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Do You Remember When?
Written By: AJ Middleton

As I sit back in my chair and gaze at the “superbit” games that exist today, I start to feel a bit old.  As I hear the Xbox fanboy crack on the old NES, I start to get a bit cranky.  And when I think about when I started gaming, when the NES was my pride and joy, I start to reminisce.  Things just aren’t the same anymore in the gaming world.  Do YOU remember when:

- Videogame companies actually dominated the videogame industry?

Back in the day, as far as I can remember, it was Nintendo and Sega.  Yes, two companies whose main focus was making videogames.  There was no electronics giant or computing monopolize-r trying to stick their heads where they don’t belong.  And there was DEFINITELY no action movie hero trying to get a piece of the pie (Think XXX star.)  Nope, back in the day there were only Nintendo and Sega.  Only pure videogame companies.  Hey, that brings me to my next memory.

- There was real, justified competition in the industry?

Nintendo and Sega could make fun of each other because they were both seriously in the business and only in the business.  Although Sega had a lead over Ninty, they were both equal in influence.  They both were the first dominant names in the industry and were veterans with it, so name-calling was completely legal with competing.  Ah, I remember this Sega commercial that really had me fired up.  They portrayed themselves as a racecar and Nintendo as a heavy moving van.  I got pretty mad at Sega for that, but it was OKAY.  They could do that!  They were equals!  But you see, what you CAN’T do is join the industry late and crack on the vets (and new vets.)   I’m talking about Ed Fries of the X-Box team.  Seriously now, you can’t be a newbie and make fun of those who actually have MORE EXPERIENCE.  Doesn’t work that way.  Fries, come back when you know your competitors and have a few decades of working up your sleeves, ok?  And even if Microsoft IS beating Nintendo, they still can’t talk about them like they’re vets, cause they aren’t.

- Videogame systems were actually videogame systems?

What did the NES do?  It played videogames.  What did the SNES do?  It played videogames.  What did the Sega Genesis do?  It ALSO played videogames.  Why?  Because that’s what videogame systems are supposed to do.  Nowadays, you have these masses of metal and microchips that not only play games, but also play DVD, music CD, and can even go online.  Next they’ll also include their own TVs, satellite transmission, and who knows what else.  Good grief!  I want a videogame console, not an all-in-one-tech box. 

- Carts were the thing?

Clunky, expensive, and finite as they are, you cannot deny that carts were what people wanted back then.  There was none of this CD technology with games.  How can I prove that?  Simple.  Look at the success of the Sega CD.

- There was no need for the ESRB?

Mario and Sonic never needed any rating.  No game did back then.  Why?  Because gaming and society in general were a lot more peaceful.  It wasn’t all about blood and guts.  Games always were made for the enjoyment of everyone!  There was none of this “E is Kiddy” paradox riffraff.  Even when the ESRB DID come around, ratings weren’t that big of an issue.  People didn’t judge games by the RATING, but by the content!  By the fun factor!  *Sigh*…

- Mortal Kombat was an “M” game?

Do you recall when Mortal Kombat was the scourge of society?  When it was surrounded by controversy all because it was too violent?  It was even given one of the first “M” ratings out there!  Imagine that.  Not only was MK in 2D, but it contained “violence” that, by today’s standards, is corny and common.  Grand Theft Auto makes Mortal Kombat look like Barney.  If GTA was brought back in time, not only would those “Angry Mom” groups declare all out war, but I doubt it would even sell.  Why?  Once again, society was a whole lot different then.

- When fun factor was valued above all other aspects?

Ratings didn’t matter, because there weren’t any.  Blood and guts weren’t a problem, because little to none existed in Gaming’s Golden Age.  Heck, even GRAPHICS weren’t made fun of because they didn’t look 110% realistic.  The GAME was what mattered.  Sonic The Hedgehog wasn’t turned down because there wasn’t enough blood.  Super Mario World was still a hit, even though Bowser never killed anyone.  It was all about the game’s quality back then…

- When games had originality?

The world “clone” never existed!  Now, I know it’s easier to be original when there are fewer games out there, but seriously now.  Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario Brothers 2 had completely different styles AND they were of the same series.  Nowadays, everything is just a clone of an earlier game.  Sequels are another problem.  Sequels are great, but developers need to know when enough is enough.  There is no need for Final Fantasy X-2.  Even the name sounds corny.  “Ten two”?  Just say it out loud and see how silly it sounds.  Add Halo 2 to that list along with the family of Grand Theft Autos and the Pokemon monsters.  And look at the GBA.  Nintendo’s having a field day porting tons of old SNES games to the handheld.  Yes, it’s nice, but they should be using some of that time and money for totally new titles.  Also, mainstream gamers only want the “shoot ‘em ups”. Nothing original required in those.  What’s going on here?  Are brains evaporating? 

- When game music was, well, simple?

This isn’t a complaint, but what happened to the clicks and beeps?  I liked the simple 8-bit music that repeated itself every 30 seconds, thank you very much.  Now we have full length, fully orchestrated pieces for everything in a game.  Videogame music is even becoming its own genre now!  Look at how famous names like Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda have become.  I have more game music on my computer than of any other type.  Soon enough, “Best videogame music” will be a category for the Grammy’s.  How things have become complicated!

I suppose it’s only natural that things change, but geez, look at how they did!  Were these changes for the best?  For most of them, probably.  But, I am remembering memories of a time that many of us will always cherish: the gaming age of our early youth.  Will the Next-Gen Era be looked back on in the same way in 10 years?  Only more time will tell.  Hey, and then, I can have MORE memories!  Exciting, huh?

Posted: 5-1-03
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