When I was younger, around 6 or 7, I remember eagerly waking up early on weekends, sneaking downstairs to the family living room, quietly booting up my Nintendo GameCube or Sony PlayStation 2, and for a couple of hours just forgetting everything and indulging in the world of video games. I could play something for hours and never get bored; One hard level on Super Mario Sunshine? No big deal. Trying to complete all the missions in The Simpsons Hit and Run? Easy. I would play and play and play before my parents would finally awaken and boot me off to watch their weekend morning programs. Nowadays, in my rare moments of peace and solidarity, I might boot up my old faithful consoles for a quick game of Luigi's Mansion, but normally I can play for approximately 30 minutes before my mind wanders to my phone or my laptop, and I lose interest. This has nothing to do with the games I am playing, but rather I just can't find it in me anymore to sit and play for hours like I used to. Maybe that is just me, or maybe that is just growing up, but I still yearn for that feeling of gaming in the early hours of the morning, forgetting the world and just being indulged in my screen.
Maybe one of the reasons gaming just doesn't feel the same to me anymore is because as a gamer and as a consumer I am absolutely spoilt for choice. Being in a digitised world with games everywhere and at my fingertips, I never have to look far for a new game to play or a new console to wish upon (one day I will have you, Nintendo Switch). The amount of games I own and the ones I have actually played or even completed is a saddening ratio. There are some games that I have spent my hard earned cash on that have just lived in my drawer forever and never really seen the light of day, never mind actually entered any console or even left the box. I keep saying to myself, 'I will play it tomorrow,' or, 'I will play it when I have a day off', but when it comes to that point I just can't bring myself to sit down and play it. One contribution may be that the days of simply putting in a disk and switching 'on' is something of yesteryear; now I have to make sure I am connected to the internet, then I need to download the game, then download all the updates and so on... and by the time my game is ready to play, I am already half way through a new Netflix series, and the process starts again. I remember a friend who had received for Christmas the new Call of Duty game, and wasn't able to play until waiting for a 9 hour installation time. 10 years ago, that would have been a crazy concept.
As a child, the only time I would receive new games would be for an occasion such as a birthday or Christmas, or by saving up all my pocket money for weeks and buying a new game. This made the event of getting a new game, opening it up, and booting it for the first time a much more exciting endeavour. And if I didn't like the game? Or if it was too difficult or not what I expected? Tough, I would play it and play it to my heart's content because hey, that's my game. I remember when I was a wee bit younger getting one of the Oddworld games and being absolutely terrified of it (those FMV cut scenes were terrifying back in the day) and even having to turn it off when it got too much, but I still played it. Getting a new game was always a gamble, and even more so if a parent with no idea about games was in charge. I remember once saving all my money up to buy the new The Sims 2 game, entrusting my money to my Dad to buy me the game, and getting The Sims 1 and some expansion packs. I was initially really disappointed, as you would be, but I played the game and actually really enjoyed it, and appreciated The Sims 2 even more when I got to play it the second time around. Nowadays, if you're not sure if you want a game or if you want a second opinion, there is so much content on the internet that you never make a poor decision again. This means no gambles, either good or bad. And if you aren't that sure on a game, or if you can't afford it? You can always just watch people play it on the internet for free!
And now to my final point: over-saturation. The video game industry has always been akin to this problem. It caused the famous video game crash of the 80s with the poorly developed and distributed Atari 2600 games, then struggled again with platforms in the Sega/Nintendo era, and now in recent times we have seen rise to a new threat; free to play/online games. Games like Overwatch, Battlegrounds, Fortnight, and many more that I can't name off the top of my head. Now, I am not saying by all means that these are bad games; I am sure they are very fun, and have a lot of content. My point is that there seems to be another free to play game every other week, with new ways to play and new micro-transactions to make. Originality and actual attention and care to detail seems to have just been thrown out the window in name of profit and cashing in on the next big thing. With the internet and connectivity becoming such a huge thing with gaming, it is only fair to assume that this would become a huge category, gamers like me that prefer more traditional, single player games are pushed to the side. Even at my University gamer society, more and more people tend to only play one game and know very little on the subject of gaming itself. Some even use it as a quick cash grab in tandem with the like of streaming websites. I just wish there was more awareness in the community about what gaming is, and more importantly, what it was.
Maybe this whole article is just me complaining like the old person I am, about how my time of gaming is over, or how "In my day it was..." but in over 40 years of gaming history, I wish things like micro-payments and little care for actual players wasn't allowed to ruin such a strong and creative field. I would happily choose lower graphics, and on a less powerful console, if it meant I could forget all the things that are ruining one of my favourite pastimes.