I've been pondering this evening how much has changed on the technology front. I don't mean just in terms of technology improving graphics and emersion, but also peripheral entertainment. Compared to today the simplicity of using keys or just a few buttons also seems a lifetime away.
The first computer I got access to was a Commodore Plus/4 that if I recall correctly, my dad won at work. It was released in 1984 and if my memory serves me well, that would have been about the time my dad bought it home. It sat above the Commodore 16 (more business focused), and some C16 games would work, but wasn't quite as cool as the Commodore 64.
I fondly remember the simplicity of this machine with my elder sister and I spending hours playing Icicle Works and Daley Thompson's Star Events. We destroyed a good few joysticks on the latter as it was on of those wiggle to go faster jobbies.
Sometime in the late 80's or early 90's we got a Sega Master System.
The hours we spent sat in front of this thing. The light gun was absolutely magical back then and over a period of time we built up a good collection of games. A favourite was California Games as this was two player. My sister and I would compete in surfing, skateboarding and loads of other funky "modern" games.
Here's a little random sample from YouTube. I still have a cartridge for this for the Sega Mega Drive.
Other titles we had included:
- Sonic the Hedghog
- Mickey Mouse's Castled of Illations
All very simple and addictive.
After our Master System came the Mega Drive which I mentioned above. What can I say, it was double the bits (16 bit instead of 8 bit) and it was just marvellous. Oddly we ended up with many of the same games but powered up a little. One of my favourites was Road Rash where you rode a motorcycle whilst bashing the hell out of other riders. Another random YouTube video.
We were in the early 90's by now I was really into gaming with much of my pocket money being spent on games and magazines. I used to love watching a show on TV called Games Master and also recall heading off to Games Master Live at the NEC with a pal from school. I can remember it vividly but can't remember what I was more impressed with, the show or the fact we went in his parents Vauxhall Nova SR. Proper fancy.
What I remember fondly from these early Commodore and Sega times was the simplicity of the games. Joysticks in the Commodore days had two buttons; they both did the same thing but were there to cater for lefties and righties. The Master System had 2 buttons and a direction pad, the Mega Drive controller had 6 buttons and a direction pad, but the buttons often did the same thing. So simple, so effortless and so easy for folk like me who have zero coordination.
Since those early times I've owned multiple PlayStation and XBox consoles and have also dipped my toe in PC gaming. I've never become hooked though (outside of simulators), and this is mostly down to stuff becoming far too complicated. Yes, graphics these days are awesome, yes you can do VR, but my God you need to remember so many things to manage a controller with 3 directional pads/joysticks, and 6+ buttons that all do different things.
My kids (both < 12 years old) do play computer games online with their friends, but these are mostly on Roblox where they walk around worlds they have created with their friends. What I haven't seen them experience is the joy of a good old platform game like Sonic the Hedgehog, Wonder Boy or James Pond. To be honest they show little interest, mostly because their friends aren't involved. That's one thing I've noticed about my childhood and theirs. My friends and I used to spend time in person playing games etc, my two still play games with their friends but seldom do we have them over.
They do both have birthdays coming up in the coming months and they both want sleepovers. I think it's time I sourced some cold school consoles (I'm hoping my mum still has a Master System in her loft!), and their old dad can teach them the joys of the olden days.
The more likely outcome is dad can show them how crap he is at games while they watch!