Video games. If you’re reading this, you love video games. You want them on your body, all over your house and printed all over your clothes. For many of you video games have taken the place of telly and films, and you ingest them exclusively.
But over the last few years you’ve been feeling a bit lukewarm. Memories of a time when you’d get the bus to your local Electronic Boutique and feverishly pouring over the booklet and umpteen pieces of added flavour material on the way home. Memories of a time when the people who made games believed that games were special, and that gamers were special, and that special people deserve special treatment.
Nowadays we log on to our console from our couch, select a credit card and wait for our download to complete while we mull over reviews of the product we just spent £50 on. “Oh God I’m downloading this right now and CVG gave it a 4/10 what have I done?!” No, we bought things on our own convictions and enjoyed them as we saw fit. It was… really nice.
Those manuals we drank in? Gone. Manuals have to be designed, written and printed, all of which costs money. Instead they give us a wee card chock full of advertising. Thanks, game companies.
The flavour materials, maps, books of lore and art books? All but gone. These things now belong in what we term “limited edition” copies of games. With extra-bulky cases and absolute resentment from your wallet, these monsters now stand as the last place where you’ll find any of these lovely extras.
So what happened? Well it’s obvious, money happened, not to mention the aspects brought along by the digital age. Manuals, like I say, cost money to make, as do maps and lore books and the like. Publishers have a bottom line and as the cost of games development has been rising, we’ve begun to get less in return for it.
Don’t get me wrong, the experiences offered by modern games are incredible, and in many cases well worth the cash you’ll have to fork over, but we’ve lost something amazing. That feeling of having a little package full of wonders in your hands when you’re walking out that shop. We like physical things, us tiresome humans, and in that respect we’re not really getting much for our money any more.
Think back to the good old days when games were falling over themselves to offer you cool maps and designs and collectible cards. I’ve started buying old games just for the little extras. A few months ago I snatched up a copy of Wind Waker on the Gamecube from a friend online, thinking solely of the game within (and it’s a bloody excellent games). What I was met with when I opened that case was that incredible feeling of being 16 again.
It had a bloody postcard in it. A Legend of Zelda postcard.
What a useless piece of tat, I mean who on earth is going to actually use that? It’s the very epitome of a collector’s item, a useless bauble. But I adore it, because now I see it as some representation of what was, to me, a better time.
See, videogames are a very special medium. One that changes rapidly over time. The types of games we make, the way they look, the sounds they make, it’s all linked to when they were made. They’re like little interactive short-term time capsules. That’s what makes them special.
When you go back into your cupboard and pull out that copy of Sonic the Hedgehog you’ve been holding onto since you were a kid, you’re not just playing a retro game, you’re taking a trip into your past. That game you spent so long with. Those characters you came to love. In some ways it’s like storing a little entrance to another world, one you recognise and have unique experiences within.
Call me a shit-dribbling mentalist but I think it’s mad we’d take something that has the power to grip us so profoundly and gradually cheapen it over time. Games are special, and it breaks my heart to see them being treated like they’re not.