Friday, 6 December 2013

Analogue vs Digital by David Campbell

Games and how they have changed!
by David Campbell

The way we buy games has changed. You may have noticed this yourself. It seems that in today's faced paced lifestyle, we need everything instantly. Steam, iTunes and a plethora of other online options means your game store is open 24-7.. but this isn't necessarily a good thing, in my opinion.

You see, back in the day, buying a new game was an event. Perhaps it was because as a kid your funds were limited, so buying a game was a big decision. You didn't want to waste your hard earned pocket money or paper round wages on something that would be rubbish. For the sake of nostalgia, let's compare how we'd buy a game when we were kids versus how we buy games now.
Imagine, if you will, that it's your birthday. Generous friends, aunts and other relatives have kindly put some money in your card, and you have a princely £15 to spend. £15 is a large amount to invest in a new game, so we need to do our research. If you don't have the most recent issue of your favourite computer magazine to hand, we need to pause here, jump on our bikes and cycle to the newsagent.

Now, this in itself poses a problem. Cast your mind back to the shelves as they were.. groaning with magazines trying to separate you from your pocket money. ZZAP, Amtix, Your Sinclair, Amstrad Action, Crash, C&VG, ACE.. what to choose? Choice made, and 95p well spent, we need to head home to swat up on the latest releases.

Back home, grab a glass of orange squash and a biscuit, then we'll speed to our room to conduct our research. After a couple of hours poring over all the screenshots, then going back to read the reviews of the games we like the look of, we have a short list.

Now, if it's a Saturday, we can head straight into town to grab our new game. However, if it's a weekday, we need to wait the painful wait until we can get into town either after school the next day, or worse, the next Saturday.

Once in the shop, you head to the games section, turning up your nose as the shelves of games for the rival computers. At your section, you scan the new releases. You pick up several of the boxes, scrutinising the artwork, the screenshots.. is THIS the game that you need to buy?
Here's where things get really complicated though. You've spent £1 on the research magazine, meaning you've £14 left to spend. 

This presents several options.Buy a full price, £9.95 release and two £1.99 budget games
- Buy SEVEN(!) budget games
- Buy a compilation at £12.99
- Buy a full price game and one £2.99 budget game

There are many other variants, but you get the idea. You probably didn't realise as a kid, but you were combining accountancy with cost benefits analysis whilst standing in a shop!

After many hours of deliberating, perhaps interrupted only marginally to type "10 print 'big bums!'" on the nearest computer, you finalise your purchase.

With your latest addition wrapped safely in the bag, maybe even stuffed into your coat pocket, you wait patiently on the bus home, willing yourself to wait, and not take the game out until you are sitting comfortably.

At last, you are seated on the ride home. Oblivious to the chatter and ambiance on the bus, it's just you and your purchase. You take it (one at a time if you're lucky enough to have multiples), and you look at the front cover. Although you scrutinised it earlier, you give it a thorough going over. This game is yours now, not a potential sitting on a shelf. You flip the box over, the satisfying muted rattle of cassette coming from within, and you read every word on the back. You stare at the screenshots, imagining what it will be like to play.

Finally, you carefully prise the box open, ensuring you don't break the hinge on the side. You take the inlay and cassettes out in one go, checking the labels on the tapes before placing them safely back in the box. You fold out the instructions. Although you've played hundreds of games on your computer before, you read the loading instructions. You read the backstory, the controls, the credits. By now you can't wait to get home to play the game!

Now, sometimes, a full price release came in a 'big box'. These cardboard gems were usually a treasure chest of oddments. There could be anything inside.. maps, soundtracks, novels, patches, stickers, comics.. a game that came with lots of "stuff" seemed awesome, no matter how bad the actual game.

This long trip down memory lane does serve a purpose - it's not just an excuse to pop on the rose-tinted shades. Back then, the games were simple. The graphics were simple. The game concepts inspired - a guy stealing chicken feed and eggs whilst chased by ostriches? Can you imagine that on the Xbox 360?! The packaging was as much the game as the code was. It had to get you excited. The extras helped maintain that excitement. You felt a game was going to be good because it came on 6 floppy disks.

Now, compare that to how you buy games now. A lot of us still go to specialist shops to buy our physical games. Some people buy online and have them posted. A lot of people now download directly from Xbox Live or the Playstation Store, and have their game within minutes (unless your broadband is terrible, like mine!).

I just don't get the same excitement any more. Even if you buy a physical game, it comes in a DVD case, and all you get for your money is a disc. Sometimes there's no manual. That doesn't make me want to go and play the game.

The extras that would have been normal before are now 'collectors editions' that are double the price. Compilations don't exist anymore. Modern games really don't excite me. Getting a compilation tape from eBay is more thrilling to me than Medal of Duty 12 on the PS5.

But maybe it is nostalgia. Maybe it's bad broadband that blocks me from all the digital goodness. Maybe I will yearn for Xbox 360 games when I'm older. Who knows?

How do you prefer your games?

Guest blog by David Campbell

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