Hey Harvey!

Posted on Dec 18th 2016 at 08:48:33 AM by (slackur)
Posted under WELCOMETOTHENEXTLEVEL, perspective, forgetting where we came from, video games are still some crazy alchemy of science and magic


So as mentioned by myself and others, 2016 has been a tough year.  But you know what?  (And if you do, why are you wasting your psychic talents on a blog instead of using your superhero powers for the good of mankind?)  2016 has also been a good year.  In fact, as I look around, I get dizzy.  But I also see how my gaming life in the here and now, when taken as a whole, is very much a fantastical realization of so many childhood dreams.



I think what happens is this; as humans, we're typically pretty bad at the big perspective, and that's especially true for many gamers.  Every year we get hyped-up and let down, excited and then impatient, interested but eventually indifferent.  So much is announced every year in the wide world of video games, and generally we either get caught-up in the show or write our industry off as going in a direction not for us.  And since reality never matches a sizzle reel, even that which excites us more often than not ends in some form of let-down.  If we are wanting to see them, disappointments are available in every direction.


Unconfirmed if this is superior to Duke Nukem Forever.  Pic from the Duke Nukem Wiki.

And yet...

Gaming in 2016 feels fresh to me again!  We're really in a sort of wild-west frontier that reminds me of the golden halcyon days of gaming past.  We have two relatively equal rivals attempting to one-up each other by adding features and cutting prices on a constant basis.  We have Nintendo, unpredictable as ever, on the cusp of releasing something new and different.  Modern gaming is full of both shiny, polished sequels that highlight the best of their series, and fascinating indie and smaller experimental projects that invent and refine gameplay.

There's Overwatch and Assault Android Cactus.  Forza Horizon 3 and Trackmania TurboGears of War 4 and Tearaway Unfolded.  Rise of the Tomb Raider and Steins;Gate 0Final Fantasy XV and Grand Kingdom.  The last few years, including this one, has been full of excellent AAA games and superb small-studio games.

But as much as it's all about the games, it's not just about the games.  I mean, we get great games every year.  No, I'm talking about the sum total of gaming amazingness that is our space-age four-years-before-cyberpunk-era 2016.

I can load up Final Fantasy XV (which I've really, really enjoyed thus far) on our PS4, then go about anywhere with WiFi and remote play it on our Vita, knocking out a few side quests and levels almost like it was a massive portable version of a console game.  Similarly, I can play the portable version of World of Final Fantasy on said Vita while I'm out, save the game, and load it up on the PS4 version and continue that save game.  Remember wishing we could do that between the Genesis and Game Gear, or Game Boy and Nintendo?  I sure do.

Or, take the criminally under-rated PSTV (the hardware of which is a screen-less Vita); I can plug a tiny black box into any HDMI, use a Dual Shock 3 or 4, and have instant access to every Final Fantasy I through X2 on a single (albeit expensive) memory card, alongside classics like Chrono Trigger, Vagrant Story, and a ton of others.  Basically a greatest hits of console RPGs in the palm of my hand, ready for any big screen, without worrying about scratched discs or battery saves.  I remember daydreaming about such a contraption in college, and now that it's a reality, hardly anyone seems to notice.

My boys have spent hours and hours building innovative and challenging Mario levels without knowing a bit (or byte) of code, with the ability to swap and share levels over the 'net.  Was I the only kid who doodled video game stages instead of doing math homework?  Now my kiddos spend an afternoon in Super Mario Maker creating what I could only imagine at their age.

Speaking of gaming when I was a kid, even now as an adult with more available income, I can't realistically afford many rare games that have eluded me since childhood.  NES rarities like Panic Resturant and Bonk's Adventure, imports like Sweet Home, Terranigma, Bahamut Lagoon, Alien Soldier, Holy Diver, Recca, and Zero Wing, and unreleased interests like Starfox 2 were impossible to play without emulators.  Now, because of excellent reproduction outfits at retro gaming conventions, we've found physical copies of these and many more that we can actually, finally play on original hardware!  It's like a portal to my gaming youth has opened up, and my younger gaming self is jumping up and down at the chance to finally play some games I'd never realistically expected to own.  I don't consider repros as "official" games in the collection, but simply games I can finally enjoy playing. 

But what really drove home that I am living in the gaming paradise I used to daydream about is when I played Rez Infinite.  In VR.  On my home recliner.  The future is now.


And it still looks like The Lawnmower Man.   Pic from PlayStation.Blog

We can play games on our phones that supercomputers couldn't run only a few years ago.  And on those phones, we can play an augmented reality Pokemon game.  Or use them to run a virtual reality experience. 

There are thousands of games that are completely free to play.  We went from hoping our new console included more than one controller port, to being able to play with and against players around the world within minutes of turning on the game machine. In less than half of an average lifetime, we've gone from black and white sticks and blocks, to graphics and physics imitating reality.

I think we get all of these updates in increments, and they are matched by disappointments or unmet promises, and we miss out on looking at the overall impressive net gain.  Video games are no longer just a distraction, or an industry, or even a media.  Now, they are an integrated part of daily life, a magic we are so accustomed to that we completely forget the genie. 

Video games in 2016 are beyond even what I daydreamed of as a kid.  But I haven't stopped daydreaming, and the magic of video games is still here, if we're not too jaded to notice.

I for one can't wait to see what the genie has in store for 2017 and beyond. Smiley


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Comments
 
I'm with you 100% man. And have been thinking about this as well. We now live in a world where VR is consumer-level tech; where the phones in our pockets can play Dragon Quest X; where you can buy a Steam Links and stream any PC game to any room in your house; and on and on. It's a good time to be a gamer.
 
Hehe.  I hear you.  I used to write out detailed bios for enemies in Legend of Zelda, now I complain how slow battles are in Final Fantasy on the phone I carry in my pocket.  Strange days, I tell you.  Well, I'm glad your year picked up,  and thanks for all the great articles.
 
Great article, man.  My next one will definitely be echoing some of what you wrote, though from a different perspective, and with a different bent.
 
Great piece. It's always good to remember the great things, and how far gaming has come. It's so easy to get lost in the hype and marketing nonsense but when you step back and look at the bigger picture it's pretty amazing where gaming is at as a hobby. It really is the best time ever to be a gamer, and while things are changing quite a lot, that brings even more new and exciting things. Bring it on!

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