7 REASONS WHY THIS IS THE GREATEST ERA FOR GAMING
Reason #1: Everything Looks Incredible
There was probably some moment for everyone, around the time the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo came out, where you saw some game with something your young, naive mind simply could not comprehend. Maybe it was the 3-D effect in F-Zero or the vectors in Vector Man (which must have been pretty good to name the game after them). Whatever it was, you thought to yourself "This is it. This is the pinnacle of graphics. They will never be able to achieve anything greater than this."
Of course, now we live in an age where this is possible (with the aid of a few mods):
We're at a precipitous point in graphical technology – it's so, so, so good that it's nearing something very close to realism. However, if it can't quite make the jump (and who knows whether it ever fully will), we're going to have one hell of an uncanny valley to deal with. But for the moment, games are capable of staggering beauty and incredible design that would probably shake our younger selves to the core. And even games that aren't going for the total immersive realism of Skyrim are doing great things: indie games like Fez and Limbo do incredible things and utilize technology to produce beautiful, simple graphics.
Then again, in 20 years someone else is probably gonna have a list on the singularity-net (or whatever the internet's called then), showing that Skyrim picture and saying "CAN YOU BELIEVE THOSE IDIOTS USED TO THINK THIS WAS GREAT GRAPHICS?! LOL! ANYWAYS, THE RADIATION FROM THE LAST NUCLEAR WAR IS RAVAGING MY INTERNAL ORGANS, SO I'M LOGGING BACK INTO THE HEALTHSPHERE."
Reason #2: We Have Everything
One thing that is hard to deny about our current era of gaming is that the options presented to gamers today are insane and wonderful in ways never before thought possible. Things like Nintendo's Virtual Console and the Playstation Store allow gamers to download games from past eras onto current gen consoles. There are websites (like VNES) dedicated to hosting emulated versions of old games. And not feeling up for legality? There's an entire world of emulators on the internet ready to be downloaded and played to your heart's content (for 24 hours, according to a law I read about on an internet forum once). Our current era of gaming is incredible because it combines every single era before it. Mere years ago, this wasn't possible – if you wanted to play an older game, you would need to get whatever system it was for AND find the game itself. Today, you don't even have to get up from the couch. Hell, you don't even have to be sitting on a couch at all.
Reason #3: You Can Play Anything
Region-locking and translation issues used to block certain games away from certain areas of the globe. A niche Japanese game might never be released in the United States, so you'd never get to play it, even though it looks so cool (you get to pilot a mech living in a Tokyo family's home and take care of their cat? SIGN ME UP!). Just look at the saga of Mother 3
– in development hell for years, finally moved over to the Game Boy Advance, and then Nintendo decided against localizing it for the North American market. In the old days, that would be it. You either bought a Japanese GameBoy Advance and learned to read Japanese or you were screwed. But thanks to the endless resources of the internet, pretty much anyone can find the ROM of the game and play it…FOR FREE
. IN ENGLISH
. Not that we're encouraging this. No, if we
have to learn Japanese, all you bakas should too.
Reason #4: You Can Play Anything…Any Way You Want
A little game called Skyrim came out last year (okay, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
, c'mon, gimme a break) – it was a vast, expansive game, with a million things to do, that would take over 100 hours to do everything the developers included. That's pretty impressive. But…it wasn't enough for some people. They wanted more
. They wanted to tweak the gameplay. They wanted to modify the graphics. They wanted…to battle as a character from My Little Pony. They wanted to fight Macho Man Randy Savage. And you know what? They got just that.
The current modding community is incredible. There are people working on mods for almost any game you can think of. They're improving games (fixing bugs, balancing gameplay, adding things that never even occurred to the developers), they're adding to games (new quests, characters, etc.), and they're just screwing around having fun (it's honestly easier to count how many mods for Skyrim AREN'T mods that remove everyone's clothing than the ones that are). If 100 hours of Skyrim wasn't enough for you, that's fine – you can probably squeeze another couple thousand out of the the number of mods out there.
And with platforms like the Steam Workshop, getting these mods is actually a lot simpler and smoother than the process used to be (where mods were assembled from a variety of questionable sites and could often break your game). There are even mods that are CORRECTING mistakes made by game developers (Fallout 2 was clearly released before it was fully completed – there are missing quests and bugs galore – but the "Restoration Project" fan-made mod is practically REQUIRED to get the full game experience).
Basically, the internet is pretty cool. Speaking of…
Reason #5: Holy Crap, The Internet
The internet is an incredible thing. Videogames are incredible things. Together, they are really, really incredible things.
You want to play Battlefield against 63 other people, but you don't have 63 friends at your house (along with the horrifying number of monitors/TVs/computers/consoles you'd need to fit in your house and the incomprehensible number of snacks those people are going to demand)? YOU CAN DO THAT. WITH STRANGERS
. WHO WILL SWEAR AT YOU AND YELL CONSTANTLY, BUT HEY, STILL PRETTY NEAT
You want to discuss some obscure Japanese import game that will never be released in the US and even if it was your friends would never want to discuss with you? YOU CAN DO THAT, TOO. HELL, YOU'D HAVE TROUBLE NOT DOING THAT, ACTUALLY. The internet connects people that would otherwise never be able to find each other, and allows them to communicate instantaneously.
The capabilities of the internet and videogames is virtually unlimited, and so vast it's a key factor in nearly every item on this list, but the social/interaction aspect is a very important piece of the puzzle. You can co-op a campaign with a total stranger. You can play multiplayer against anyone. You can discuss games, rumors, swap terrible memes, and create communities that exist solely between wires. You can collaborate and make games with people you'll never meet in the real world. You can visit videogame comedy websites and click the "Like" button at the bottom of articles. You can try to subtly convince other internet users to promote your videogame article via social media. Truly, the possibilities are endless.
Reason #6: Making Games Is Easier Than Ever
Making videogames is a hard enough task – there are endless challenges in conception and development, but the big barrier to entry in the past had been the actual release. The only way to get your game in the grubby hands of gamers was to go through a publisher to physically produce copies of your game on cartridge or CD, which would eat up a significant amount of money. Plus, good luck getting Wal-Mart to stock your game about a naked child fleeing his mother, who's trying to murder him to appease a voice in her head
. But no more – platforms like Steam and the Xbox Live Arcade and the App markets on mobile phones allow indie games to be published as downloads, sidestepping the messy business of in-store copies.
And even before that – the internet has given the developers such a direct relationship with customers that Kickstarter has become a major force in the gaming industry. Now games that would only appeal to a niche market can use their dedicated groups to fund smaller projects, and games that would otherwise never have been given a second thought are being produced, even if their concern weird concepts like the son of Charles Barkley in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world
Reason #7: No More Controller Cords
Really, this alone makes this era the greatest.