Ways Gaming Used To Be Better

by Joe Juba on May 02, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Gamers have a tendency to look at the early years of gaming through rose-colored glasses. Not everything about those days was as great as you may remember; we recently ran through several ways that playing games used to suck. However, not everything about those days was worse. In this list, we reminisce about the many ways being a gamer in simpler times was superior.

Public conventions like BlizzCon, QuakeCon, and PAX let gamers come together, but events like that only happen a few times a year. Finding a gathering of gamers used to be no harder than going to the arcade at your local mall. These dim, cacophonous caves were the proving grounds for people eager to demonstrate their skill. Arcades also provided a forum for gamers to get together and trade strategies and secrets.

Games Worked At Launch
Whether it means dealing with day-one patches or pervasive network errors, “launch week” is an odious phrase in today’s landscape. Some games are pushed out the door in an unpolished state, with the idea that they can be repaired through post-launch updates. That garbage did not happen in the old days. Sure, bad games still came out, but releasing unfinished games was not a common practice.

Multiplayer: Free and Functional
Teaming up with your friends used to be hassle-free: You just plugged in some extra controllers. Not only did that give you actual human interaction, but it also didn’t require you to purchase an annual subscription to a separate service. Today, most titles opt for online over local multiplayer, forcing console gamers to buy in to Xbox Live or PS+, putting them at the mercy of the servers and introducing a host of complications.

When you spend hundreds of dollars on a new console these days, you aren’t just buying a way to play games; you’re also buying a new vehicle for advertisements. You turn on your console and you see the latest promoted content. Back in the day, a video game console was just for playing games, not for leveraging a user base to drive partnerships with huge corporations (unless you bought games like Yo! Noid or M.C. Kids).

No Hand-Holding
Starting a new game didn’t always mean blocking out an hour or two at the beginning for tutorials about movement, basic combat, and crafting. Once upon a time, you could just start playing and experience the joy of discovery. Games let you gradually discover their depth rather than beating you over the head with it.

Next: Even more ways gaming was great back in the day.

The Whole Game
Additional characters, skins, modes, and weapons– these things used to be a part of a game right out of the box. Today, these elements are held back (or chopped off) only to be resold as downloadable content. New ways to enjoy a game are good, but paying extra for them stings since we used to get them as a bonus.

Instant Play
When you buy a game, you want to play it. You don’t want to stare at an installation screen for 20 minutes, or mess around with menus to create an account on a publisher’s propriety online platform. Prior to the last generation, you could just put your disc or cartridge into your console and it worked. Now, you need to anticipate when you might want to start playing a game so you can jump through all of the hoops beforehand.

Before Triple-A
Today, we see a huge gulf between blockbuster, triple-A series and the small, experimental titles. There was a time when that divide was barely a crack, and console libraries overflowed with bizarre, niche titles that kept us busy until the next big thing – and they didn’t just live on the indie fringe. All of the genres were still young, so they hadn’t become codified. We had more risk and deeper genre pools, giving us easy access to a variety of different experiences.

What’s A Spoiler?
Story has become more important in gaming, and that’s a change for the better. However, it has also introduced a new hazard into the hobby: spoilers. Admittedly, games from a couple decades back didn’t have huge twists or major character developments that could be prematurely revealed. However, that also meant you were free to enjoy a game at your own pace without worrying about some malicious joker online spoiling a climactic moment.

Cheat Codes
Nothing entices you to replay a game you already love like being freed from its restrictions. Cheat codes that enable unlimited ammo, infinite health, and higher jumps can breathe new life into game you already know inside and out. These secret codes are far less prevalent today than they were in the old-school era, and being kept on a short leash makes it less tempting to return for second and third playthroughs.

What are your favorite memories of old-school gaming? Share in the comments below.