The past few months of my gaming life have been spent playing a much larger amount of “retro” or at least dated games from previous console generations. Specifically The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64, 2000) and Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360, 2008). This is accredited to my recent desire to expand my horizons, as well as my perpetually growing collection of video-games that I never seem to play in the right time frame.
Hundreds of brand new titles and franchises are created every year, with no signs of drastic slowing in the near future. As a relatively new art form, many current and lifelong gamers can remember the 8-Bit era without having to think too hard. The Nintendo Entertainment System is an icon and quickly becoming a relic of the past. Released in 1985, well before I was even born, I can still easily acknowledge why it was important and what games set the bar for future iterations of digital gaming.
I’m learning a hard lesson about video-games, one which will become more and more relevant for future generations of gamers. Not all games can maintain the same quality as when they were first released. Unlike sports and even some board games, video-games suffer from a constant onslaught of updates and improvements to weed out the field. The natural counter argument is to list off classics like Ocarina of Time, Super Mario World, Mega Man 2 or whichever Final Fantasy game tickled your fancy. While I won’t deny the importance and sheer quality of these legendary games, it is a short list regardless of what you come up with. In comparison to the thousands of video-games in existence it simply pales in comparison.
Likewise, proving that the games are of the same quality as they were on the date of release is physically impossible to prove. From a technical standpoint, the games are the same. Disregarding failing cartridges and PC games incompatible with modern operating systems of course; or for the current wave of systems, take a glance at multiplayer games with barren or nonexistent online servers. However anyone who has played a game made within the last decade is going to experience something different when sifting through something much older. This is harder to experience for the current population of gamers, a large amount of us grew up with dated consoles and we reflect upon them fondly. In one hundred years will gamers still be praising the likes of Mario 64 and its’ impact on the world?
Theoretically speaking, a sound way to test a game’s lasting quality is to raise a child with no influence or idea about the modern world’s video-game technology. And assuming this lab-child even likes video-games, he or she would likely build a bias towards his or her “first” gaming experience; thus rendering later gaming escapades less data friendly.
This still leaves many factors unaccounted for: personal genre preferences, available hardware, the mood of the gamer at the time of playing and even the person’s physical standing and background will all affect what a person thinks of a game. So while retro games are inevitably becoming outdated for future generations, current generations bicker about things like review scores – often times relating these numerical properties to games of yesteryear. Review scores do have their place in the world, though there are too many factors involved with them to consider these numbers as any legitimate indication towards the overall quality of a game.
It’s sad to acknowledge that video-games are far less future proof than other media types such as books and film. This isn’t to say that the year 21XX won’t have any retro-gaming enthusiasts, but given the rate of progression in technology it’s extremely likely they will be an incredibly small minority of gamers. Granted we are seeing a decent amount of HD Remakes and updates to classic games, they still often times feel dated for reasons beyond a fresh coat of paint. Some gamers may still love the simplicity of Pac-Man or the balancing of Street Fighter II; it’s understandable and often times supported by nostalgia. It is simply unlikely that new-age gamers will flock to these gems on their own accord.