In the 20-some-odd years I’ve been alive, I’ve had some high points and some low points. People and things have come and gone, I’ve changed (or at least, I hope I’ve changed) for better or worse and I’m not even halfway through my life. I’ve had a lot of things that stayed relatively constant: friends, family, existential dread.
One of these constants is video games.
That may sound silly to people who haven’t played video games. “Video games? You mean that kiddy shit?” I wouldn’t blame them, really. It’s hard to tell most people I play video games at my age without getting weird looks… and according to nearly everyone I talk to, I’m pretty young.
My passion for games is hard to describe. Imagine the first movie you fell in love with. The story, the setting, the action, the drama. For me, that movie was Toy Story. It’s probably my favourite movie of all time. When I go back and watch it, I brace myself for moments that I know will make me break out laughing, and I’ll get a wee bit excited when I anticipate the “falling with style” moment at the end.
Video games make me feel something similar. But where Toy Story is a static experience with the same timing and beats, video games are dynamic. Depending on how you play them, it is a different experience every time. Whether it’s finding new areas in Shovel Knight or deciding how to run your farm in Stardew Valley, most games have much more to offer than a movie.
See, when you watch a movie or a television show, you are merely an observer. I enjoy movies and television shows as much as the next person, but you are watching what is a very static experience, much like a book. With a video game, you are an active participant in said events. Things will not happen without your input. Essentially, you are the star of your own movie.
When I was a kid, there was no better game to “star” in than The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. I traveled through a world of mysterious magic, dangerous dungeons and menacing monsters to save the Princess and the world of Hyrule. Without me, the player, the world would refuse to change. But with my help, I could change Hyrule for the better.
I wasn’t particularly good at the game. I mean, I was about 6 when I first played it. But to a 6 year old me, everything about it was incredible: the catchy music, the bright colours, the perilous dungeons. I didn’t have a single earthly idea as to what I was doing, but I had a great time doing it.
Throughout the years, I’ve earned a deeper understanding behind the games I love. A Link To The Past was great, but there are so many little things I can go back and appreciate about it now. Where I was satisfied mindlessly hacking away at bushes, I now also appreciate the sidequests where you upgrade your items to make hacking away at bosses much easier. Where I could wake up to the Dark World theme every morning, I can now also appreciate that they crammed the Light World and the Dark World onto one cartridge, complete their own catchy tunes. Where I once loved how big the game was, I now appreciate how many secrets there are to find scattered throughout those same, huge worlds.
Since then, gaming has skyrocketed in magnitude. Where Super Mario was once about walking from left to right, picking up one of 3 power-ups along the way, it evolved into a game with interesting playgrounds, fluid platforming and hundreds of
Stars Shine Sprites Moons to collect. New games are coming out that bring back fond memories of retro classics, but with refreshing changes and/or additions to their formulas. Shovel Knight, Cuphead and Hollow Knight are (respectively) the Mega Man, Contra and Metroid games I never knew I wanted.
These developers appreciate and innovate on ideas of the past, but other devs have new and refreshing ideas that keep games exciting. Rocket League, a game many have described as “soccer, but with rocket-powered cars,” is an intensely fun game if you’re a skilled player, and very entertaining to watch someone play if you’re not. Grand Theft Auto III set the bar for open-world games and is something most current AAA games take cues from. Including The Legend of Zelda.
The magnitude in which gaming has skyrocketed doesn’t just apply to the software itself; it applies to the ways in which games are accessed. For what is software without the hardware to use it? This may come as a shock to some, but consoles offer more than they did 30 years ago. Once upon a time, that little box was only used to play games. Now, those boxes have a plethora of features, most of those you don’t need a game to use. Whether it’s communicating with friends online, watching somebody playing a game for a live audience or watching some Netflix, consoles are more accessible than they every have been in history.
Much like consoles, games are increasing in accessibility. But while consoles are accessible in the sense that they are user-friendly, games are accessible in the sense that they are much easier to access. The vast majority of people have smartphones and as a result, the vast majority of people have access to hundreds of thousands of games, all in the palm of their hand. More games also means more opportunities to find something unique and innovative.
They’re not only accessible for consumers; gaming is more accessible for game developers as well. In the 80s, there were a handful of home consoles to make games for and get your game out there. Now, there are a myriad of consoles, PC platforms and smartphone services where you can host your game, meaning that there are many more opportunities for people to play your game.
Steam is the most obvious example, being the de facto platform to get PC games, sporting a wide range of AAA games, indie games and assorted software and films. Itch.io is another PC-based, more game dev friendly platform, allowing devs to set both the prices of their games and how much of a “cut” the platform takes from their game sales. There are also hundreds of game engines out there for developers to use, rather than devs having to build an entire engine from scratch, and most of these engines are supported by all mainstream platforms, like the PS4 and Xbox One.
In short, the barrier to entry for getting into gaming, as both a consumer and a developer, is lower than ever. With social media and gaming journalism being as popular as they are, even if you put a game on a digital storefront with thousands of other games, you can rest assured knowing that someone will find your game, enjoy it and promote it.
Long story short: there is no better time to get into video games than right now. If you don’t play games, I hope you can take something away from my posts. If you do play games, I hope you’ll join me in sharing our passion for these fantastical worlds that we love so much.