Not Just Nostalgia: The Value Of Playing Older Games

The game industry releases new content at a breakneck pace – but is there any value to playing the games of yesteryears?

At the current pace that most developers release content, it’s no wonder that the industry seems to be suffering from widespread burnout.

With studio and indie games popping up left and right, remakes and remasters, and the perpetual content updates and DLC, it’s hard to take a moment and look back on the gems that litter video game history.

Certainly, we often dust off the old cartridges for a trip down memory lane in one of our favorite virtual worlds, despite occasionally ending with the grim realization that some things are better left committed to memory, there is far more to be gained from going back and exploring the best that each decade has to offer.

In effect, one has the leisure to look back across the varied and eclectic history of video games and work minimally to cherry-pick the cream of the crop – due to the fact that that previous decade’s players and critics have done the legwork for them.

This isn’t to say that we should all just abandon buying the latest in cutting-edge console or computer hardware to see what envelopes are being pushed in favor of putting on our best hipster attire.

But it does imply an absolute treasure trove of content just waiting for consumption. Perhaps even more than older films, older games present a unique challenge to the gaming public: it was created under an utterly different design paradigm.

It takes no time to see the challenges posed to even the most masochistic of games. Think Dark Souls was too easy? Go hop into a round or two of Earthworm Jim and see how many grey hairs you sprout.

As gamers, we are often spoiled by what contemporary studios put out. Want an interactive epic with the production budget of a small country? You got it. Want an always-online experience where you can visit a shared world with hundreds of thousands of others? No sweat. But with older games, things are rougher around the edges, and often incredibly creative as a result.

The biggest fetish for the tech sector has always been pushing the capabilities of what computers can do, and games have seen a parallel progression. Yet look back to the hottest titles of yesteryear and you’ll find a plethora of systems and mechanics that came about due to limited processing or storage capabilities.

It would be silly to claim that the same is not occurring in within the development of current games. It certainly is, although the industry is at a very different point in its development. There aren’t many technical constraints when one fosters a multi-billion-dollar gaming industry.

It is always worth remembering a simpler time, a time when one didn’t have to log online to be berated by a foul-mouthed 13-year old.