So, today I turned 33, which not only means that this is the start of the last year that I can rightly say that “I’m in my early 30s,” but it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect back on a lot of things. One of the things that I’ve thought about a lot lately has been the evolution of gaming (and technology, for that matter) over the past 30+ years and the fact that while some things have evolved in a massive, almost unpredictable way over the years, other things remain constantly in style.
When I was born, the sun was finally setting on the era of Atari’s reign in home console gaming. The Nintendo Entertainment System would shortly be released in the United States, and the way people thought about home games would effectively change forever. While Atari had focused more on short, arcade-like gaming experiences you could enjoy in little bursts, the NES delivered much longer and much more detailed gaming experiences. You could easily write a dissertation on how exactly the original Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda would go on to redefine and revitalize the gaming industry as a whole, but the fact that I could mention this in a sentence and you’d likely know exactly what I was referring to says an awful lot. When I first played The Legend of Zelda, I was probably about three years old, and I remember stumbling around, trying to figure out where to go and what I needed to do. Sometimes this left me a little frustrated, but I definitely remember being excited every time I uncovered some little secret. Sure, back then I wasn’t good at all and probably died a ton, but the experience was memorable and something I’ll never forget. The original Dragon Warrior was the first real RPG I ever played and I’m pretty sure some parts of it were a bit beyond my reading level at the time, yet part of me thinks that the desire to figure out what was going on in games like it (and later Final Fantasy II on the SNES) really encouraged me to press on and helped my reading skills improve.
Most of my favorite game series had their genesis during this same time period. In addition to the games listed above, I was very fond of Castlevania, and pretty much all the NES Mega Man games. This is probably why I am still very excited today every time I read about a new Castlevania, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Super Mario, or Mega Man game. This is true even if sometimes they might be games I won’t get right away, because despite that there’s still this big nostalgia factor that kicks in when I see things like the recent announcement of Mega Man 11 for modern game consoles and the PC.
I didn’t necessarily get every game system that came out as I was growing up, but I did get a fair number of them. I remember getting the Super Nintendo for Christmas the year it came out, eventually getting a Sega Genesis, a Nintendo 64, the original PlayStation, and then later the Dreamcast and the GameCube. I had other ones too, like the Game Boy (and later GB Color and GB Advance), the Game Gear, and the Virtual Boy. Later on, in college, I also went out of my way to go back and pick up a Sega Master System (and a bunch of games!) and a Philips CD-i.
Over the years, certain aspects of my tastes in games and what I play them on have changed, though. For instance, when I was in college and had my first really capable laptop, I got a lot more into PC gaming. Part of this also probably stemmed from the fact that when you live in a dorm you have a lot less space to work with, so lugging around a bunch of consoles and games becomes a lot less practical for a while. Still, I usually always had at least one console from each subsequent generation of systems and quite often would favor Nintendo over the others if I were only to get one system. Later on, I came to appreciate the diversity that having a powerful PC would allow, letting me not only play games on very high settings (enjoying modern titles on a huge 4K HDR TV these days), but also serving as a media center, entertainment PC, and work station. This has also certainly been a boon in the past when I’ve been more into media production, such as gameplay videos.
It’s been interesting though to see that home gaming consoles have evolved in many ways into being “small gaming PCs” with some pretty impressive stats backing them up. This was something I predicted a while back, saying that I thought that the lines between a computer and a game console would slowly get a bit blurred. I also remember commenting that I thought the lines between a portable and a home-based console would also eventually start being blurred as technology both improved and shrunk over time, allowing you to fit some pretty impressive hardware into much smaller devices. In this way, the Nintendo Switch has surely met this prediction and in many ways exceeded any expectations I might have had for that kind of technology.
I know that it’s easy to look at an older generation of adults and think that they have become out of touch with the changes in the world around them, possibly because they are already set in their ways and prefer those things that are already familiar to them. In this respect, though, I hope I never stop trying new things and appreciating all the exciting changes that are going on around us. It’s easy to get comfortable with what you already know and thus become stuck in a rut, but it’s often very refreshing and exciting to take a chance and try something totally new.
Lately, I’ve been making much more of an effort to actually play and enjoy games, because in recent years I was starting to feel like I was more of a collector and appreciator of games than I was a gamer. Often I would buy or get a game as a gift and really be excited about it, but life would get busy and I’d never get around to it or I’d always have one excuse or another for why I didn’t want to start a brand-new game just yet. Now, I see how massive my gaming backlog is, but I’m trying to approach it with a healthy and fresh mindset, aiming mainly to play things because I want to play them and just start enjoying them again.
Anyway, the past decades have certainly seen a lot of changes, and it’s fun to look back on them and reflect on how things have evolved. Thanks for dropping by and spending a little time with me as I’ve looked back on some of these things. Hopefully the coming years will see many more exciting advances that we will all enjoy together!