To the distaste of a lot of people and, I’m sure, to the delight of some as well, I have always enjoyed video games. I spent what now seems like an incredible amount of my childhood and teenage years sat in front of TV screens playing video games. Unfortunately the real world eventually caught up and the amount of time I could spend gaming depleted. The last game that I got to devote the amount of time and attention it deserved to was Grand Theft Auto Vice City (2002), (no I wasn’t old enough to play it) which my friends and I set about achieving a 100% completed game on. This is still the only post 16-bit game I have managed that on, and crucially to this post, the only one that I wanted to. When that games successor, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, launched I was excited (and still not old enough to buy it) but after playing it for a while it just didn’t grab me like Vice City had and no game would again.
The PlayStation 2 from it’s launch until 2005 was the last console that I loved. In the mean time I’ve had girlfriends, graduated University and worked a dozen different jobs. All of which eat into time that could have been spent exercising my thumbs. I have, of course, dabbled with the current generation of consoles (not owning one just didn’t feel right), but my PlayStation 3’s main function in our house is as a Love Film or BBC iPlayer viewer. In fact I’ve owned it for coming up to three years and still haven’t purchased a PS3 title, other than the ones that came with the console.
What I have done is revel in the delights of the PlayStation Store. In my pre-teen years I was a devoted Sega console owner; the Master System, Mega Drive (Genesis, for any Americans who may read this.) and, for a brief while, Saturn. So naturally the games I’ve purchased virtually since have a particular Sega flavour, namely; Streets of Rage II, Streets of Rage 3, Golden Axe, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Adventure and Alex Kidd (which was built-in to the Master System I had! Madness.)
What I really wanted to chat about in this post is why I seem to be drawn back to these games, so at this point I’d like to apologise for having already written in excess of three hundred words.
The first reason then, is that these games are instantly playable. The controls are simple enough not to require lengthy ‘intro’ missions, which means you’re straight into the ‘action’. This is a major advantage when you’re gaming with a deadline.
The second reason is that these games can be finished in a relatively short amount of time. Take the original Streets of Rage (and Streets of Rage II for that matter) for instance, there are only eight levels. Eight levels that are achievable in an hour or so, giving the player a sense of achievement that doesn’t come so quickly with modern games. Also two player modes on these 16-bit classics are fun. Perhaps not as immersive as a live Call of Duty war zone played with people from all over the world (I wouldn’t know), but certainly more intimate. There’s a lot to be said for being in the same room as your player 2.
The third reason, is nostalgia. We live in an increasingly nostalgic time, how many ’60’s’, ’70’s’, ’80’s’ even ’90’s’ themed nights are there in your nearest City? There’s even Past Times! A shop dedicated to selling new versions of old stuff as well as the whole demand for vintage fashion. People enjoy looking back and reliving. Perhaps that’s a sorry state of affairs, popular culture generally purports that successful people, people who get the most out of life, live in the moment, are impulsive and roll with the punches. But I say sometimes knowing what you like is fine, it’s comforting. And nothing makes me revert to childhood and the comforts that that brings more than the opening music from Streets of Rage.
In line with my previous post about music. I’d like to say that I’ve thrown off the shackles of the old and am ready to embrace the new, but in this instance I’m not. I never thought that video games would pass me by, but they do, and actually I don’t mind, because the ones I play are memories, more than anything, of a less busy time.
Oh and one last thing, why did stuff in the early 90’s have ‘attitude’? Examples, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog with attitude’, Power Rangers opening sequence: ‘Alpha, Rita’s escaped, put together a team of Teenager’s with attitude,’.