How do Games Today Stack up Against Games of the Past?

Written by: Kaminin

Old timers are famous for coming out with lines like ‘back in my day’. They always seem to make the past sounds so much more eventful and fun than the present. Sure, when I look back on my past I do think it was a lot of fun, but who’s to say that I’ve already had my ‘best day ever’ and that everything’s downhill from here. Just as old timers compare the past to the present, many gamers compare the fun they had playing old games with new games. Sadly many gamers often find themselves saying that games now days just aren’t as fun; game developers are putting too much effort into maxing graphics and gameplay, but forgetting the importance of a good story. Is simplicity the formula to success? Do we simply judge games more harshly now that the market has grown, or are games genuinely getting worse?

When comparing old games to new games, the first major difference people notice is the graphics. Rewind to 2001, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone seemed so realistic, but when I recently dug out my PS1 and did another run through, I couldn’t get past the fact that I could almost count the number of pixels in Harry’s face with my hands. Now however, even while playing a game like Tomb Raider on the absolute maximum settings, I find myself occasionally getting annoyed at a badly rendered fern in the background. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still drooling at the graphics of the next gen games, but at the moment I’m comparing all the games I play to these next gen graphics. When I was younger the graphics weren’t as good, but at the time they seemed revolutionary to me and left a strong impression that remains in my memory to this day.

Story, on the other hand, can be compared on a level playing field. Primarily being an RPG gamer, I place a lot of emphasis on a good story. Sadly , I honestly believe that games of the past placed a lot more emphasis on a good story. Games like Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), or Final Fantasy VII had such amazing stories that you could play them over and over. Even now, I find myself wanting to play KOTOR for the amazing story alone. While there are a few games with outstanding stories, such as The Witcher 2, compared to the number of games released per year now, it really is quite disappointing.

Gameplay is vital. A good story and graphics essentially amount to an interactive movie. Gameplay is what takes that interactive movie and forges it into a game. In this regard, I  believe that current games are leaps and bounds ahead mechanically—though this is no fault of older developers. With the technology of today, it is feasible to have more intricate AI as well as more dynamics. Tomb Raider I, for example, only allowed the character to move in straight lines and shoot with an auto-aim system. This made the game quite simple. Contrast this to the modern Tomb Raider (2013). The developers have put a lot of emphasis in creating an entertaining combat system. However, there are also games that maintain the highly simplistic gameplay styles to maintain a retro feel. The Super Mario series has hardly changed from when it first came out. Indeed, I think many fans of the franchise would be appalled at any serious deviation from this meta. While changes have been made, the game is still fundamentally a retro style scroller. While the quality gameplay itself has increased , I honestly believe that games now are much more forgiving than games of the past. One of my greatest problems with games today is my sense of achievement upon finishing the game. ‘Back in the day’ I had a heightened sense of achievement upon completing a great game with an amazing story line, whereas today that feeling is dampened by cliche and lame stories.

So with respect to the belief that games today aren’t as good as games of the past, I say new games have a generally lack-luster story, and are too easy despite having better graphics. But, it is important to remember that the gaming industry is still very much in its infancy. One reason that games are easier is to attract a wider audience rather than putting casual gamers off with impossibly hard quests. We are currently at a very unique time in gaming history: the era of looking at the screen is slowly coming to an end, soon to be replaced by virtual reality software. With this new development, I hope that gaming will return to its roots of producing a few great games over many useless ones.

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