Nowadays, a loaf of bread costs four times as much and tastes exactly the same. A swanky new Focus costs over as much as an Escort did and fulfils pretty-much the same task. But invest £40 in games nowadays and you get a product so much more technically advanced than its 20-year-old equivalent that you could barely believe they’re both powered by the same type of electricity.
But, just as the country has become much richer without becoming any happier, do today’s gamers derive greater pleasure from modern games than our illustrious forebears did from their 8-bit wonderboxes in the glorious gaming decades of legend? Or does the vast budget, team, and lead time required to produce a modern title blunt creativity and generate instead the sort of pop-chart mediocrity where it’s so expensive to fail that no risks can be taken?
Well, in many cases, yes. But, ‘twas ever thus: sure, we’ve a plethora of derivative cover-based first-person-shooters now, but let’s not forget that in the wake of every groundbreaking Manic Miner or Way of the Exploding Fist came a hundred me-tooers such as the 1984’s spark-free Fireman Fred, or the 1986 licence of Highlander - a game with the manners of a goat.
And let’s not forget either that the indie scene is alive and well and innovating happily. Who’d have thought that amidst the technical wizardry and gaming complexity of 2010 we’d see Minecraft - a blocky but instantly fascinating game of cube manipulation written in Java by one guy – garner pre-beta sales revenues of over €6m? And for those who prefer their pleasures to be galactically cerebral, it’s hard to fault Arcen’s AI War, a glorious space-age celebration of the adaptability of genuine artificial intelligence.
So let’s give thanks to the games industry! Compared with so many others, it advances at lightning speed, and we’re lucky to live in such amazing times.
But I for one am going to keep reading the reviews and buying carefully...