I said in my first journal entry that I never kept or cared about online blogs/vlogs etc. But since this seems to be the era of blogging and it's after mdnight, my laptop's video card has bit epic dust and I'm bored, I guess I may as well get with the times.
This journal is concerns my years as a gamer. I was a gamer before 'gaming' was recognized as a thing. Back then we all just called it 'playing Nintendo.'. That was back when Nintendo was called 'Nintendo', not NES, 'classic NES' 'classic nintendo' or 'the Nintendo Entertainment System'. Which it was and is-but nobody called it that. It was back when playing video games wasn't a sport, didn't get you scholarships, and didn't cause you to get cyberbullied and or stalked. Nobody paid you to beta test them-companies had their own employees for that. They came in catridges and later on CDs, not online clouds. They were not onnected to the World Wide Web which was in its embryonic Stages in any event. This was back before 'it's a' me' was an annoying meme and before awfully crafted 70 dollar metal wall hanger versions of Link's Master Sword were available.
So if you haven't figured it out by now I'm talking about the 8 bit and 16 bit eras. I'm fortunately not tipping my hand as to how old I am because I already confessed as much in my profile. So here goes then. I'd like to say something gritty and poignant about the old days of gaming being that I was THERE, but, it probably won't be.
First off why do I call myself a retired gamer? Simple. I used to put in probably 5+ hours day playing video games. I acknowledge that this is probably on the low end nowadays but in those days it was enough to get you labeled a bona fide Nintendo Player. Which was what a gamer was called in those days since by and large Nintendo was the digital drug of choice. My brother and friends and I sometines spent up to eight hours a day playing video games. Sometimes the SAME game!
So I have been a gamer. When I was young and the eight bit systems were the rage playing a game was about adventure and new experieces and sensations. It was about playing for hours on end to reach the next level to lay eyes on a world you'd never seen before. It was about connecting with the hero and sharing his sense of determination to rid the world of the evil. And most of all it was about how the corners of your eyes got moist when 2 years after you unwrapped that little rectangular package on Christmas eve you finally came to the end. Not when you reached the game over screen when your 3 continues ran out but when you finally watched the ultimate boss perish in a storm of explosions. You knew the journey was finally over. It was kind of like saying good bye to an old friend. You knew you could play it again for years but it just wouldn't be the same. It was an experience. An adventure. I remember when my Graddad, God rest his soul, bought my brother and I our first copy of The Guardian Legend. I was seven and he was six. It cost seventy dollars and was a reward for keeping our grades up. On his meat cutter's salary 70 dollars was not a pittance. We had been watching the commercial for weeks. It was released by the powerhouse video game company Broderbund along with Irem. In those days video game commercials weren't just 30 seconds of recorded game play with a Gary Jules cover of Tears for Fears music overlaid on them. They were known and talked about by kids. But I digress. The first thing we noticed was the art was phenomenal. The cover art was amazing, the manual art was amazing. But the first thing that REALLY blew me away was when we seated the cartridge in the console and pushed the power button: the intro music was breath taking. It reached out and slapped me in the face- but in a good way if that were possible. It was in STEREO! In 1987 on an 8 bit system. The graphics were avant garde as well. If any of you read this who played the game in those days for the first time you know exactly what I'm talking about. The game was and is my all time favorite to this day. One of the things that left the greatest impression on me as a young gamer was the game's first message room. The first message read 'I hope that this message will never be read by anyone. It will mean that I have failed.'. Things like that stick with you for a lifetime. There are a thousand other such instances I could write about. Rescuing Super Joe for the first time on Bionic Commando. Getting to the third floor on Milon's Secret Castle. Fighting the giant frog on Blaster Master. I could fill a whole other journal with them. I remember when years ago in Star Tropics you had to activate the computer robot on the sub to progress. You had to enter a 3 digit numeric code. To find the code you wet one page of the instruction manual to reveal a hidden message. We were playing a rental copy and the page was missing so we had to call customer support. We were given the code in about five minutes. Game producers no longer interact with their fans in that way. Instead what we get are in-game microtransactions that add injury to the insult of exploitive game mechanics. In the Nintendo era that wouldn't be legal but In this ultra greed driven corporatist society we live in this is not only tolerated but seen as a viable marketing strategy.
There is a a peculiar phenomenon happening among kids these days. (Kids to me being people below the age of 27.). It seems that 'retro' gaming is quite a thing with the Millenials. Retro!? You're talking about a pretty big piece of my hisfory there, kid! I was gaming before your mama said 'I do!'. But never the less we have these poser imitators of 8 bit games like Minecraft out there. Minecraft is no more an 8 bit gsme than I'm King Solomon. Try doing that stuff on a true 8 bit system! And then you have movies like Wreck-It Ralph and Pixels lampooning us. Were these written by people that actually were around when these games were released? Or were they written by a bunch of college kids? I wonder. I also hate seeing these teenage kids wearing these Nintendo Controller shirts that say 'Know your roots'. It's like a form of stolen valor. Downloading Nesticle in 2012 and playing Casflevania for the first time doesn't mean you were there any more than a casual stroll through a war museum makes you a Vietnam vet. Take if from this old-timer. We aren't impressed.
Clearly gaming was a big part of my life. So why do I call myself 'retired' gamer instead of gamer? Because by and large I no longer bother with fhem. Why? Lack of interest and overall quality. The gaming experience entered its death throes for me towards the late nineties. Legions of overtly anime-esque RPGs with their grossly exaggerated featured characters with outlandish clothes, and weapons- and outlandish plots. Games spawning sequels-of-sequels-of-sequels. Gigantic, 3 minute long attack animations which were virtually scenematic scenes. And when the attack is over? Fifty hit points or is so is all the damage it does? Then you have the flashy graphics and over the top soundtracks perormed by full symphonies which are for the most part forgettable and nowhere near as as inspiring or memorable as the older games'. Plot and story quality sacrificed for flashy rendering effects to appeal to an ever more lowbrow audience. Replay value replaced by hours of frustrating and stultifying side quests designed to bait compulsive players into continuing to play. Subscription fees. Cheating. Trolls. Sequels full of repetitive game play. The seminal genre of scrolling shooter replaced with the hackneyed FPS. AND ZOMBIES. A favorite of today's jaded audience. Kill as many zombies as you can. Plot is negligible as it really doesn't matter. Anything with zombies will do. The sense of wonder and discovery of classic games is reduced to a 'gamer score' and a handfull of trivial 'achievements'. You wait a year for the game to come out, play it till you beat it then never touch it again and repeat the cycle for the sequel to grt more of the same.
The video game experience of yesteryear is dead. Instead of ever more new and original content we have legions of 'apps' which are all more of the same. Many low quality and not worth having, programmed by amateurs. So bad is the repetition in gaming that even one of videogaming's founding fathers- David Crane - said he couldn't be sure if there would be another videogame market crash.
I doubt it. Videogames are too entrenched in our society for that anymore. They're far too obsessed over. Taken too seriously. As teenagers we played videogames at night after we heated and flattened steel pipes and then beat the hell out of each other's knuckles with them. Videogames have gone beyond being simple pastimes. They've become a creed; a way of life. People sometimes spend more hours playing videogames tha working. There are those of us who fear that this is detrimental. What is going to happen when a whole generation sets its sights on a career of professional gaming? Society will shut down as nothing else gets done.
The videogame experience has flown by and left me coughing on a cloud of nostalgic dust. My interests have changed greatly over the years so I'm not without a way to while away those late nights. Of course all this is really just a symptom of a greater syndrome: I'm getting old. At least at thirty-five I feel like it.
And so what about those rare occasions I want to shed a few nostalgic tears? Well....thank God for emulators!