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Pop Culture'd: Skip forward, why I'm not retro gaming

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Posted by: PeterVMilo

In high school, I took a course in anthropology. I loved that class because my teacher was a quirky combination between Rasputin and Robin Williams from the movie Dead Poets Society. He was funny, sharp and made the history of ancient civilizations sound like they were written by George Lucas.

This was just before Phantom Menace.

One day in the middle of a lecture, he announced that, "There is no such thing as the good old days! If there is such a thing, they're right now!"

It took me a while, but I realized that the old Russian was right. There are no good old days, especially when it comes to gaming. What we have now is far, far better than what we had back then. Because of that, I don’t feel any sense of nostalgia, although I might be alone. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it’s really fun blasting through the old games. There's something still hypnotic about Desert Strike on the Genesis, and Super Mario 3 will always have that unique charm.

desert

I blew off at least one Girlfriend in Jr. High because of this game

With how technology has advanced, we have it really good now! If Shigeru Miyamoto could have made the original Super Mario Brothers in HD, with 60 FPS, and have the London Symphony Orchestra play the soundtrack, you bet he would have done it! The other developers from the 80s and 90s would have too.

Some of you are saying, "But back then they used their imaginations! Modern studios don't! All they make is Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty!"

To that I would reply, "I would have LOVED the modern GTA back then! That's what we wanted! Not Sonic the freaking Hedgehog!"

sonic

Sonic – Way Over Rated

There wasn't as much imagination in the old games as you think there was; they were probably even more derivative back then. Back in the day, all you could do in a game is go right, keep going right, and don’t die. The major differences between levels were the color palettes. Don’t quote me here, but I’m pretty sure they used the same exact music and sound effects across almost every single title. I’m actually confused why chiptunes became popular in gamer culture. Music shouldn’t sound like they came from the alarm clock I beat up every morning. Trust me when I say this, having real music in games is a godsend.

The stories were pretty much the same, too. They were either rescue your girlfriend or save a female monarch of some sort -- namely a princess. If you think video games based on movies are terrible now, you should have seen them back then. To put it kindly, they were traumatic. However, since the “good old days,” video games have become a much more powerful storytelling medium. Games now have emotional depth, characters are expressive, and they can feature plot lines that involve more than saving a princess.

There were tons of Tetris clones. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man Jr. -- they were all pretty much the same game with minor differences between them.

Look at Sonic, for example; he started off as a Super Mario clone. All of his sequels looked exactly alike and had the same 'left to right, jump jump, don’t die' formula as every other game back then.

However, despite my ranting, I do have a bittersweet love for them. I dream of the day EA will dust off the Desert Strike series, HD them, and then release them on a compilation disk. If they can add Flight of the Valkyries to the soundtrack, it would make my year.

desert

Come on EA! Imagine this in HD! XBLA is calling

Hint, hint EA.

Despite that affection, I’d rather have my Xbox because I can do so much more with it. I have a much bigger choice in the games I want to play. I could explore the plains and steppes of the old west, live life like a super hero, or take the Cleveland Browns to the Superbowl with the most up-to-date roster. I don’t have to drag my console over to someone’s house so we can play together. I could connect and team up with friends even if they’re several thousand miles away. Those are all things all gamers dreamed about back then.

But above all, I look forward to the future. What are they going to make next? What new stories are they going to tell? How are they going to make it more immersive? More fun? The future is bright. Games are going to get better, bigger and more diverse. That's going to happen because of you guys.

Putting a game together has never been more accessible than it is now; it was a really tough thing to do back in the day. Not everyone had access to a computer. Learning how to program and getting the software tools were much harder too, not to mention that they were much more expensive. The internet existed, but there wasn’t much on it. There were no cats speaking broken English; there was only porn and few discussion groups with creepy nerds.

Although I do miss a cat-free internet.

Game creation is more democratic now. How many times have you heard of a group of indie developers making something awesome? Take Jonathan Blow and Braid, for example. Yes, it supposedly cost him a ton of cash and a few years of his life, but that doesn’t mean it will for you.

So many game creation tools are free, and getting like-minded people to help out is much easier compared to the old days. Using tools like Skype and Google Drive you can team up with people, no matter what corner of the Earth you're in. Look at the Reddit effort to recreate “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne” from the show Community. That would be impossible in the Sega Genesis/SNES days. Even in the early 2000s, it would still be really difficult to put it together.

community

Best Reddit effort ever. Can’t wait until Ver 1.0.

The ways you can share your creation with the world is infinitely better compared to what we had back then. Not everyone had a Turbo Grafix 16, but almost everyone now has a smart phone, tablet, or both. Also, with the Ouya coming out soon, gaming may experience something equivalent to the printing press. If it does well enough, it just might scare Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo into making independent games a major feature for the 720, PS4 and Wii U.

You see, my friends, we haven’t seen the best of gaming yet. We progressed past the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, dipped our toes into immersion, and are now going into uncharted territory.

And you guys, you’re Magellan.

Agree / Disagree / Death threats? Let me know @mynameismylo #RetroGamingIs, and I’ll respond to the best tweets.

Tags: Gaming Culture

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