Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: Games were not better in the good old days

Are old games really as good as we remember them to be?
Are old games really as good as we remember them to be?

It's a common sight on gaming forums and websites: "Remember this game?" says a caption, alongside a photo of a game case from the '70s, '80s, or '90s.

There was Super Mario Bros, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Sonic the Hedgehog and Ecco the Dolphin. Later, there was Pokemon Stadium, Legend of Dragoon and Dark Cloud.

Weren't games so much better when you were a kid?

No. No they weren't. Let's go over why.

But games are so much easier these days!

Well, yeah, this is true. Ecco the Dolphin was really, really hard. No one's in denial about that.

The real question is why was it so hard? Why were all of those old games so hard? The answer is: because they had to be padded out.

Back then, there wasn't room for a pesky thing like a coherent plot to tie things together. The teams that made these games were small - there were no dedicated writers, or special effects artists, or any of the other roles that would be considered essential when creating a popular game today.

In short, these games were actually very short. So to disguise the fact that the games were short, developers made them very difficult. Finishing the game required you to put in some serious hours - if you finished at all.

Besides that, it's not like infuriating, crazy-difficult games have disappeared off the face of the Earth. There's Dark Souls, or Trials, or any number of the many indie platformers you can find on Steam. In short, gamers just have more options now. And that's a good thing.

Add to this the fact that most modern games have difficulty settings, and this argument gets a bit silly.

But there are so many save points ... ugh.

See above. Save points were spaced so far apart mostly for padding.

Besides that, most people like having frequent, automatic saves. If that's not your style and you like the added bit of difficulty, try playing Skyrim without manually saving and you'll quickly find yourself in trouble.

Developers these days only care about graphics.

Developers have always, always cared a lot about graphics (and so have gamers).

Games have always been designed to push the hardware, whether that was an Apple II or an Xbox One, to its limits.

It may be the case that, as games get closer to realism nirvana, developers care more than ever about graphics.

Having better graphics is a good thing. Developers realise that realistic art means players experience a higher level of immersion, but they also realise that immersion is about a whole bunch of other factors.

Increasingly we're seeing developers turn their focus to other things - environment art, or writing, or top-notch, believable voice acting. All of it makes games better.

Games used to be fun! Now they're all depressing and stuff.

Some games are designed to tug on your heartstrings. Other games are designed to get you to experience pure, unadulterated joy. The best games, in my opinion, do a bit of both.

But every old game was good - now only one in 10 is.

No, every game you remember is good. I think you may have some nostalgia-tinted glasses on here.

Many old games were either a) terrible, or b) buggy messes. You just didn't play the terrible ones over and over again like you did with the good ones. And game-breaking bugs were incredibly common, it's just that people weren't so loud about it back then.

There are also a host of old game consoles which were massive failures - a console's failure to sell is almost always due to a lack of good games.

But I just like the style of retro games more than modern ones.

Oh, okay. Cool. In that case, there are loads of retro games available for you to play on new platforms and old. There are also a lot of really great modern games that borrow heavily from games of old, like Polytron's Fez or Cellar Door Games's Rogue Legacy.

But I have to be honest - I think you're missing out if you're not into modern gaming. Over just the past five years I've played some of my favourite games ever.

The medium, as it matures, is only getting better as developers get more sophisticated, both in their thinking and in the tools they use.

* Were games better in the good old days? Post your comments below.

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Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead. Siobhan works as community manager for New Zealand's largest locally-owned technology company, but her views on gaming are her own.

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