Oh, Nostalgia – Were Games Better in the Past?

Thou art a devious wretch! Don’t worry, the archaisms are deliberate and fitting, I promise.

Whenever it comes to a conversation about games these days, most, if not all tend to deteriorate into general rants about how video games were far superior in the past, suspiciously when they were in their childhood. Being someone born in the 1990’s, the earliest games I played were classics such as Tomb Raider (1996) and Age of Empires (1997). Now, the temptation is to look back at those titles with rose-tinted glasses and hail them are far superior examples of games that the linear, recycled titles of today.  It might be fashionable, but it’s not wholly accurate. A lot has changed, and you can never make an accurate comparison by taking one game from one era and comparing it to one from another. You won’t achieve anything there.

The greatest thing we must understand is time. Perhaps the greatest illustration for the effect of time, and all the technological improvements it brings, is in the differences between Tomb Raider (I) and it’s 2007 remake, Tomb Raider Anniversary.

I don’t remember it was so… blocky.

Here was have the same game, the same plot and even the same environments, but with vast gulfs in graphics and gameplay. You can make some valid points when comparing these titles. The first is archaic, with bigger blocks than Minecraft, but with some horrendously fiendish puzzles. For instance, in the original there was a level that entirely revolved around throwing levers to raise the water lever to a correct height so you can reach the level exit. Only problem is that said switches could only be thrown once, and had to be done so in such a specific sequence that meant you only realised your mistake when it came to get out. At that point it was too late. Oh, and if you hadn’t saved at the beginning of the level? Start at the beginning of the game. Again. Oh yes, I made that mistake.

In Anniversary, the level is merciful. The principle is still the same, but the water can be raised and drained, removing that punishing element. You can grumble that this was making it easier. Perhaps. But as I outlined above, if you got it wrong in the original, the result most likely was that you had to restart the entire game. I mean, who really saves the game at the beginning of every single level? In truth, I remember this instance not because it was a great puzzle, just that it was a horrible part in the game. The latest incarnation of the game brought with it new gameplay mechanics that made Lara behave more like a human and less like a robot. Sure the graphics were better too, but any item you could pick up had to sparkle, just in case you couldn’t see it.

The gorillas are angry! They want the blocks back! They’ll even use one to make their point.

What are we left with then, in this direct comparison? Well, two very different games. I’ve recently been replaying Tomb Raider since I picked it up in the recent Steam Sale, and I have to admit, while I think it’s a brilliant game, that’s just me being nostalgic. The cold, hard fact is it doesn’t stand up to anything today. It might be like Age of Empires and hailed to be the father of strategy gaming (a claim that can be contested), but when it comes down to it, you won’t find these titles on the shelves of retailers. I’m glad for that, because this is 2013, not 1996.

Anyway, please share your thoughts on the games you are especially nostalgic for! Do you think games today are better or worse than those in the past?

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2 thoughts on “Oh, Nostalgia – Were Games Better in the Past?

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