Gaming has always possessed a rather centralized role within the day-to-day living in some shape or form to millions, but in our contemporary society, this seems to carry much more weight than ever before. The last decade alone has seen rise to some major games and franchises that have undoubtedly cemented their status within popular culture. Games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, FIFA, The Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed and Halo are just a handful of the releases that have opened the doorways of the gaming world wide open to the public. New enticing advertising and a more technologically-advanced society have helped to trigger an influx of customers, a high rise in profits and that continual connection to popular culture.
From expos to cosplay, to movie deals, gaming is now quintessential and ubiquitous in our lives. The quality of games are only getting better – in terms of graphics, consoles, gameplay and storylines, among other aspects – but with that comes a price both metaphorical and physical in nature.
The average price for a major PlayStation or Xbox game started at around the £40 mark but with the new consoles it is more like £55. Back in the 1990s and the early 2000s, games came rather cheaply by comparison – perhaps maybe not with the best of graphics in today’s eyes but back then they WERE top of the line – and were just as successful and popular as the games today.
Remember GoldenEye? San Andreas? Or Medal of Honour: Frontline? How about the Burnout series? Or what about the great Star Wars: Battlefront II? Games that were of such a high caliber as these do are today considered to be some of THE timeless classics in the gaming industry. They were the pioneers that set the bar at, what was deemed to be, an unattainable level; the Lewis & Clark’s or the Christopher Columbus’ of the gaming world if you will. These games left the footprints for our generation of producers to follow. While the gameplay has become more advanced, sophisticated and interconnected, is it really better?
Of course, the games we get today are so incredibly vast and detailed, like the latest GTA game Grand Theft Auto V; you do tend to get your money’s worth. Yet it is not very often that the average student has a spare £40-50 lying around that they won’t be planning to spend on alcohol.
However, every other major game today just seems to be a part of a bigger franchise. This can be viewed as a rather shoddy approach for the companies to keep regurgitating the same game, only enhanced with a few newer features on an annual occurrence. Sometimes it does make that next installment better than the last but you have to ask yourself: is it worth buying that new game you think you so desperately need, just because everyone else is?
So what’s the answer? What do you do when you need that high endorphin fix of a good game? Every now and then, it is nice to treat yourself to the latest iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise or the next First Person Shooter like Call of Duty or Destiny. However thanks to the rate all these high-class games are being released, you’ll struggle to buy them all (if any!) at especially at the prices they are released at.
Sometimes the answer lies deep within the roots; sometimes it’s nice to look back at where gaming really took flight – the 90s. This era saw the release of many new consoles as well as many classic games that, if played today, you would be considered to be a “hipster.” In today’s market, you can get an old copy of Final Fantasy or Spyro, Tomb Raider or even the classic Simpsons game Hit & Run to give you that thrill of gaming in a much more nostalgic and cheaper way. I mean, who didn’t love driving around Springfield in that red Canyonero, with endless quotes from Simpsons episodes, smashing up bee cameras and uncoiling a mystery of “alien” proportions?!
These classic games today can be found extremely cheap and, while they might not be as “up-to-scratch” as the games today, they possess heart and soul. An almost unexplained mojo invoking every aspect of your childhood with every playthrough. Not to mention they take up a smaller space on your memory card! Don’t get me wrong in saying that games today don’t have heart because in a way, they do. However it is sometimes buried deep beneath a profit-driven incentive and a large investment in production to only sell and flaunt more copies. Games today like The Last of Us or the Uncharted series have heart and soul, but in a more sleek, serious and noire approach.
Much like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy changed the face of Hollywood and cinema in general with the tone of the films – the themes, the neo-noire style, the grounded aspect and well-thawed heavy-based story arcs – games today have latched onto this notion. Even the most absurd and supernatural concepts have been made to seem plausible and movie-like. Accessing your ancestors’ memories through your own DNA!? A remarkably clever idea (and works fantastically in the Assassin’s Creed saga) but something that is of course impossible. Yet each installment sells millions of copies.
So did gaming in today’s market die a hero – to be reborn into this newest fad of making everything dark and more advanced – or has it lived long enough to see itself become the villain? In terms of rising prices and this concept of regurgitation of ideas, sequels and franchises. Gaming today can be seen as the villain to your bank account and a slight insult to your intelligence yet the quality we are getting is out of this world, something that is continuing to evolve and grow organically. This helps to breathe new life into a certain product, while simultaneously pulling the blanket over our eyes, but for how long will it shroud the truth? It acts almost like a double-edged sword in the eyes of university students who really want things cheap, fast and of a good quality.
The next time you decide you want to buy a new game, try not to forget where gaming has come from and, like any old classic movie such as The Godfather of The Original Star Wars Trilogy, you sometimes need to go back and revisit them every once in a while – for sentimental and nostalgic reasons that only these games can provide.
So the next time you think about buying the next Call of Duty or Far Cry, it might just be the game you deserve, but not the game you need right now. So you can wait. Because the companies can take it. Because they are not our heroes. They’re silent guardians. The watchful protectors. The Dark Knights…of the gaming industry.