It seems like just yesterday that weekends meant going to a friend’s house for an afternoon of Mario Kart while lounging in overstuffed beanbag chairs. And nothing was better than when your parents were free to take you to the mall, where you could spend hours with a cup of quarters playing Street Fighter II at the arcade. Walking into that dark space illuminated by bright, flashing screens transported you into another world where time ceased to exist and you could spend hours in front of a single game.
Feeling nostalgic yet? We definitely are. But before you start feeling remorseful about the original Nintendo console you discarded, consider that you may be looking at your gaming history through rose-colored glasses. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of today’s online-focused gaming, one that may help us see if your gaming nostalgia is warranted or just a memory distorted by an era gone by.
Why We’re Homesick for the Good Old Days of Gaming
There were plenty of changes that came about when the Internet and video games first began to merge, but what do we miss most about the gaming of our youth?
- Less Harassment: You probably traded good-natured trash talk with your friends while playing Donkey Kong, but the anonymity of online gaming has spawned a harsh environment where people feel like they can say anything without repercussions.
- Less Cheating: You may have unconnected your friend’s controller while playing Halo, but today’s gamers take cheating a step further. Researchers found that the relative privacy of online gaming encourages people to cheat more often than they would in their real life. So if you feel like people were more trustworthy in the past, you aren’t wrong when it comes to gaming.
- Fewer Lame Sequels: The convenience of gaming has become a huge problem for developers. Gamers expect quick, continuous thrills and become bored after only a few hours of playing a game. To yield profits, video game producers have to release constant sequels. These games are often far worse than the original and cause fans to desert the game line for good.
- More Patience Required: Arcades and games of the past challenged gamers to use patience and intellect to defeat difficult levels. Now, a frustrated gamer needs less than five minutes of online searching to learn how to beat the hardest games around.
What We Like About Gaming Today
The introduction of online gaming changed video games forever, in more ways than one. But are those changes worth the price?
- More Convenience: You no longer have to camp out for hours in front of the local video game store waiting for the latest release of your favorite game. Instead, you can sign on to your online account and purchase a game within minutes.
- Less Commitment: In addition to cutting the wait time to acquire a game, current games require a shorter time commitment. You probably recall setting aside an entire afternoon to play Halo with your friends. More recent games, especially the wave of casual games like FarmVille that permeate social media, are designed to suit a shorter attention span, allowing users to sign on and easily play in chunks as short as five minutes.
- More Opportunities to Save: Remember begging Mom for just a little extra time to reach the next checkpoint? Newer games typically let players save at any point, making it common to catch someone gaming during their lunch break or while on their commute. The “quick play” design of today’s video games lets you enjoy them throughout the day without any prior planning.
- More Options: The original gaming consoles were extremely basic, using only a few buttons to control pixelated images that moved erratically across the screen. In addition to more advanced controllers, gamers today can also use touchscreen devices like a smartphone or tablet to maneuver the controls seamlessly.
- More Stories: Today’s games feature long backstories, recognizable voice-over acting, and breathtaking graphics that turn playing a video game into an enthralling, interactive experience. The complex origin stories behind games like Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed sound like the plots for extensive movie trilogies instead of video games.
- More Interaction: When consoles ruled the gaming world, a maximum of four people played in one game. Using the Internet, video games allow you to meet and play against dozens of people around the world during a single game. In fact, a study performed by psychologists at the University of Münster found that shy people tend to make friends easier in online gaming communities. Gamers can form friendships while playing World of Warcraft or bond over sharing tips in an online forum for their favorite game. With a fast Internet connection, you can network with gamers all over the world and build social connections easily.
There are a few aspects of today’s games that may make you nostalgic for your old gaming systems, but overall, the transition to online gaming has arguably been a positive change. Do you believe that online gaming revamped or ruined the video game domain? Sound off in the comments!