Isn’t it frustrating when you try to play on your favourite console and your game has a tonne of updates to perform! Or remembering that you can only play all your games in HD and not in 4K (unless you updated your system to the PS4 Pro/ Xbox 1S).
Life is hard for a gamer.
But I think it’s time to look back at our console and realise things could be much, MUCH harder! The only way we can do this is by comparing our home entertainment systems with the consoles that allowed the gaming world to blossom.
Retro Consoles Vs Modern Consoles
1977 was the year that pioneered the idea of “gaming at home”. No longer did you have to go outside to arcades. Instead, you could try all your favourites in the comfort of your living room.
The one console that truly made this a possibility is the Atari 2600.
Atari were the founders of modern console gaming; they frequently bragged on posters that “there’s no comparing it with any other video game”.
This was, however, until the company suffered the video gaming crash of 1983 *cough* ET.
With 2kB Ram (impressive, right?), CPU speed of 1.79 MHz and GPU speed of 5.32 MHz, it had the highest specs on the market.
Since then, video gaming has been redefined by a number of consoles with revolutionizing features. They evolved from miniature arcade machines to vast home entertainment systems.
To make a fair comparison of old and new, we will analyze each aspect of what the consoles and the companies had to offer:
A significant and obvious change has been made in games over the past 30 years; the main difference being lack of depth in the games in the past.
You’ll play these games and believe that they could only take a minimal amount of time to develop and design. That’s of course if we compare it to the size and depth of the games today.
The simplicity of Atari and Nintendo games were all due to the main focus of the consoles – they were designed to bring arcade games into the comfort of your own home and arcade games didn’t have the most complex stories – if they did no one would ever get a turn!
Therefore, the games followed basic yet somehow challenging objectives, limited backstory of the characters, certainly no cutscenes and a small amount of levels.
Something else that easily proves the distance gaming has come is the graphics.
Not having the resources back then, the CPUs could only process a byte of data at a time (or as it’s more commonly known, 8 bits). This means that Today CPUs in modern consoles can process 64 bit strings of data and therefore support a lot more detailed games.
One argument that says Retro Games were better is that style of graphics were popular in the 80s. No one was desperate to see detailed graphics as they simply didn’t fit in with the time.
The style of gaming was a fashion in the 80s. Are modern style may not have fit in so well.
The final difference in between the two eras were the possibilities within the game.
When I say this, I refer to the number of options a player has, the amount of commands they can make.
A lot of games in the past involved run, jump, duck and attack. Today, there is a whole variety of ways in which a players can interact with the game.
Not only that, but today there are so many more places you can explore. Games in the 80s saw 2D platformers and limited levels. Now there are whole worlds to explore. Take GTA V for example. You have the whole city in the palm of your hand!
Having such a variety of games on the market today and the quality of them, modern games have to take the lead.
Without a doubt, the technology today is much MUCH more advanced.
One thing that needs pointing out is the amount of things modern consoles can do. Back in the past, consoles were for games and games only. But today, they have evolved into home entertainment systems.
What I mean by this is that you can play movies, you can connect with friends and play online, you can catch up on TV, you can buy games in the comfort of your own home, you can listen to music and so much more.
Did this bother the gamers of the past?
First of all, they didn’t know what they were missing out on. Secondly, they were happy by the fact they could play their favourite arcade games at home. They didn’t need to the console for watching TV and listening to music as they already had devices for it.
Considering the technology they had at the time, Retro consoles were the bomb!
Another significant difference is the size of technology.
Ok, the size of the consoles hasn’t dramatically changed. If anything, they’re still the same size.
However, one holds a lot more data and advanced technology than the other. Having more uses and playing higher quality games but still in the same size shell, retro consoles don’t compare to modern ones.
But if we look at cartridge based games, there is a massive difference! Take for example the size of a NES cartridge, they’re like a huge version of GameBoy cartridges and I mean huge!
Now we have the ones PS Vita’s use cards smaller than most memory cards and almost half the size of a DS game!
Therefore, Modern Consoles have to take a win for this.
For a musician, this is one of the most noticeable changes. Having inferior CPUs, old consoles couldn’t possibly handle full orchestras and a wide variety of sound effects.
However, this never stopped any game developer in making effective games.
Having 8 Bit processors, the game would play everyone’s favourite 8 bit music. Recognisable, bouncy tunes that could easily determine the mood of the scene without complex instruments.
Nowadays, we find ourselves treated with the melodic sounds of strings, drums, basses and more to creating the gaming mood. Many have demonstrated phenomenally composed pieces that have even made it on to classical charts, an example being Battlefield 1!
Having to pick a favourite, my heart has to say that retro consoles had the best music!
Even being a huge classical fan, the white noise and pixelated sounds have won many decision for one reason:
8 bit music from games are memorable.
If I asked you to recreate the sounds of Mario, I’m sure you could do it. For Zelda, for Pokemon, they don’t prove a challenge.
As for other games, the soundtracks don’t come as naturally. I understand you may be able to remember the theme of the loading screen or a memorable battle scene but otherwise, it’s not tunes you would happily recreate with your friends.
It’s as if the older games had their own theme tunes that we so dearly loved and still love today.
Our lives are riddled with adverts we see them on TV, all over the internet, and even when we leave the house on billboards and posters.
Plenty of the adverts are gaming related: games, consoles and more.
This was the same in the past when gaming came into fashion. Well, there weren’t adverts on the internet because there was no internet but you get my drift.
They are another thing that has changed dramatically.
The most noticeable thing is the tone that the adverts give. Gaming in the past was about time to share with family and friends. You can all play competitive games together in a light manner.
Many adverts featured wacky colours, smiley faces and why their console is the greatest thing. They specifically like to promote the together time.
And the TV Adverts, oh boy the TV adverts. I knew it was the 80s but I wasn’t expecting this!
Of course, we have to remember that the quality of the adverts are a lot worse than what they are now however, no one had the TV sets at home to be watching HD Video. These adverts were big productions back then.
Today, it’s a different story.
For many mainstream games, It’s all about being the best player possible; play online and be better than everyone else. This could be linked to games become more immersive and realistic.
Games offer the opportunity to become the soldier you ever thought you could or travel to the depths of space. It showing players that not all experiences might be sunshine and rainbows and the only way is to show it with darker adverts provoking more feeling inside.
Take Halo 5 for example:
Not only is it more dramatic, fast paced, it’s obvious how much video production has advanced.
I’m not saying there aren’t games today promoting family time. Gaming doesn’t have family time as its first priority, let’s be honest. It’s more centered towards gamers looking for the most immersive experience.
Modern games have the benefit of modern advertising.
Using the internet and vast variety of TV Channels as well as popular areas in cities to promote, this has definitely benefited them greatly. Take these for example:
Rockstar Games effectively using the London Underground to display a full sized poster.
Bungie stretching the definition of a full size poster at Time Square.
Promotion for 80s games looked a bit more like this:
So these games might not seem so cool to you now, especially given their posters but they were awesome in the past!
The wacky drawings, variety of colours very much fit in with the style of the time.
It seems harsh to pick a winner of better advertisement given the technology available in the past. However, modern adverts are a lot more dramatic and therefore, inviting. As they show off the power of video games, modern console take the win.
Modern Gaming attracts so many audiences that it almost doesn’t fit in with any kind of modern style. You have the most realstic RPGs, real life simulators, the wackiest of fantasies, educational games, brain training games, quirky indie games and so much more.
80s Gaming knew exactly where it was.
It followed the style that decade so famously had: jazzy colours, geometric shapes etc.
All the games fit together as well. Not only did they appeal to everyone but they had similar playing modes, objectives and more. As well as this, the games also managed to be unique to one another with their characters are worlds.
Games created in this era are now embedded into things we think about when looking at the 80s. We think about shoulder pads, jazzy colours, arcades, funky music videos and overly dramatic music.
When was the greatest time to be a Gamer?
To answer this question, you have to ask yourself: “What would you rather experience: the technology or the style?”
Today we have 4k graphics with surround sound audio and an unlimited amount of experiences all thanks to advancement in technology.
Before, we had the true beginning of console gaming; retro games and console selling for £1000+ that our founding fathers continue to discuss, the brilliant 8 bit music and quirky designs that perfectly fit into the age.
To many this sounds like no argument but we also need to discuss something else.
Despite arguments proving the greatness of modern gaming, Nintendo managed to sell 61.91 Million Nintendo Entertainment Systems since 1983 while 40 Million PS4s have been sold.
Okay so Nintendo has had 30 more years to push their pioneering console but that doesn’t change the fact that the console was incredibly popular.
There is one argument that can decide our winner:
Retro gaming consoles are the reason why we were able to create modern consoles.
Without our Atari 2600 or NES, where would we be now? Would gaming still be a thing or would it have died quickly and quietly?
For that exact reason, retro gaming is the bomb.