Simulated Wood-Grain Gaming

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Atari Flashback? PISH POSH! Real hardcore geeks bust out the 2600 and the rabbit ears TV set and the twin-leads-to-coaxial connectors and the tin-foil and do it old school![/pitiful elitism]

I remember the amazement and awe my father and I had when we first got AOL and realized that we could search for any song we wanted and in mere hours! have a MIDI transcription of that song to listen to! Four years later, MP3s happened and absolutely changed my life as I set upon a quest of musical discovery that shaped the very person I am today. I think this is a story many of us 20yos can relate to and encapsulates what may have been the last great era of inspired awe. Our kids are going to be sooooo fucking jaded.

Come to think of it, I bet this is the kind of 'evolution' that movie studios are counting on 3D movies and television to usher in. I don't think it's going to happen, because at best 3D television is to film what bump-mapping is to Goraud shaded polygons - just another coat of paint.

I'm sure kids in future generations will have new developments to fill them with awe. I recently had a thought along those lines, wondering what will be the next big thing, as it relates to childhood and growing up:

My grandparents' generation grew up before TV, my parents' generation grew up before personal computers, my generation grew up pre-Internet, the offsrping of my generation will grow up pre-_______?

I think that on Christmas, when a kid gets there first console, they still feel that joy. It's a crystallized moment of true happiness that I think we all wish we could have more of. In knowing the world, we loss all the joy of discovering it...

The Lawn:
I remember the first game I had that let me save.

I was speechless at the thought that the little cartridge could remember the things I had done.

Definitely. Before we got that little memory cart for the PS1, I probably wasted $50 of electricity keeping the system on perpetually to keep my saves.

I do agree here. I was gaming back in the mid 1980s and was astounded with child-like glee when I typed in a four-page code in garish green lettering just to get the fracking CLOCK up on the screen.

Now I see big, epic games like recent Final Fantasies and what have you, and whilst they always having me giving an obligatory 'ooh' and 'aah', the so-called magic behind these games isn't there.

It's just like 'oh a pretty video game', it's nothing new or special in that context any more because we know (and expect, I guess) that games will get more realistic visually, prettier, more epic etc... now it seems we're just waiting for the next big thing rather than being astounded at what's already there. :)

Susan Arendt:
Simulated Wood-Grain Gaming

Is gaming improving so quickly that it no longer amazes us?

Read Full Article

Currently Q*bert on PSN download is one of my favorite games. Why? Because it remembers it's supposed to be a game, and it's really fun to pick up and play. As a kid I always felt frustrated by more complex games that my friends found so easy to play - I had developmental motor skills problems so I've never beaten any Mario game. The only two video games I ever beat were Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both are experiences I will never forget, and experiences which will haunt me in their uncanny melancholy till my dying day.

I feel the same way about board games and card games as you do about old games consoles - because of the nature of my motor skills problem, that was my childhood - playing Pokemon cards with my friends and none of us cared who won or lost - simply the event of playing that card game was something that brings closeness in a way that even Goldeneye 64 at the time failed to do for me.

Goldeneye 64 for me was the hot game all the guys were able to play well, the "male bonding event" of the weekend was to go over to a friend's house with other friends to play and watch Goldeneye. But there were problems - the nature of eight year old boys in the 1990s was somewhat Spartan and because of this mentality said boys grew up treating the weak poorly in video games, but fortunately this didn't spill over into real life. Video games to me slowly became a matter of which male was superior to another - and not a matter of fun at all.

But oddly enough board games and card games never felt like that to me - everybody had the same chance going into it even if it was a CCG we were playing because if somebody didn't have a deck I lent them another deck I had constructed beforehand. I have around five Magic decks I still use for casual play - and I don't intend to throw them out soon. I don't intend to get rid of my wooden Dominoes set either - playing with hard wooden dominoes is akin to your wooden panelled consoles.

Goldeneye was a game that both defined and destroyed my generation - in terms of what it did to people's perceptions of what multiplayer gaming could be. It's not even split screen anymore - so we don't even have the guys in the room laughing and making jokes unless it's a local match of Street Fighter II Turbo or whatever new fighter like Tekken 6 comes out. Fighting games for me are more akin to a game because the fighting game genre never forgot it was a game - because it is a test of skill mixed with luck. The graphics may improve but the mechanics of it is still a high tech version of Rockem Sockem Robots or whatever.

I hope you get what I mean. I don't hate video games at all, I just wish there were more of them that remembered they were supposed to be games and toys instead of opportunities for young men to make weaker young men feel miserable.

Very nice article. Great job Susan, your columns are among the best articles this site has to offer. And that says something.

You're right, kids from this century won't be as amazed as you were, since the idea of controlling stuff on screens won't be new to children, the first time they play a game. Nor do I think that something similar will arise anytime soon. However, while there is a good chance that kids will never be astonished by a game like you were, the gaming-experience has definitely grown at other aspects. Your own fantasy can obviously fill in a lot of blank spots (which it did, in the past few decades), but games still got a whole lot more immersive, and that ís an important point. Games also have a lot more faces, these days: games used to thrive on a combination of challenge and immersion, but nowadays games provide fun on a lot more levels. Wii Sports, Ico, World of Warcraft, Half-Life 2, these are all games that bring up feelings that just weren't related to gaming in 'the old days'.
Not to mention that there simply are a lot more good games to play, now, and that gaming isn't nearly as frustrating as it used to be. All these tedious moments of frustration disappear when flooded with thoughts of nostalgia, but that doesn't mean that they weren't there.

The amazement of the 'old days' is gone, and that is indeed a tragedy. But we díd got something in return.

Oh, and savegames rock.

The sense of awe I had was when I first played Tribes 1, that was my first multiplayer contact.

It was so unreal to me I could play with other people. in those times, I still had to configure several settings and find a newly re-allocated Master server, but spending an entire day configuring was an experience worth experiencing. The next months, I kept playing the game, learning the community who were in their 20's, a mature one and first contact with people within a screen.

That was a shock & awe moment for me, Xbox Live dissappointed me severely with it. I suppose it's nostalgia that caught up with me, but that game was a pure blast.

I'm inclined to agree and disagree.

It's strange that as massive as a game like CoD:Modern Warfare 2 is, it still somehow seems to pale in the scope of Mortal Kombat. If you were playing games when it was released, you owned, or wanted to own (but couldn't because your parents thought it was the devil), Mortal Kombat. It felt epic in a way that game don't really do anymore (this could also be at least partially accredited to the best advertising campaign ever). Perhaps this could just be as a result of becoming jaded with age, but I like to think it's because we were not entirely over-saturated with games at that time.

While a shit ton of people own Modern Warfare 2, there are still alternatives out there that are better popular on their own. Or you could of course simply shrug the game off as "just another war FPS" and ignore it. In the past there were games that rendered themselves impossible to deny, MK being one of them, Quake being another. In 1996 it seemed like anyone with a PC who liked gaming, or just wanted to take their new shiny PC for a spin, had Quake, even more so with Quake 2.

I think that another large factor in the diminishing shock and awe of games is gaming websites and the internet as a whole. Back in the day, it was hard to keep track of gaming information, sure there was magazines, but they generally didn't print the countless rumors of new hardware, company politics, etc that we've grown accustom to today. Gaming websites have sort of revealed the man behind the curtain so to speak.

The last time I was truly taken back by a game was PlanetSide I believe, I had played EQ, but I think PlanetSide just spoke to me on a different level - dropping from a Galaxy on this massive continent right into the heart of battle amidst many, many people, just really worked for me. Though, I was kind of floored by Oblivion's awesome-ness, but not really shocked.

300lb. Samoan:
Atari Flashback? PISH POSH! Real hardcore geeks bust out the 2600 and the rabbit ears TV set and the twin-leads-to-coaxial connectors and the tin-foil and do it old school![/pitiful elitism]

My brother threw out my Atari and all my games on time when he came to visit. "What do you want with that old thing?" he asked, when I expressed my horror. "It has the computing power of a toaster!"

Yeah. He doesn't get it.

Susan Arendt:

300lb. Samoan:
Atari Flashback? PISH POSH! Real hardcore geeks bust out the 2600 and the rabbit ears TV set and the twin-leads-to-coaxial connectors and the tin-foil and do it old school![/pitiful elitism]

My brother threw out my Atari and all my games on time when he came to visit. "What do you want with that old thing?" he asked, when I expressed my horror. "It has the computing power of a toaster!"

Yeah. He doesn't get it.

holy crap!!! i can't beleieve anyone would throw away such a thing! fortunately my 2600 was locked away in my parent's attic for many years. when it came time for them to retire and move to florida, i rescued my beloved 2600 and all its games from certain doom. i've had that 2600 since 1982 and still remember playing defender and yar's revenge with my sister till the wee hours of the night.

Susan Arendt:

300lb. Samoan:
Atari Flashback? PISH POSH! Real hardcore geeks bust out the 2600 and the rabbit ears TV set and the twin-leads-to-coaxial connectors and the tin-foil and do it old school![/pitiful elitism]

My brother threw out my Atari and all my games on time when he came to visit. "What do you want with that old thing?" he asked, when I expressed my horror. "It has the computing power of a toaster!"

Yeah. He doesn't get it.


Finding one that works properly any more is a treasure! I CAN'T BELIEVE HE'D GO AND DO THAT!!! That's like saying "you don't need a toaster, we already have a furnace!"

i loved video games from the moment i flew my first plane in wings back on my amiga some 16 years ago but the thing is today awesome graphics are commonplace, most stories are predictable and we all been here done that in terms of gameplay. that isnt gamings fault i dont think. Its ours i mean in those 16 years of gaming ive seen alot, done alot in the video game medium which is probably why im not wowed by graphics, intrigued by the stories or genuinly sucked into the gameplay. if however i just picked up a game like bioshock for my xboxstation 360 and had never played a game before that time i would think it would be mind blowing!. games arnt bad we are just used to them :)

I was playing Tekken 3 on a computer emulator yesterday, and I remembered that, when I originally played the game well over 10 years ago, how amazed I was that the characters heads would move to "look at" the opposing player when they jumped up or moved to the side. That little advance is not so note-worthy in current games, and was only a small detail back then, but I do think we (even us older gamers)can still appreciate the small touches that newer technology gives us. A lot of chatter has been going on about "old school vs new school" and I think the only question we have to ask is "is the game fun to play". If old-school Space Invaders is your thing, cool. And if new-school Mass Effect is your thing, that's cool too. Fun is subjective, it's personal even when it is shared and I'm all for having fun. Let's start sharing the responsibility of our entertainment enjoyment with the industry. I'll also add that technology allows us to enjoy older games (via emulators for example, or reconstituted titles from Steam) and current games, so maybe the debate shouldn't be so much "old vs new" but more "fun vs not-fun".
Just a thought.

300lb. Samoan:

Susan Arendt:

300lb. Samoan:
Atari Flashback? PISH POSH! Real hardcore geeks bust out the 2600 and the rabbit ears TV set and the twin-leads-to-coaxial connectors and the tin-foil and do it old school![/pitiful elitism]

My brother threw out my Atari and all my games on time when he came to visit. "What do you want with that old thing?" he asked, when I expressed my horror. "It has the computing power of a toaster!"

Yeah. He doesn't get it.


Finding one that works properly any more is a treasure! I CAN'T BELIEVE HE'D GO AND DO THAT!!! That's like saying "you don't need a toaster, we already have a furnace!"

Tell me about it. I consider it a minor miracle that I still speak to the man.

I think it has everything to do with growing up, not so much with the videogame-medium progressing through time. I only entered the gaming scene properly at the age of 10 when I got Pokémon Red on my, before that time useless, GameBoy Pocket. I'll never forget the sense of wonder you had with Space Invaders. Exactly the same happened when I got my first big console, the GameCube, 2 years after that.

Now, just 7 years later, I already notice that that sense of awe isn't as vivid as when I was still a little lad. It's one of those wonderful qualities all children possess and sadly loose as they grow up, just like that amazing, endless and completely insane sense of creativity.

I was gaming on the NES when I was 4 or 5, and moving on to the SNES when I was about 7, so I missed the initial awe-inspiring leaps. However, I have that same crispness to my memory of the first time I turned on Super Mario 64 for my brand new N64.

I must have spent a good hour just running around that initial field, completely ignoring the castle in the background for the fun of just running around in a 3D environment. Sure, I had played games like Descent, but to me that was computer sorcery - something I'd never experience on my TV.

I remember that feeling - and for me it was also the first I saw Sonic the Hedgehog on my cousin's old Megadrive. That was my first exposure to computer games and I was stunned. So.. I wonder if that series as some small proof that no matter how far games move on, they /will/ amaze the newcomer upon their first exposure (I mean, Sonic the Hedgehog is lightyears ahead of Pong, after all).

But that said, I think we've only lost a small piece of our sense of awe, and its one we'll always start with: our awe for the technical. I think everyone will be amazed by new technologies and their improvements to the media we're used to, but eventually become desensitised by prolonged exposure to the march of progress. However, that's only half of the awe of computer games, and I can't see the other half ever fading, for me. Certainly, at two decades into life and counting, it continues strong for me: awe at games' content. NiGHTS: into dreams ability to evoke feelings got me when I was fifteen or so, and Burning Rangers' originality soon after. Phantasy Star 4's character depth not long after that and more recently the sheer potential of the Dwarf Fortress project. And what about Ico? That game was only a limited marvel in terms of graphics improvement and soon surpassed, but the things those graphics represent continue to awe me to this day. Ragnarok Online also still gets me, with its strange ability to make a cutesy 2D world always leave me feeling strangely uncomfortable, like there's something very, very bad watching me from the edges of all that sweetness and light.

.. Yeah, my progress through gaming has been far from chronologically correct. But all the same, I'll happily attest that the content of a well-designed game will always awe me, even if the number of polygons it sticks on the screen, or the way I control those polygons, grows to nothing but repeating 'meh's.

Onyx Oblivion:
Quite a few games managed to provoke awe in me the whole way through in recent years.

Especially Okami. Which kept my jaw planted to the floor for nearly 50 hours. And then made me cry like a fucking baby:

If you played it, you remember the scene with this music. YOU REMEMBER!

*sniff* ahum.... Just got back from an Okami marathon. God i LOVE that game, i wish you could turn the mumbles off though. Didn't bother me that much but every time someone comes past my room they stop and give me odd looks.

My first games were Doom and Mario 64, and I remember the feeling you describe

I accidentally started up a new thread instead of replying to this one. Whoops, still new here. Anyway, the way I view this situation is that the mainstream gaming industry is exploring new concepts to such a limited extent and that we are continually pushing the same things over and over, that THAT is what is leading to a feeling of 'been there done that' within the medium. I understand what Arendt is saying and I think there is real value to it, but it seems to undervalue the potential of the medium in saying that games are reaching the end of their potential. Just my opinion, still think it was a great article.

Stuart1992:
I accidentally started up a new thread instead of replying to this one. Whoops, still new here. Anyway, the way I view this situation is that the mainstream gaming industry is exploring new concepts to such a limited extent and that we are continually pushing the same things over and over, that THAT is what is leading to a feeling of 'been there done that' within the medium. I understand what Arendt is saying and I think there is real value to it, but it seems to undervalue the potential of the medium in saying that games are reaching the end of their potential. Just my opinion, still think it was a great article.

When did I say games were reaching the end of their potential? I said that I fear we're losing our ability to be awed, which is due to a lot of different factors, but games' ability to grow and evolve certainly isn't one of them.

Absolutely loved this, drags back the memories and made me think of something rather funny.

Usually nowadays when I play a game like contra or any, and I use this term loosely "Simple" games after a while of getting my ass handed to me because the games were meant to beat you, I simply stop playing.

But the first contra on the nes is my earliest memory of gaming and I remember playing for hours and days on end along with blaster master, mario bros and hundreds of other games on those wacky 199 in one game carts. But the thing is back then I just kept playing because I couldn't believe I was playing a game and it was just so damn awesome, completely ignoring the fact I was constantly playing the same levels over and over.

Can't imagine what it'd be like growing up in today's game market with my first home console being a Wii, 360 or PS3 and handheld a DS, PSP or dare I say an Itouch?

Excellent article.

And my thought of contributing: I remember the good old days of gaming, favorite platform is still Snes, along with all the awesome RPGs that came through it. After that era, games that managed to work their way into my heart are few and far between. And I think Yahtzee from zero punctuation put it perfectly "now that the hardware has basically maxed out what it can do, I think i can actually start to look forward to some quality games" (what he said was something along these lines, and I can't remember what video it was)

I introduced my niece to gaming as early as...one or two years old? We had a sort of mini-Frogger machine that belonged to my brother in the 80's that still worked, and being able to play it made her happy and smile. Now that she's 4 or 5, she's used to the idea.

What really amazes me, however, is what being born with it does to the way you think. After roughly 20+ years of gaming I'm used to the boundaries built in. My niece, on the other, can't understand why she can't jump off the pirate ship and swim in the water in Castle Crashers or why Link keeps drowning when she tries to take him swimming in Wind Waker.

To a child it makes a logical sort of sense. There is water there, and she swims in water, so therefore she wants to make the character swim.

I, on the other hand, am used to water being a barrier for death, or an area where you can only swim for a limited amount of time before drowning, or drastically reducing speed, etc. It's a sort of "out of bounds" or, in the case of Castle Crashers, just a background element.

To her, it's all new and fresh. She hasn't learned all the rules. As a result, I look at it and wonder how we might rethink how certain objects and places are treated in games and how we can change it.

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