INSOMNIA

Your Argument Sucks: The Good Old Days

By Nick / Originally published on SEGABASTARD on February 6, 2005


To start, I have to admit that I was a huge asshole about the good old days of gaming, and what it took to be a real gamer and all that shit.
   It also must be mentioned that hardcore gaming really didn't start until the 32-bit era, despite the hardcore audience's adoration of 16-bit games. In the 16-bit era, the hardcore games were just regular games: fighters, platformers, shooters... these were the most popular games of the day, so you didn't have to be an import nut or own any obscure systems to enjoy "hardcore" games.
   Cue the Saturn's release and the amazing difference between the quality of software released on the Saturn and the PSX, and which turned out more popular. The Saturn became the hardcore machine because of its less accessible, but better, games while the PSX sold more with its crappy mass-appeal fodder.
   This trend continued and died with the Dreamcast, though, the last stand for the hardcore game. Sadly, though, it has not been the last stand for the hardcore gamer, who annoys even former 'core blowhards like myself.

The Saturn - the reason

Being hardcore in the Saturn days was something. Buying imports of expensive shooters and fighters and all the crap you could shove in the cartridge slot (which should have been used to play Genesis games)... the 'core Saturn man was the happiest gamer on Earth. And fucking arrogant and angry, because being hardcore means frustration with the fact that your games aren't selling as well as Gran Turismo or whatever. "Why can't Soukyugurentai sell millions garrr!", as if it were a reasonable expectation.
   The Saturn's comparative lack of quality stateside drove the hardcore man to shout even louder. Because we had Virtua Fighter 2 and NiGHTS for three years, how could anyone not want the machine? We got the late-cycle orgasm from SEGA in a big way, but for a long time, we had few titles stateside about which to brag. Which meant we had to brag louder, and talk about imports and how imports were what real gamers did. The Saturn was the gamer's machine, there was no argument to be had.
   In fact, nothing thrilled a hardcore gamer more than someone coming over to his place and seeing a ton of games he couldn't possibly recognize. This was always the perfect opportunity to start talking about a review in GameFan of Bakamaretsu Dokayama Gaiden: Sol Hunger 0.3 and how much better it was than Madden '99. Seriously, there was no bigger treat than someone coming over and seeing a stack of Saturn imports and not knowing what the fuck they were. Hardcore gamers loved this authority they'd suddenly have.

Post Saturn - retro gaming rises

Once the Saturn stagnated, it was time to really ramp up the talk about 16-bit and how fucking great it was. I was on the front lines of this charge. And at the time, sure, most 32-bit, especially the mass market hits, was far inferior to the badical 16-bit classics. Of course they were better, since 32-bit 3D was horrible, unrefined... primitive. 16-bit was the height of 2D, and naturally the 'core fans would yearn for those days loudly when their hardcore hope had withered so.
   So came the time to whine about the good old days, whine about the current days, and demand more of the past for the future. During this time, and throughout the coming Dreamcast days, I played so many shooters I'm sick of them. Without a machine with new games to satiate the hardcore hunger, the old days had to fill the gap. Amply, they did so. And SEGA was about to bring the last hope for the hardcore, which would up the whining tenfold.

Dreamcast - poof, gone

Wow, was the Dreamcast ever the prototypical hardcore gamer's system. It was an underdog from day one, if not earlier, due to the irrational expectations for the next PlayStation. It had tons of killer games, few of which had any appeal to the common man. It was cheap, innovative and overachieving. And it died early. Fuck, you put these factors together and you have the biggest nerd erection in the history of gaming. This kind of situation made the hardcore man rock-hard with intense nerd passion.
   When the DC did die, though, hardcore gaming died with it. Period.
   The days of the good game slipping through the cracks are almost gone because the best games are being produced in the West. The days of importing are all but dead for the same reason. Even dinosaurs from the old era like Nintendo can't keep a hardcore fan satisfied because the games on it are crap, especially any on the machine that attempt to use the good names of favorites past. In short, there is no longer the hardcore game to attract the hardcore gamer; good games are usually popular now, and popular games are usually good.
   We're at a point where mainstream titles and titles from major publishers are playing well and actually innovating. Shenmue was a great idea but Grand Theft Auto III actually pulled it off a hundred times better. Metal Gear was clowned by Splinter Cell. Games in the post-DC era have become so ambitious and proficient in achieving that ambition that the "classics" just aren't much fun anymore. A sad admission from a former obnoxious hardcore holdout.
   You'll still have people bitch about the "good old days", most prominently from de facto torchbearer Play Magazine. Nevermind that they crown five new "best of all time ever" games each issue, they still maintain that ten years ago games were better. They whine about the glory days blah blah, but meanwhile every game they review is a fucking A+ classic.
   Really? Is today so fucking bad? You love every fucking game, idiots. If one were to judge by the scores in your mag or the orgasmic hyperbole, one would think it was the greatest time ever in the history of games.
   So in these post-Dreamcast times, it's time to realize that there is no more hardcore scene. We get too many wacky games from Japan for which we've no need or desire anymore. Fuck, every minor niche import gets brought over nowadays. And they suck, while today's big budget, advertised, popular games are pretty fucking good. Games today are better than they've ever been. Deeper, more open, more ambitious and delivering more more more. Today obviously doesn't suck for games or else you wouldn't be playing them. There's never been a better day for games and if it had to come at the cost of the Dreamcast, then fine. Play Headhunter and tell me it's honestly better than Max Payne 2 or Dead to Rights.
   Games today are better than they've ever been, and the trend is for improvement, refinement. Look at the difference between the crap that launched the PS2 and Xbox, and look at what we have now. No 2D game has ever come close to what the GTA games do now, what Splinter Cell or Prince of Persia or ESPN Football or Spider-Man 2 or any of the modern classics have done. When games became a lucrative business for someone other than Nintendo, they started improving. Now that there is no more 3D hurdle to conquer, look for them to only get better. Face the facts, like I did, and quit lying to yourself or carrying on with the tired rhetoric of the defeated.