a staple for games: the MMO. What I would consider the golden age of the genre gave us a ton of diversity in the genre and its biggest players, like Final Fantasy XI, and, especially, World of Warcraft, seeing their best years.

But the home console that picked up the slack when the HD era was finding its groove was the PS2. Some of the best games to come out on the platform came out well after the 360, like both Persona games, Okami, God Hand, Final Fantasy XII, Guitar Hero 1-3, Odin Sphere, and the Yaukuza games. By the time Persona 4 sang the PS2's swan song, the HD era was on it's feet and dishing out great games on all fronts.

The only other time in games I can think of is maybe the start of this generation? But the Wii U was fantastic after it's first year, the 3DS was amazing, the Vita had a lot of great titles, and the PC was putting everything else to shame, so it's hard to justify saying it.

tl;dr: there wasn't one, as long as you paid attention to all sides of gaming.

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MerxWorx01

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The time when Bubsy was allowed to be sold to an unsuspecting populace.

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isomeri

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The year or two preceding the current generation of consoles. I feel like back then there was a growing feeling that "traditional" gaming was on its way out, and that almost all of the money in game development would shift towards phones and tablets.

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Jimbo

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08 - 12/13ish.

The post-Crysis period where PC gaming was no longer capable of driving the industry forward and console gaming didn't seem to want to. The era of endless Gears and CoD4 knock-offs.

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dudeglove

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Games take years to make, but for the purposes of the thread, the period of 2013-2014 felt creatively bankrupt, plenty of people and a couple of major companies (THQ mostly) lost their jobs or went through significant downsizing or some legal trouble (I think that was the Zampella settlement with Activision), and there was certainly a sense that games weren't in a good spot. Not to say that doesn't happen every year, but it seemed particularly acute with 2013-2014, and made 2015 stand out all the more for not sucking.

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Rebel_Scum

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Probably 2015 - present for me. When I think of GOTY top 10 lists for these years I get stuck after naming 1-2 games.

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Teddie

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I dunno, I'd say "now" in my case since all my favourite genres are basically dead, but this year I got 2 turn-based console JRPGs of high quality (one of them being a Final Fantasy game, no less), with Persona 5 on the horizon. Yooka-Laylee and Psychonauts 2 could help invigorate the 3d platformer genre, but the fact they "exist" at all is heartwarming. Adventure games have essentially had their resurgence and have been slowly trucking along ever since.

So I guess... ironically last gen was probably my "dark age", despite it being the time frame where I started getting really into playing games.

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CrimsonJesus

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@jimbo said:

08 - 12/13ish.

The post-Crysis period where PC gaming was no longer capable of driving the industry forward and console gaming didn't seem to want to. The era of endless Gears and CoD4 knock-offs.

I disagree cause like some of my absolute favorite games were made in that period. Dark Souls, Vanquish, Bayonetta, MGSIV, Condemned 2, Borderlands, Arkham Asylum, Bad Company 2, Dishonored, Persona 4, etc

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audioBusting

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2014 was a pretty dark year for in a couple specific ways.

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GiantLennonx_x

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@whatshisface: as a woman who gets a fair share of creepy guys ogling at her. I agree :/

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Rafaelfc

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#19  Edited By Rafaelfc

The current, microtransactions era is the darkest it's ever been including the crash (which was never felt by most consumers)

We even get people defending the poor companies.

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viking_funeral

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1980-1983.

There were simply too many companies trying to cash in on the success of the Atari 2600 - Intellivision, ColecoVision, Magnavox Odyssey, Bally Astrocade, Fairchild Channel F, Emerson Arcadia, Vectrex, RCA Studio II, and about 5-10 other consoles.

There was no quality control. Really bad games could be made by anyone and sold for any console. Even then, the consoles didn't have that much power. Really bad ports of games like Pac-Man and Zaxxon were notorious. Then there's the famous E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial fiasco, often dubbed the worst game in video game history.

The era was so bad that it led to a massive video game console crash in the West. Consumer confidence was destroyed until Nintendo came along with its Seal of Quality and restored consumer confidence in the second half of the decade. Sure, the arcades and PC did quite well during that time, but the console market almost ceased to exist. I'd say that era qualifies as a dark age.

_____________________________________________________________

As an aside:

It's interesting to see some people point to the mid-to-late 90s as a potential dark age. Not only was arguably the best year of gaming during that era - 1998 - but it was also a time of great innovation and the foundation of many modern franchises. Sure, 90% of the games coming out at the time were mediocre (see also: Sturgeon's Law) but it's hard to look at some of these line-ups and say the era was a pit.

PS1 -

  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Final Fantasy VII-IX
  • Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Vagrant Story
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Gran Turismo
  • Valkyrie Profile
  • PaRappa the Rapper
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
  • ...and about 20 or so other RPGs. (Xenogears, Suikoden II, Vandal Hearts, Wild Arms, Chrono Cross... okay, I'll stop.)

N64 -

  • Super Mario 64
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • GoldenEye 007
  • WWE Wrestlemania 2000
  • Mario Kart 64
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Perfect Dark
  • Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
  • Super Smash Bros.

GB/C -

  • Pokémon Red & Blue
  • Pokémon Gold & Silver

PC -

  • Diablo I & II
  • Baldur's Gate I & II
  • Deus Ex
  • System Shock 2
  • Thief I & II
  • Heroes of Might & Magic III
  • Quake
  • Half-Life
  • Unreal Tournament
  • StarCraft
  • Fallout 1 & 2
  • Ultima Online
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
  • Planescape: Torment
  • Age of Empires II
  • Home World
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert.

I mean, okay, about half those games are RPGs or have RPG elements, but I'd still call it the golden age of PC gaming, which inherently makes it the opposite of a dark age. A lot of great games came out then, if you could cut through the drek.

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sammo21

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#21  Edited By sammo21

The early to mid 80s.

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avantegardener

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#22  Edited By avantegardener

Difficult to pin point, but to be slightly ambiguous, the time with the most concentrated release of movie tie in games.

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imsh_pl

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#23  Edited By imsh_pl

The time when gaming was almost mainstream but not quite and there was this massive attempt to make gaming seem like something grown ups did in their pasttime but you couldn't do it because it was the 90s and people's idea of showing that something is mature was shit like this

Loading Video...

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DharmaBum

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#24  Edited By DharmaBum

Kinect. The vision behind launching the 360 had been abandoned by then in favor of shovelware and it planted the seeds for Mattrick to fuck up the entire Xbox brand.

Loading Video...

Wha-bam!

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BelowStupid

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#25  Edited By BelowStupid

It'll come once/if the console market crashes, and the remaining pc base can't justify AAA game costs in the future. It'll probably be an Indie's paradise, but I don't want that.

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Redhotchilimist

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It's tempting to say anything from before the NES just because I get zero enjoyment out of watching or playing any of it. But even the NES is a little tough for me to look at these days. I watched that NES quick look the other day, and those games, those 30 classics, would entertain me for maybe a week. Maybe.

Video games aren't so similar that an entire generation has been a bust. Some trends have been better for me than others. Like, I just don't like first person/third person shooters very much, so it was a real shame when those began to become the big popular trend. But only technology that feels super old allows me to dismiss anything from before the NES outright.

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TobbRobb

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The 360/PS3 lifespan was kind of a bummer for me. There was definitely some gold that came out, like Journey, Bayonetta and Dark Souls. But in general the popular genres and design decisions of that era were incredibly unappealing to me.

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Zirilius

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@viking_funeral: I was just about to say. This was before my time ever so slightly but when learning about the history of video games there was a huge boom with arcades and the Atari.
Then a huge crash before the NES finally came out. The crash was so hard that it nearly killed the industry as a whole like you said and while I'd argue that PC gaming was "thriving" it was doing decent for itself. The issue with PC gaming at that time was that it was very expensive and there was a need to educate yourself on learning how to install games and troubleshoot issues that came up. Sounds a lot like today but it was vastly more complicated when you are needing to modify lines of a configuration file because you are using X processor instead of Y processor. It wasn't until IBM compatibility became a thing that the PC gaming community really started to become a thing.

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paulmako

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#29  Edited By paulmako

People largely accepting that Overwatch launched as a $40 game that asks for more money through the reward progression system of a free to play game seems pretty dark.

I feel like a few years ago people would have boycotted it or something.

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afabs515

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Games take years to make, but for the purposes of the thread, the period of 2013-2014 felt creatively bankrupt, plenty of people and a couple of major companies (THQ mostly) lost their jobs or went through significant downsizing or some legal trouble (I think that was the Zampella settlement with Activision), and there was certainly a sense that games weren't in a good spot. Not to say that doesn't happen every year, but it seemed particularly acute with 2013-2014, and made 2015 stand out all the more for not sucking.

Came here to post pretty much exactly this. 2013 and 2014 were rough, with 2014 in particular having the honor of being the worst/most boring year of gaming that I can actually remember.

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condroid

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@zirilius said:

Then a huge crash before the NES finally came out. The crash was so hard that it nearly killed the industry as a whole like you said and while I'd argue that PC gaming was "thriving" it was doing decent for itself. The issue with PC gaming at that time was that it was very expensive and there was a need to educate yourself on learning how to install games and troubleshoot issues that came up. Sounds a lot like today but it was vastly more complicated when you are needing to modify lines of a configuration file because you are using X processor instead of Y processor. It wasn't until IBM compatibility became a thing that the PC gaming community really started to become a thing.

The 8 bit computer boom of the early 80s was a direct result of pretty good hardware (for its time) becoming very affordable and relatively easy to use, and was a major contributing factor in the collapse of the console market. The configuration nightmares that you describe didn't really exist on these platforms (i.e. C64, Atari 8 bit, Apple II) and were only an issue on IBM-compatibles, which didn't gain significant market share in the US until a few years later. The crash certainly didn't "nearly kill the industry as a whole", it only caused a major recession in the North American console market.

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Ezekiel

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#32  Edited By Ezekiel

The present. Games have become too big. It's all about giving the masses what they want and what's proven to be safe. Ideas are too risky when your game costs tens of millions of dollars. I've played all these AAA games before. The middle (between AAA and indie) barely exists anymore. Controllers haven't improved since the DualShock almost two decades ago, even though they showed their age and limitations during the PS2 generation. And with pre-orders, DLC and online networks, publishers now monetize their games for everything they're worth. I've never been more disinterested in gaming. I wish it all crashed and burned, more painfully than in '83.

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Darth_Navster

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@paulmako said:

People largely accepting that Overwatch launched as a $40 game that asks for more money through the reward progression system of a free to play game seems pretty dark.

I feel like a few years ago people would have boycotted it or something.

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. I think most people who bought Overwatch consider it a fantastic value given the ongoing rollout of free content such as characters and arenas. The additional money part is completely optional, and speaking as someone who hasn't spent a dime on the game since release, it hasn't affected my enjoyment of the game.

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alistercat

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#35 alistercat  Online

Playing a gameboy at night in a car while your parent is driving, and not being able to see the screen. Literally dark times.

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Zevvion

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When Red Dead Redemption came out. Making a pretty good game in Revolver play a lot (and I mean a lot) worse, making shit characters with terrible dialogue and then getting every award you could possibly get. It is to date still the worst game I've ever played that got so much praise, followed closely by Shadow of Mordor.

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BabyChooChoo

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#37  Edited By BabyChooChoo

Hmmm, this a good question. In my lifetime, I don't know if I would say video games have ever really had a true dark age where everything was just awful all the time. There have been some pretty bad trends obviously, but even during those times, there was plenty of good stuff happening throughout the industry.

But, I digress. I think "now" is a good contender for that title for a whole bunch of reasons, both video games themselves and the culture surrounding them. Shitty business practices, creative stagnation, "indie" doesn't really mean shit anymore, endless sequels, endless reboots, endless remasters, etc etc. That's not to say there aren't any good video games coming out. I could easily rattle off 10 games I've had a blast with this year. That said, there's room for improvement. A lot of room.

As for the culture surrounding video games, I think we just might in the darkest times yet. Say what you will about the olden days of Sega vs Nintendo, PS2 vs Gamecube vs Xbox, and so on. We were kids and kids did stupid shit. That can be forgiven. Now? Now we're all adults and everyone seems to have gotten worse. Now, it's PC vs everything else except PC elitists speak with a level of smugness that would make even Trump blush. "Hey, bruh, it's fine if you wanna play on consoles. Just know that you made the wrong choice and I'm better than you." The irony is they think they're "above it all," but they're just as bad as any other platform fanboy.

The gaming parts of Reddit and Youtube thrive off outrage culture. I know this is a weird thing to point out seeing as how I said now was the "dark age" so it would stand to reason that there is plenty to be upset about, however, I feel like people often make mountains out of molehills. Or just refuse to move on until the next big thing to get outraged about comes along.

As fucked as Destiny was at launch, we didn't need everyone taking shots at it all the goddamn time for no reason for an entire year. "Today I will talk about why the Witcher 3 is such a good game...UNLIKE THAT PIECE OF SHIT, DESTINY. FUCK YOU, BUNGIE! RATE COMMENT SUBSCRIBE SEE YOU NEXT TIME #FUCKACTIVISION. BUT ALSO FUCK EA BECAUSE I SAID SO."

Likewise, you'll find very few people actively defending NMS, but why the shit is everyone still mad about it? Move on. The subreddit is still very active, but it's full of people who got refunds or never bought the game in the first place, screaming about how they'll never support HG or Sean Murray again and they hope they go bankrupt and die or whatever. Bad to mediocre games come out all the time. What's so special about this one? He lied? Okay, if you feel that strongly, jump on that class action lawsuit or shut up and play a different game. It's been 3 months.

People wanna talk about the death of gaming journalism/press, but like...what-thefuck-ever. Youtube is just as bad if not worse. And Reddit is essentially an echo chamber. But none of that matters when I can make the same "IGN: 6/10 too much water LOLZ" joke for the billionth time. Speaking of which, I didn't even play the game in question and I'm well aware of the context of that quote. The person who reviewed that game (Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby) was bummed out because she felt the games did nothing to improve upon the surf/dive sections that were in the originals. Of course, every Youtuber and reddit goer under the sun saw that one quote, took it out of context, and now it's become a joke. But why correct yourself when you can continue to talk about how much you hate IGN?

Well, shit. Now here I am ranting for no good reason lol. I forgot what I was talking about...

I'm gonna go play some video games.

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BoOzak

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#38  Edited By BoOzak

The people pointing to the late 90's are out of their damn minds.

80-83 is the only right answer. You could argue gaming culture is worse now more than ever but I think humanity is just going through some dark times. And that reflects all mediums.

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Shadow

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post-atari, pre-NES

After NES came out, we've had more, better games released every year

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Tesla

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#40  Edited By Tesla

I don't think there has been a dark age. There are definitely positive and negative trends that wax and wane as time goes on. But I also think how you feel about this is largely affected by your personal life. One's emotional state/free time/school/work/relationships all have an affect on how much you can enjoy your hobbies.

When life is going well and everything is hunky-dory, I've never had any problems finding a myriad of games to enjoy. When I'm in a slump, I can look at a pile of amazing games and not feel like playing a single one of them.

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monkeyking1969

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I'll have to say the time between 1991 and 1995. Think about it this way, while Playstation start at the end of that time we had this four to five year period where everything in gaming seems to be coming unglued.

Sega-CD, CDi, 3DO, Jaguar were all coming out and were okay at best and junik at worst. This is also the time of weird handhelds Atari Lynx, Sega Game Gear and NEC's Turbo Express, which will interesting were battery hogs that ended up being heavy and weird as opposed to the simpler crusty-old GameBoy.

This was the time when video arcades were really struggling. In 1987 you see Street Fighter and other copy-cat 2D which is cool, but as fighter rise the rest of arcades games are nose diving. By 1993 we start seeing Virtua Fighter and Tekken start to appear, but as those rise even higher the rest of the games in the arcade are empty.

I think so much was happening in 1991 to 1995 that just seemed terrible for gaming. Moreover, the real introduction of 3D was painful, people were used to a look, feel and gameplay set in 2D that was just not going to work in early 3D. It was not until 1997 that most companies had 3D under their belts well enough to produce solid games that looked good and felt good in 3D.

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ajamafalous

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This very day

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ATastySlurpee

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@paulmako said:

People largely accepting that Overwatch launched as a $40 game that asks for more money through the reward progression system of a free to play game seems pretty dark.

I feel like a few years ago people would have boycotted it or something.

It's Blizzard and they can do no wrong...(sarcasm)

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deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1

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This is a easy one for me when COD4 was released and devs jumped on the bandwagon and the FPS for PC games went down hill F.E.A.R. 2 and 3 sames goes for Crysis 2 and 3 both dumb down turned more into twitch shooters. Also the BF series is a victim of this for me the last great one was BF2. Ever since the bad company series BF has become less tactical and more of a twitch shooter. To me the golden age of PC gaming is dead we don't have anymore awesome AAA PC FPS or third person exclusives that are on the level of what it used to be. That's a huge thing missing from PC gaming that I want back more than anything a smart AAA PC exclusive that takes advantage of PC hardware no graphical downgrades no dumb down gameplay. Damn I really miss when PC had those awesome AAA exclusives and I miss those old school thick retail game boxes.

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coolarman

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Kidavenger

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#46  Edited By Kidavenger

I want to say PC gaming 2002-2009.

With the success of PS2 and Everquest, it felt like all PC development went into MMO or left PC completely in favor of console development. Everything that we did get was a garbage port and most likely riddled with malicious DRM.

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doctordonkey

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#47  Edited By doctordonkey

Before DOOM was released. The state of gaming has been strictly identified by two time periods: pre-DOOM, and post-DOOM.

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MindBullet

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I'll say my personal gaming "dark age" was the era of the Wii and Xbox 360. Up until that point I was a die-hard Nintendo fan who also insisted on owning all of the available consoles so I could play anything and everything.

Well, the Wii managed to break me of my fanboyism (and unfortunately the Wii U hasn't done much to fix that), and after going through 4 different Xbox 360s thanks to the Red Ring of Death I swore off Xbox consoles entirely.

Other than that, I can't think of a time that I considered things to be irredeemably bad. I do think we're headed towards a so called "dark age" in the near future thanks to declining AAA sales and the rise of mobile gaming, but that remains to be seen.

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Max_Cherry

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Probably the early 80's.