“In certain cases when something reaches its apex of popularity, some people will start to think it’s cool to dislike it. You know, a bit like the way so many people claim to hate The Walking Dead and go on about how much better the comics are, even though they’ve never read them. What a bunch of dicks.”
– Socrates, 440 BC
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently while trawling through the endless number of baby photos, pictures of cats, and thinly-veiled racist rants that is social media: a seemingly increasing number of people, mostly under 20-year-olds sporting fluffy soul patches and full sleeve tattoos, are loudly proclaiming that video games are, for one reason or another, “dead.”
I’ve seen quite a few jerk-bag statements like this keep popping up, so I thought that as someone who owned a Spectrum 48K and an Atari 2600 as a kid (I’m old and gave gamer street cred, deal with it), I’d use my many years of gaming experience to examine some popular phrases and explain why those who use them are complete tools.
Starting off, this first one is from the perspective of someone who truly loves retro games...
It may come as a surprise to the many people who spout this line that not every game developed before the year 2000 had Super Mario World’s gameplay. In fact, some were totally rubbish! Remember the '90s FMV craze? ‘Interactive’ games like Night Trap pretty much did away with gameplay altogether. Then there were the barely-interactive titles like Dragon’s Lair and Microcosm which stretched the very definition of what constituted a game but looked nice.
A lot of the reasoning behind this statement is pure nostalgia. Graphics weren’t as advanced back then and we all have games from our childhoods we loved; therefore, we reason that it used to be “all about the gameplay.” '90s designers didn’t say “graphics are crap right now, let’s concentrate on the other elements,” much in the same way that today’s game companies don’t say “graphics today are amazing, who needs gameplay?”
There are tons of modern titles that forego graphics for gameplay: Kerbal Space Program, Super Meat Boy, FTL, the list goes on and on. And there’s also the tiny matter of a game called Minecraft.
Games back then *did* focus on graphics just as much as today, if not more.
Yes, because many years ago money wasn’t the slightest bit important to the people who made games. Nope. Companies were set up for the sole purpose of making gamers happy - if they did happen to make some cash, then it was just a nice little extra bonus.
Corporate greed really isn’t something new, and just because microtransactions are so prevalent these days it doesn’t mean they never would have been used 20 years ago. Video games now often cost more than Hollywood blockbusters to make, so they’re not going to retail for pennies.
And here’s a very interesting fact for you: When Toys R Us put Tetris and Super Mario Bros 3 for the SNES on its shelves in 1990 they were priced at $55 and $70 respectively. Adjusting for inflation, those games today would be priced at $90 and $115.
$115 for a console game! Companies have always been about making money, the only difference is that now there are more subtle ways of taking it off people. Besides, if a game company doesn't make money, they can't make more games. Do you think we'd have MSG 5 if the Metal Gear franchise didn't make money?
Do you really hate big things? Ignoring the obvious double entendres, what is there to hate about a game studio spending millions on a title? Sure, some people bring up the scenario of a company spending hundreds of millions on a game which completely flops and results in another industry crash, but that’s very, very unlikely to happen - games flop all the time and we go on.
Then there’s the argument that games with massive budgets make it unfair on the smaller developers who can’t compete with that kind of financial muscle. Really, though, there are plenty of titles that refute this argument; I hate to use the same game twice as an example, but I can’t help but mention Minecraft again.
Speaking of games with massive budgets, look at Destiny – the most expensive game ever made (supposedly $500 million) and, especially since The Taken King expansion, is one of the most loved, popular and award-winning games of recent years. Don’t hate on games just because they have a big budget, otherwise you’ll have to apply that logic to movies as well - no more Marvel or DC titles, it's indie art house cinema for you from now on, hypocrite!
Wait, what? You can’t stand that the form of entertainment you love the most is now immensely popular? That’s on par with saying: “Donald Trump seems like a totally irrational person. I think he’d make a great president.”
I can sympathize with those who sometimes feel… overwhelmed… by the sheer number of YouTube celebrities, famous Twitch streamers, aggressively loud video game reviewers, and children questioning their opponents’ mothers’ moral values when playing online games. But, it’s a lot better than the alternative.
There used to be a time when being a ‘video game fan’ older than 16 translated as ‘social reject’ to a lot of people; an age when the mere mention of watching someone else play games would have been laughed at; an era when the whole medium was regarded as something of a niche area reserved for kids and loners.
When something you love becomes hugely popular it can suddenly seem less special, less unique to you. But instead of being unreasonably bitter about people finding joy in something you also find joy in, embrace the popularity – otherwise you'll become a grumpy hipster and go around claiming you liked it before anyone else did, like a tool.
Of course, being the worst of all the tool-like sentences, this takes the number one spot on this list. Most of the people who repeat it will cite some of the other phrases from this list as to why they believe gamers are now “dead.”
They’ll probably throw in other stuff like lack of innovation, buggy releases, blah, blah, entitlement, entitlement. I’m not denying that these things can occasionally be a problem within gaming, but to claim the whole industry is dead because is asinine at best.
As I said in the intro – I love my retro games, passionately. But I’m not so blinded by nostalgia that I don't accept the video game industry today is the best it has ever been. If I knew 25 years ago that I'd be playing titles as amazing as Metal Gear Solid 5 and The Witcher 3, I think my younger self would have exploded. I clearly remember wishing that multiplayer would one day not involve having to cram four people around one keyboard, or dragging a PC and monitor to a LAN party. And I’ll always recall feeling embarrassed when replying “video games” to someone who asked what my hobbies were in 1995.
Thanks to advanced technology, their popularity, and the sheer range of people who now enjoy them, we are living in a golden age of video games.
Video games are dead? Pah! They’ve never been more alive.