Gaming Generation Gap: The Difference Between Old-School Gamers and Modern Gamers

OvM Feature PicI was made in the 80s.  Coincidentally, some of my favorite games were made there, too: Super Mario Bros. 2, Mega Man 2 & 3, Metroid, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, etc.  It was indeed a glorious time. But then, out of nowhere, the 90s came, and with it came some of the best consoles to ever grace Mother Earth: SNES, Genesis, and the TurboGrafx-16/PCE (though the latter 2 consoles came out in the VERY late 80s).  And with these consoles, the 16-bit era was born, bringing with it some of the best RPG’s and Platformers known to man even to this day: Super Mario World, Final Fantasy III / VI, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Chrono Trigger, the Phantasy Star Series, etc.  However, this didn’t mean the 8-bit era was dead.  The early 90s begot many amazing NES titles: Mega Man 3, Star Tropics, Super Mario Bros. 3, Battletoads, Kirby’s Adventure, etc.  Needless to say, gaming under the Clinton administration was definitely the industry at its zenith, the Golden Age of Console Gaming, if you will.

Whoa… maybe I did inhale.

So, what’s this post about?  Video Game history that we already know?  Nah.  I was just giving you a little of my background.  A lot of my childhood can be defined by these old games.  I played the hell out of them when they were brand new, and they all hold a very special place in my heart.  What I am here to talk about are a few things: Nostalgia, a generation gap between gamers, and how emulation taints these classics.  Don’t worry; I’m not taking a moral stance on emulation.  But, first, let’s take a look at nostalgia and a real-life example of a “Gamer Generation Gap.”

While playing these older games, a warm and familiar feeling wells up inside me, and it makes me feel good.  This sensation is commonly known as “Nostalgia.”  Nostalgic moments always bring me back to simpler and more innocent times when all I had to do was go to school and play video games.  I never had to worry about bullshit like paying bills and working so I can pay bills. And let’s not forget about having to feed my kids every other day.  You know; the demanding things in life.

funny-baby-10

Yes, honey, I gave her a beer.  I was trying to make her sleepy.

Well, the other day I was just sitting around, thinking about my old jobs and shooting Nerf darts at my daughters, when thoughts of Hollywood Video came rushing back into my head.  One thing I loved to do while working there was talk/argue about video games with random strangers who just so happened to be walking by.  A time I remember very vividly is when I was standing behind my register talking to a fellow gamer who was just 15 years old.  He asked me, “What’s one of your most nostalgic games?”  I told him Donkey Kong Country 2, simply because it is.  Then he said to me, “I’ve never played it.  I hear it’s pretty cool.  I’d have to say that my most nostalgic game is the first Halo.  I first played it when I was 7.”

I’m not here to bad mouth the kid or rant about how stupid he is for not having played the superior game that is DKC2, the idiot.  I can’t really fault him for only being 2 when DKC2 was made, the son of bitch.  None of those thoughts even entered my mind as he said that (yet).  Instead, a couple of other things came to mind.  The first being, “Damn, I’m old!”, and the second, “That sucks for this kid.”

That’s right.  For the first time in my life, I actually felt pity before I felt raw, unadulterated hatred.  I truly mourned for this child.  I mourned because there’s just so much greatness he’s missed.  So I asked if he’s ever played any of the games I brought up at the beginning of this post.  Not only had he not played a majority of them, but he also had this to say:

“I can’t play a lot of those old [NES] games.  They’re either too hard, boring, or both.  They just can’t keep my attention.  Really, I don’t see what you older guys see in them.”

I didn’t really say much at the time, as to mask my righteous indignation.  I more or less just nodded, changed the subject to Gears of War 2, and finished the transaction.  I figured there was really no sense in starting a debate while I was at work.  Making our customers bleed while on the clock is considered “the wrong service mentality.”

Who Framed Roger Rabbit on the NES is stupid!?  I’ll kill you!!!

However, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what the kid said, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve come up with.

I mostly focused on the part where he said, “I don’t know what you see in [NES games],” because focusing on the “you older guys” part would wreck havoc on my spastic colon.  I thought about what that meant: “What you see in [NES games.]”  What’s wrong with the games we grew up with?  Well, a lot actually.  They were mercilessly difficult, glitchy or just straight broken, and some were hard to look at for prolonged periods of time.

3dworldrunner_3dscreen

My corneas!

Does that make them bad games?  Honestly, yes, but only when compared to today’s standards.  But our old games weren’t mandated by today’s standards.  Instead, we had to deal with what was given to us.  And, unlike the gamers of today, we didn’t have much.  We only had a few games at a time to go with our brilliant NES machines (some of my friends only had 1 game), so we played them to perfection.  We accepted the difficulty and the torment because that was all we had.   Modern, younger gamers are able to dive into the gaming world with all these “sub-par” NES games already given to them.  Younger gamers have the options to play retro games on the Virtual Console, XBLA, PSN or any other kind of online service, or they can play them absolutely free on emulators.

Again, I’m not taking a moral stance on emulation, but I do feel playing older games on emulators takes away something special a gamer might find in the game they’re playing.  Why try and master a game when you have 500+ others to play?  This leads to the “This is too hard, let’s play something else” mentality.  Well, we “Older” gamers weren’t allowed to have that luxury.  We had to endure the unrelenting difficulty of Adventure Island because that might have been one of the only games we had.  I had Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and, let me tell you, I loved and played the shit out of that ridiculously hard game, and I don’t remember ever getting past the second level.  Oh, the bittersweet memories…

Fuck you, red thing!  Just fuck you!

I brought up “Nostalgia” earlier.  Nostalgia is a word that we seem to hear a lot these days, especially when talking about Nintendo.  Hell, many gaming sites are built on nostalgia.   And, since you’re reading this, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  But have you really stopped to think about what that word means?  It means more than just remembering the good times.  It also means looking at the not-so-good times in a good way.  This is where I believe we Older gamers have a sort of a brotherhood, or fraternity.  This might sound a bit dramatic, but hear me out.  We look back at these games and remember all the time and effort we put into them.  For instance, let’s take a look at Kid Icarus on NES.

Not this crap.  It’s crap.

Kid Icarus is an extremely hard game.  Do you remember those dungeon parts with the Eggplant Wizards?  Remember getting hit by one and then having to go find that damn nurse in order to get the spell exercised?  You can’t tell me that didn’t suck.  How about the vertical levels?  Remember how you couldn’t fall off the screen at all without that feather, even though the ground is seriously only 1cm below the screen?  What kind of crap was that?  That doesn’t even make sense!  But we didn’t care because we didn’t know any better.  These were the rules of Kid Icarus, and we were to abide by them.  Did we just turn the game off and put in another one?  Nope, mainly because our parents didn’t buy us many games.  But this helped to foster our mentality as younger gamers: May we be damned before we let this game beat us!  Despite how hard Kid Icarus was, it was still a great game.  To us Older gamers, Kid Icarus’s difficulty only made the game’s inevitable defeat the more sweeter.  All the time and effort that we put into it was ultimately rewarded with its ending.  And what an ending!

Kid_Icarus_Ending0

I think if you beat the game in under an hour it shows Pit in a bikini.  I’ll pass…

That’s another thing we Older gamers love: the “Ol’ NES Cheese.”  You know what I’m talking about: The really crappy endings at the end of NES games that usually consist of one screen riddled with Engrish.  Man, those were great!  If fact, these old endings were the inspiration for the title of my blog.  And that’s another characteristic that makes Older gamers a sort of brotherhood or fraternity: Loving our games despite their flaws.

ghosts-n-goblins-nes-1986

Grammar cannot be slain with strongth alone.

So, what am I saying about Older gamers in relation to younger, modern gamers?  Are we better than them because they’re soft?  Are younger gamers spoiled brats?  Are they just a bunch of whiny kids that wouldn’t know a good game if it jumped up and bit them on the ass?  Yeah, sort of, but it’s hard to fault a generation of gamers whose only real problem was being born too late.  So I think it would be fairer to say that we Older gamers are made of different stuff.  We grew up in a different time that had different standards.

However, younger gamers can still play all these great games.  Whether they have the original systems and games, use an online service, or use emulators, younger gamers can play the greatness I grew up on, but they need to practice patience.  I know it’s tempting to just load a new rom after getting your ass handed to you on Monster Party again, but try and stick with it.  Dedication and tenacity are the best qualities one can possess in order to gain an appreciation for older games.  Who knows?  Stick to it long enough, and you may find out how to finally get past the boss that’s been a pain in your ass for so long.  Though it’s “just a game,” there’s a certain sense of accomplishment in seeing your time and effort come to fruition by beating a tough boss.

Pro Tip:  Just watch their stupid dance.

Thanks for Your Playing!  Do any of you feel the same way?  Do you think emulation – or the easy accessibility of playing lots of older games – tarnishes older games for modern gamers?  Do you think this accessibility fosters a “too hard, move to another game” mentality for modern gamers?  Do any of you Old-School gamers feel the same way I do?  Should I just tell modern gamers to get off my lawn?  Let me know in the comments!

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13 thoughts on “Gaming Generation Gap: The Difference Between Old-School Gamers and Modern Gamers

  1. I started my gaming career with the Genesis/SNES generation so I missed out on most NES classics that weren’t Mario, Duck Hunt, Paperboy related (I played the one I listed here later). However, I have noticed some things about modern games vs classic games in terms of design.

    First, modern games are made to ensure that the player can get to the end of the game. They can be difficult or a little frustrating at times, but the whole idea is for the player to get to the end without exerting themselves too much. How else are you going to make sure players get to the resolution of the story or finish the game with a good impression of it? The goal is to create customers rather than fans (at least from the publisher’s perspective).

    Second, I believe that the decrease in constraints has led to weaker games on the whole. Let me explain: Due processing power and display constraints, classic games couldn’t rely too much to set things like tone, mood, and so on. They could tell stories well enough(hence games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy III (or VI)) and music was good enough, but again it couldn’t be relied upon like it can today. Older games depended on the gameplay itself to generate things like tension, shock, and calm. Music and visuals helped, but they were secondary to the gameplay, whereas nowadays it’s more and more the opposite. The point is that classic games HAD to play well in order to be successful, whereas these days generic or shoddy gameplay can be propped up by compelling sound, story or graphics.

    I really do feel sorry for younger gamers, they really have no idea what they’re missing.

    • Wow, you just said exactly what I wanted to say, but you said it so much better.

      Your point of “creating customers rather than fans” is very interesting. I think that assertion may fall in line with how I’ve been feeling about modern games lately. Modern video games are becoming more like movies. That is to say, video games, a medium completely different than more traditional forms of entertainment (movies, books, theater, listening to music, etc.), are losing their identity. Video games are unique in that there must be interaction between it and a player, and this interaction used to always take precedent over narrative or cinematography. Developers and publishers today seem to be taking what made gaming so unique and bastardizing it to make it feel more like an interactive movie. As you said, “modern games are made to ensure that the player can get to the end of the game.” From that, I gathered you were talking about how games are kind of neutered (both in difficulty and in necessary skills need to finish them) so that people can just blaze through them to see the narrative come to a close, much like watching a movie. If so, I completely agree.

      I hate that video games are losing their identity and slowly becoming the new “movie.” That’s why I still have all my old games to fall back on. 🙂

      • You’re exactly right. Many developer’s pushing for the cinematic experience these days, hence games like Final Fantasy XIII or Heavy Rain. Even successful WRPGs like Mass Effect (as much as I love those games) pushed ever more for the cinematic as the series progressed.

        Solidly constructed games are still being developed, but I get the feeling that they’re going to be the minority until gamers stop responding to poorly developed eye-candy.

      • Honestly, I don’t see how Heavy Rain is considered a video game. It could have easily been made into a movie. It being a video game added nothing to the experience, other than interactivity, which I thought wasn’t engaging in the first place (Walking around and QTE simulator? What Fun!).

        I’m pretty sure it’s a video game because they didn’t want to edit it down to a movie. The average gamer will gladly dedicate 10+ hours on a game’s narrative while the average movie goer will complain about their ass hurting after 2 and a half hours. Also, who’d want to pay $60 for a movie? 🙂

        It’s sad that I’m only half joking in the previous paragraph.

  2. Every generation has a gap; there are simply some things you can never appreciate in full unless you were there, up-close n’ personal!! NES games are definitely one of these things…. I loved your blog and related to it in full. My fondest childhood memories are of me & a bunch of neon-wearing, hubba bubba-chewing eighties kids crammed around my Mom’s 21″ television trying to figure out how to “wrap” the latest game…. Lol. I am a proud eighties child, through & through…. And no snot-nosed “sophisticated” gamer will ever understand what it meant to be one of “us”!

  3. I really enjoyed this! I think that younger, modern gamers have a very short span of time in which to get ‘hooked’ into a game, because there are a hundred others just waiting for them. They want top of the line and that’s it. Hell, I have a friend who is in his late 20s that refuses to play anything earlier than a PS1 because they look too dated. Which is ridiculous. The classics like Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country, and Castlevania will always be great no matter how ‘dated’ the sprites look.

    • I feel most games using sprites are timeless (the NES 8-bit games being an exception sometimes). The N64 and PS One have the games that look incredibly dated nowadays. Oh well. His loss. I feel sorry he’ll never play Donkey Kong Country 2.

  4. I have always felt that whatever gaming generation someone grows up with, that’s the basis of judgement for them. For instance, I grew up on NES and SNES (though my “apex” of gaming comes from N64 and Gamecube). So I can play any game from NES onward. However, I’ve talked to a few gamers a few years older than me who grew up on Atari 2600 and Colecovision, and that’s their nostalgia. That’s perfectly fine but I cannot play those systems. Even if I try I cannot tolerate them for more than 5 minutes, let alone finish an entire game. They make the NES games look beautiful. I mean, at least the NES had music and more than 2 colors on the screen at once. And what was with the Atari joystick? Nevertheless they’re not wrong for loving those old Atari games, but I guess since they’re before my time I never got to experience them in their heyday and look like a bunch of visual garbage instead.

    This is how I feel young gamers view older games. People who grew up with Playstation 2 or Xbox 360 or basically anything from 2000 onward, that’s their nostalgia. So to them, going from the complex controls and updated graphics from the last 10-15 years of gaming, as opposed to the 2 button controller of the NES with limited colors and music, and zero hand-holding gameplay, I can see what a huge shock it would be to go back to something like that. Hell, even going from Gamecube backwards to N64 is a bit disorienting. The Gamecube was incredibly smooth in comparison and the N64 was very muddy and usually had framerate issues. But having grown up with NES, SNES, and N64, I can appreciate and cherish those games today like I did when they were new.

    I think the way modern games have become is because of the way kids are growing up. Kids of the 80s had more discipline. So to speak, they had to eat their veggies before getting dessert. Translating to gaming, we, the kids of the 80s, had to memorize a game and play it and practice it over and over to eventually conquer it. Not like games of today. Kids today want instant gratification. They don’t want to work for an achievement, they want to be handed it. And I’m not sure who is to blame, or if its just a sign of the times in general, but I think kids today have grown up with way too much freedom. Or maybe I’m just old and behind the times, I dunno. But over time games became designed to fit the needs of the gaming community, rather than the other way around. Why else would games like Donkey Kong Country Returns and New Super Mario Bros Wii have “help me complete the stage” items? After a certain amount of deaths in those games, you’re basically given a free pass to finish the level. Huh!? This was unheard of, 10 or 20 years ago. If you wanted to progress in a stage you had to keep working at it until you did it yourself. Nowadays you’re given a free pass if you fail too many times.

    I think this is just a reflection on society of today as well, not just gamers. People in general are used to having everything instant. We don’t want to work to get what we want, we just want it. We have become a lazy society. It’s just carried over to the younger generation and the gaming community as well. And again I’m not sure who is at fault. Maybe we’ve become too reliant on technology or whatever. Sometimes I even forget how different games have evolved over the years but when i go back to play old games it definitely reminds me. Not to say games today are bad but I really don’t get a sense of achievement or the same level of satisfaction finishing, say, Uncharted, as opposed to Mega Man 2. But nevertheless, I am glad I got to experience all of these classics when they were current and I’m glad I spent hours trying to finish Zelda or Super Mario Bros 2 or whatever game I was playing at the time. I still regularly play old games and to be honest at the rate things are going with this new generation of games, it will most likely be my last generation of games. I just don’t have the desire to play new games anymore. But I will always be a retro gamer at heart.

    …Wow that was really wordy!

  5. I am a younger gamer who owns a lot of Nintendo systems(don’t forget all the games!), I mainly collect NES games, including Super Mario Bros. 1 through 3, and Dr. Mario, but I do collect some Sega stuff, like a Model 1 Genesis, complete with the unused 9-pin EXT port and “HIGH DEFINITION GRAPHICS” up near the cartridge slot. I know other younger gamers, so I asked one of them what an NEW was, and he said “An Xbox made in 1793” and I thought to myself: “Wow…that is so sad it shouldn’t even be considered sad.” Younger gamers only think of Xbox and CoD when it comes to games, unless you’re like me.

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