[Feature] How Games Have Changed in the Industry, and Personally by Simon Marshall

Published on January 30th, 2014

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If you are reading this then you’re probably an enthusiastic gamer.
An enthusiastic gamer who probably has admiration for an industry which is filled with innovation, ideas and infinite fun. If you look back to 20 years ago, nothing much has changed in that regard. With gaming becoming a serious challenge to mainstream entertainment such as films and television shows, it’s amazing to think just how far games have and matured over the past 20 or so years. Simple platformers and side-scrolling games have become huge open worlds with endless possibilities which can consume your life for hundreds of hours. Aside from gaming being far simpler years ago, I know from personal experience that my taste in games has changed throughout the years too. Some tastes for the better and some gaming habits for the worse.

When you look at the games of today compared to the games of 20 years ago, they now only share a few similarities. Back then games such as Sonic, Mario, Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country were dominating the gaming market with their wonderful ideas contained inside a cartridge. At the time, it felt as though you had taken the cartridge straight out the back of the creator’s mind and you were able to plug it straight into your console. The colour from the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive era was incredible and is probably why so many people have such fond memories of this era in particular.

Games weren’t played by as many people as today, but these games were so accessible and easy to get used to that everyone could play them as some games were almost seen as children’s toys, to an extent. Games such as Super Mario, Sonic and Space Invaders showed that anyone and everyone could have fun playing games, if they were willing to afford the expensive outlay of course.

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My first games console was a SEGA Mega Drive I shared with my brother and although I was only 4 years old when we got it, it holds some great memories for me. I can recall jumping up and down the streets of Springfield as Bart Simpson while trying to work out who was an alien and who was human. I remember playing ‘Batman’ and trying to help Gotham dispose of goons in this wonderful side-scrolling beat-em-up.  I could spend hours on end playing through these worlds which brought my imagination to life as I often watched The Simpsons and Batman cartoons. This is probably why gaming has become as important to me as it allowed me to take my admiration for these cartoons to the next level, and I was able to control their every move.

From my first experience in gaming and throughout the 90’s, I was only playing games for the fun factor instead of achieving anything. One game I do recall playing in 1996 was Resident Evil. I have no idea why I was attracted to the game; I noticed a soldier-type person on the front cover with a shotgun and immediately wanted it. Even though the game was rated 15, I had it bought for me and when I began playing through it, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what was going on. Many have claimed at being put off, or scared by the very first zombie you come across. I wasn’t fazed because I didn’t know what was going on, even if I was devoured by this introductory zombie, I just continued playing.

Today, games such as Bioshock, Dead Space, The Last of Us, The Walking Dead and Red Dead Redemption grab headlines because of their intricate stories and wonderful gameplay mechanics. While some argue that gaming has now become far too commercialised with micro-transactions and on-disc DLC, it has been hard to argue that the way in which gaming is portrayed these days hasn’t benefited gaming as a whole. With gaming now one of the most profitable and free-thinking industries on the planet, the games that are being produced now are better than they ever have been. With gaming maturing in the past few years and being many years since I was causing trouble on the streets of Springfield, I too have changed my appreciation of games as well as the type of games I play.

Although I have played games ever since I was 4 years old, I didn’t have a particular favourite genre of games until around 10 years ago. The classic series when I was at school was Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas. These games made almost anything possible with the open worlds, and the way in which you could come into school the next day and talk about how you’d stolen a jet, or survived a 10 minute shootout with police were brilliant. These games were focused around the player having fun, but they also contained stories which were funny and intriguing, should you continue it. San Andreas is my favourite game of all time and the story was, at that time, brilliant for me. I had never played a game before which had such an intricate story, even games such as Metal Gear Solid I only played for fun and not the story.

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Once I had developed a taste for this narrative side of games, I began looking for more, and soon began taking notice of stories being told in games including Metal Gear Solid 2, Max Payne, Resident Evil 4 and Shadow of the Colossus. This changed my appreciation for games as I now understood why certain things were happening in games and how you felt when you murdered these wonderful creatures in SOTC. I could see that games weren’t trying to merely entertain you for a few hours, but they were aiming to evoke emotions from you, and make you feel as though you are the main character because you are controlling them.

With me being able to find my feet and gaming gathering momentum in the mainstream markets, I soon sought out what games would suit me rather than play a few games for hours on-end for the entire year. Modern gaming is so varied that it allows those who are looking for a challenge, narrative or fun game to play, they are more than catered for.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I was once too scared to play a game, Silent Hill still terrifies me to this day. As gaming has improved and the graphics have become more realistic, some aesthetics in games are wonderful yet horrific at the same time. Games such as Condemned, Dead Space and Bioshock all have harrowing moments which have you stopping the game due to the fear-factor. While I do love to play survival-horror games and feel as though I’m braver than I once was, you always know your scare limits.

On the flip-side of this, it seems as though gaming has went full-circle for many as people who wouldn’t consider themselves ‘gamers’ are playing Facebook games and games on their mobile phones. Games are as accessible now as they were over 20 years ago and is part of the reason why this once niche hobby is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

With gaming being perceived as a lonely and geeky hobby 20 years ago, the industry has taken the world by storm. We are now able to fully appreciate what games can offer in terms of entertainment, storytelling and evoking emotions from you as you grow close to a character. With so many people claiming that gaming is only about the money these days, there would be nowhere near as many great games as there are now without the funding of the likes of EA, Ubisoft, Rockstar and Activision. It’s refreshing to see so many people willing to engage in gaming, with games such as Candy Crush and Farmville, as the games industry is benefitting from the popularity of these titles too.

At the same time, as gaming has matured and games are able to tell heartfelt stories, I too have matured during this time and can now fully appreciate what some games are trying to achieve with wonderful narratives. It’s amazing that these games come in various forms from the smallest of indie titles to the full AAA retail games. Gaming has changed so much since I first picked up a controller (or joypad) and I don’t think things have ever been better.

Written by Simon Marshall, Decepticon sympathiser and videogame critic. Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
Follow on Twitter: @SimonMarshall6
Xbox Live Gamertag & PSN ID: SCIENCEakaSYCO

Nintendo 3DS Friend Code: 2466-2669-0117

Images used under creative commons, rights to respective publishers/ manufacturers.

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