Here’s an interesting little blurb about a talk by Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and basically intented video games back in the 1970’s. This bit in particular caught my eye:
In 1982, he tells us, there were 44 million gamers. Today, there are 18 million. Where’d they all go? “Complexity lost the casual gamer,” he says.
I think he’s right. When I was a kid, during the early “golden age” of videogames, you’d have needed a cattle prod to get me out of the arcade, or away from a friend’s Atari or my own ColecoVision at home. Today though, I don’t own a Playstation or XBox, and have no particular intention of buying one. I don’t as a rule enjoy current computer games, either. Doom3, as marvelous as it looks, only held my attention for a couple of days. I get much more enjoyment out of a quick game of Galaga courtesy of MAME, or Asteroids Deluxe on a full-sized cabinet I weaseled off of a dealer a few years back.
Sure, today’s games look great, and they’re far more complex than anything we ever dreamed of 25 years ago, but what the heck–I don’t have the time for all that. I want to get in, blow up some stuff for five or ten minutes, then get back to my life. I don’t have 40 hours to blow trying to work my way to the “end” of a game. And besides which, 99 times out of 100 (well, okay, more like 19 times out of 20, since that’s about as many modern games as I’ve ever tried), the gameplay isn’t enough to compel me into spending more time in the first place.
That was the real genius of the 70’s and 80’s games, I think. When you only had 4K or 16K of memory to get the whole thing written in, you had to concentrate on great gameplay first, and then cram in as many bells and whistles as you had room left for (which wasn’t much). Two and a half decades later, the best of the 80’s games are still more fun–and that’s from the first 30 seconds–than anything that takes millions of dollars to produce, and arrives by the gigabyte on a DVD-ROM.