The Other Golden Age

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 9, 2008

Filed under: Links 87 comments

In an odd coincidence, Sean Sands published an article on the Golden Age of Gaming over at The Escapist, suggesting that the best days of gaming are… right now. This is in stark contrast to the article I put up on the same day, suggesting that the best days are behind us.

To be fair, we’re a bit apples-and-oranges here: He’s talking about gaming in general, and I was talking about the PC Platform, which is undeniably a mess. He cites BioShock, which is a great example of of everything that’s gone wrong with PC Gaming. BioShock is shallower, shorter, and less fun than System Shock 2, and was mired in DRM controversy when it came out. But: It was available, stable, and DRM-free on consoles, while System Shock 2 didn’t even exist in the console world. Is it better to have a watered-down version of the game available to a wider audience? If you’re part of that audience, then yeah.

Is console gaming better these days? I can’t really tell. I missed all of the consoles between the Atari 2600 and the PS2, and I haven’t really gotten into the current-gen consoles just yet. (My kids play Wii, and I have a PS3 on loan from a friend here, but I have yet to immerse myself into the pool of current titles.) Are we in a Golden Age? The PC is in shambles these days, the PS3 is (I’m told) still short on compelling titles, the XBox 360 has (or perhaps had) gremlins. I don’t think the console world is a wasteland of misery, but calling this a Golden Age seems like a stretch. I guess I’ll find out for myself once I dive in.

Still, for those who have taken part in the last couple of console generations, I’m curious how the current crop of devices and games measure up. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who agree with Sands: What is it about this generation that’s really rewarding?


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87 thoughts on “The Other Golden Age

  1. The DS is a shocker, it’s basically my primary platform. The platform is weak enough that you can’t just wow everybody with your mighty graphics, yet strong enough that many innovative and interesting things are possible.

    RPGs in particular have really been amazing on the DS; there’s a real diversity from old-school throwbacks like Etrian Odyssey, to conventional JRPGs, including innovative things like “The World Ends with You”. (Not much in the way of conventional Western RPGs, though.)

    It has punched well above its weight.

    I’d definitely argue it’s a golden era for the portable gaming, which is way more specific than gaming in general. There’s way more innovation going on in the DS world than the PS3 or the Xbox360, and I’d say it’s more successful than the innovation we’ve seen from the Wii.

  2. scarbunny says:

    Id agree that this console gen has the potential to out do the last, but then again the next will out do this one. The “golden age” is subjective but games in this generation are too derivative for it to be a true golden age.

    But as I said its all subjective so one mans golden age could be another's dark age.

  3. Roxysteve says:

    Console gaming? Decandent and going to the dogs in a handbasket. You want proof? Two words.

    Super Mario Bros and Duckhunt.

    OK, two titles. Five words.

    What do todays so-called cosole “games” have to offer that even comes close to the tense edge-of-the-seat experience of either of these classics?

    I rest my case.

    Getting rid of the NES robot was the thin end of the badger. It was all downhill from there on.


  4. ngthagg says:

    I don’t have time to read the article now, but games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Wii sports have brought gamers out of isolation. I played multiplayer games before, but they had moved out of the living room. The days of sitting on a couch in front of a TV passing around a controller have been brought back, and that’s a good thing.

  5. Sven says:

    I have been a Fallout devotee since Wasteland. I’ve paid my dues all the way back to the Zork games so in no way am I some new Johnny-Come-Lately XBox Live Jockey. With that background out of the way, I did something that shocked me:

    I pre-ordered Fallout 3 for the XBox.

    My experience with gaming in general has been better on consoles lately. When I’m playing the XBox, I get a game that (almost always) works flawlessly and looks great. I can sit on my couch and play on my 50″ plasma TV, and walk around with the controller to the kitchen or even the bathroom in some cases.

    When I play my computer I have to sit in my office chair and play on a 22″ LCD. Granted, it’s a decent monitor, but the whole experience just isn’t as “comfortable” for me anymore.

    Plus, there’s something about earning achievement points that stick to one universal online account that makes me go out of my way to do things in games I normally wouldn’t. It is compelling, fun, and easy in a way that sitting down at the computer hasn’t been for me in quite a while.

  6. Groboclown says:

    For me, the one thing that stands out in the “current” generation of console games is what you can do with the controller.

    The Wii’s a good example, but there are others. For instance, independent game makers are now coming up with intriguing ways to use the motion sensor in the iPhone, such as iPint (

    Also, the Nintendo DS has a few games that seem to come up with new ways of using the stylus. Wario Ware comes to mind with this.

    Another interesting thing about the current generation hardware is that it allows for more complicated modeling of the real world. For example, I can’t imagine some of the Half-Life 2 physics puzzles able to be implemented in the 1990s.

  7. Ericc says:

    I can’t agree with Sands completely. I do think that console gaming is coming into its own because more people are purchasing those once or twice over the lifespan of the system (five years or so) which is significantly less than what a PC would cost purchase then to upgrade it to run the new games effectively.

    Console titles may not be completely immersive, but for me, I’d rather spend less than $1000 for two systems (360 and PS3) that I can play five to eight games per year instead of $2000 to $3000 (or more) to run the one or two games per year that are any good on a PC (I’m a very casual gamer). The amount of time I spend on games doesn’t provide me with the same value.

    Plus there’s the whole DRM thing keeping me from the PC.

  8. Well, I can certainly say as far as portable gaming, then yes–I LOVE my DS. However, I would say that we are at the beginning of a Golden Age of console gaming. It seems to me that it all depends on what various consoles do with their potential. I would say that the Wii has changed that potential and now it is up to developers to figure out how to use it–if it continues as this past year, then maybe, maybe not. A lot of developers aren’t really using the Wii to it’s full potential and the fact that they keep bringing back old games would indicate that we probably haven’t found anything better than the NES64, yet, though it is possible we are on the tip of the iceberg.

  9. lebkin says:

    I think that we are definitely in a golden age of console gaming, if only because we are reaching a point of contending with the PC’s strengths, graphics and online play, while avoiding the PC’s two current downfalls, DRM and confusing/expensive hardware. High Definition TVs help boast the graphics into comparable ranges with monitors. Excellent infrastructure and good matchmaking allow for good online play (especially on Xbox Live). And you get this with a cheaper system that will consistently work with all your games.

    The best example for me is Left 4 Dead. I am having a serious crisis deciding what system to pick it up for, Xbox 360 or PC. Online play will probably be more populated on the PC in the long term (similar to Team Fortress 2), but the Xbox 360 has local co-op so I can play with my wife with a single copy of the game. And of course there is the worry about how well it will run on my six year old machine.

    Fun trivia: Console gamers almost did get System Shock 2. It was being ported to the Dreamcast, but it was canceled shortly before Looking Glass went out of business.

  10. Justin says:

    Console gaming may indeed be in a golden age. I say this not because the world needs more FPS’s, but because the hobby is worming its way into mainstream acceptability. It’s true that we keep getting rehashes of the same games with a different mix of cliches, but that is symptomatic of the whole thing being a business. Once in a while, innovation forces its way through the cracks like a blade of grass in NYC. It’s also true that there are games for frat-boys (Halo), games for adults (anything from Sudoku to Bioshock), and etcetera. Many of the games also support multiplayer. I know not everyone likes that, but at least people are finally talking to eachother. Now gamers have the same issues that everyone else has had for years: namely, the fact that intelligent conversation is at a premium these days.

  11. Noah Lesgold says:

    Count me as another vote for a golden age of portable gaming, especially when you consider the amazing quantity of fantastic GBA games (which the DS can still play). The number of phenomenal and creative games for the GBA and DS boggles the mind.

  12. @Shamus:

    I missed all of the consoles between the Atari 2600 and the PS2, and I haven't really gotten into the current-gen consoles just yet.

    Click over to the Wii Shop and buy yourself the Mario Brothers series and (if you have a GameCube controller or Classic controller lying around) Super Metroid. If you like fun platformers you won’t be disappointed. :)

    I was a dedicated PC gamer up until 2003ish, then I started acquiring all of the classic systems that I missed out on. After playing the Super NES and Genesis for a while and collecting a decent library of games I think it’s safe to say that the Golden Age of Console Gaming pretty much coincides with the Golden Age of PC Gaming (for me, at least).

  13. Stranger says:

    I dunno, thinking back to the games I’ve remembered coming out for the PC gaming crowd in the last two years. . . they don’t seem quite as varied as they used to be.

    Portal is an exception.

    For every game on the PC which came out recently, you can name three large-scale releases on consoles, six if you extend that to handhelds. There’s just a lot more out there to tackle for console gamers who have a wide selection of consoles to play from.

    Incidentally, the DS being mentioned above is one of the strongest platforms right now and contains some seriously fun titles in there.

    Personally, I just have this list in the back of my head of companies to look for games by:

    – Atlus USA (because it’s guaranteed you won’t see the game after initial release that much)
    – Insomniac Games
    – Naughty Dog

    These three will almost guarantee you a nicely done game :)

  14. Neriana says:

    I agree about the DS, it’s an awesome system. I play it far more than the 360 or the Wii; I think because developers have to emphasize gameplay with it, they make better games. It’s also the most convenient system out there.

    I don’t play it as much as my PC, though. With World of Warcraft having a bazillion customers, and Everquest 2, City of Heroes/Villains and other MMORPGs doing well, I don’t see PC gaming dying any time soon. Some experiences can’t be had on the console, like Civilization 4 or Sims 2. I love mods, too, and I can’t imagine those being easy to find or make on a console.

    As for other consoles, well, I’m trying to think of a nice way to say, “I think Sands is completely wrong”. Maybe it’s a golden age for FPS fans (who would be better served by Half-Life 2 on the PC, imo). But, while there are some very good RPGs out for the 360, it’s no SNES or PS1. Games have gotten easier and prettier, and the voice acting’s improved but the music hasn’t. It seems to me we’ve given up a lot of gameplay for a little bling.

  15. Nova says:

    Funnily enough, I tend to go for the more quirky games (eg. say, Viva Pinata, Eledees), whilst my brothers go for things like Halo. That is what I like about the current console generation; it supports both. I was brought into games on stuff like Banjo Kazooie, and Ocarina of Time – while these were great, they were (pretty much) the same kind of experience. That’s not to say that quirkier titles weren’t out there, just that I wasn’t aware of them.
    On the other hand, prices are Madly prohibitive now (I mean, seriously, £50 for a new PS3 game? that’s more then a day’s wages, and I’ve got a decent disposable income), and what you get for your cash is getting prettier, shorter, and less original – at least on the highend platforms. The DS and Wiis are a different matter. I think no. 3 is right that they’ve brought gaming out of the metaphorical basement and into the living room, and that’s a positive thing.

  16. Falco Rusticula says:

    World of Warcraft.

    Which I freely admit is the only video game I’ve ever played. But dang…that game is good. I want to do everything it’s possible to do, and there’s no way I have enough time.

  17. elias says:

    – Quality, fun titles abound in recent and near future releases.

    – With big publishers there seems to be somewhat of an atmosphere that trying new things is becoming more acceptable and encouraged (of course there will still be sequels and there are exceptions, but the picture is looking just a little brighter than it did before).

    – Independent development is getting new venues (Xbox Marketplace with XNA, WiiWare, PlayStation Network, Apple App Store, the Google Marketplace for Android) with more support and attention than ever before.

    – Critics are becoming more critical and review scores are to some extent gravitating towards a more realistic distribution (at least from some sources, such as Edge). This is a good thing… right now Metacritic Movies and Metacritic Games are apples and oranges.

    – And for many reasons I feel like this generation of game consoles is the best so far. I have a sense that it is highly likely that the next generation of consoles will actually be a step backwards, because some of the things which make this generation so great are largely accidental on the part of the console manufacturers. That is, I don’t think any of them actually completely gets what makes consoles great.

    To Microsoft it’s just about finding new places in the business model to charge money, and to Sony (this generation at least) it’s just about the hardware. Nintendo… well, the Wii is great, but they haven’t knocked everything out of the park like the Wii in the past, and there’s no reason to expect whatever comes next to do as well (though there is reason to expect it to be new and different in some way).

    The truth is, Microsoft’s console is succeeding because the development tools are better than the rest of the consoles (this is something I don’t think the other console vendors will be able to make up for even in the next generation, or possibly ever), and because they’re doing a great job of recruiting third party developers. Sony is doing fine because of the PS3’s media capabilities (Blu-Ray, upscaling DVDs, streaming media from home computers, etc.) and because they’ve fostered the perception that it’s the one with the best hardware. Nintendo is banking because anyone can play the Wii, because they’ve scrapped the idea of taking a loss on each hardware sale, and because they started out at a sweet-spot price point, with only one SKU.

    But what makes consoles great is simplicity. No installs, no worrying about hardware compatibility or drivers. Pop in a disc and it runs. For this generation, that also means it’s simple to find and try new games through demos, trial versions, and digital distribution. It’s simple to buy one machine and know it does what you want; Microsoft and Sony are completely dropping the ball when they offer multiple SKUs and I expect that will only get worse (look at Vista…). There’s the simplicity of developing for one target machine, so that time can be spent on more useful issues. Online friends, voice chat, etc. are all simple to use and to put into games since they’re part of the operating system. No more proprietary memory cards (except with Microsoft) means it’s simpler and cheaper to store data. There are a lot of things this generation has gotten right.

    But now consoles are beginning to have installs. There’re rumors that the next generation will be more configurable in terms of hardware. It’s possible there will be good to come of this on the other end, with perhaps a standard console platform (operating system) which any hardware manufacturer can create a console using, and any game made for the platform can be played on any hardware which uses it… but I’m sure it will get worse before it gets better.

    So, to sum up, I agree with Sands that right now is a golden age of gaming not only because things are looking good right now compared to the past, but because they look good compared to the near future as well.

  18. Factoid says:

    It might be more accurate to say that we’re on the verge of a new golden age. Some of my favorite games ever have come out in the last couple years.

    The length of games has as much to do with market demand as technology. Sure it’s more expensive to make longer games at high definition quality, but we’ve also got shorter attention spans. I want a game to be as long as it needs to be. Bioshock was a great example of that. It didn’t feel too short or too long. The story came first and the gameplay length suited it, especially when you consider I played it twice to explore the different moral paths.

    I don’t really WANT most games to take 100 hours to complete. The odd final fantasy game or two is the exception. I thought Mass Effect was perfect at 35 hours.

    Too Human was way too short, though. It was like 10-12 hours, and there wasn’t any compelling reason to keep playing in order to level up my character more. That game suffers from “Trilogy Syndrome” in a way Mass Effect largely avoids. They did it wrong.

    To make a trilogy you generally shouldn’t take a three-act story and turn each part into a full game. EACH game should have a beginning middle and end.

    So some games are starting to get it. Others are still missing the point. Maybe in a couple years the tools will be available to let developers make high-definition games without as much expense, and they’ll be able to focus more on the basics. Maybe that’s overly optimistic, but it’s nice to think.

  19. Dev Null says:

    BioShock is shallower, shorter, and less fun than System Shock 2, and was mired in DRM controversy when it came out.


    What a strange thing to say.

    I’ve been reading along for quite awhile now Shamus, and generally I agree with your takes on most games. Not to mention that the count of games I’ve picked up almost solely on your (and your readers’) recommendations and loved is at at least a half dozen. But I _am_ reading along, and you’ve told us in no uncertain terms quite a few times that you would play Bioshock when hell froze over or the DRM came off, which seem about equally likely. You don’t seem like the kind of guy who is going to judge a game without playing it.

    As it happens – having played through it to the end – I’d say that Bioshock had shallower character-building and gameplay than SS2, but not by that much. The story was actually quite interesting, and the world novel and well-developed with good atmosphere. And it lasted a quite satisfyingly long time, though I couldn’t actually say how many gameplay hours I clocked up on it or SS2.

    For the most part, I agree with you; most of my favorite games are from a previous generation. But to hold Bioshock up as your one example of the brokenness of modern PC gaming without ever having played it seems a bit harsh.

  20. Kizer says:

    As far as consoles go, I can only speak for Nintendo. And there, I believe, is where the golden age is most visible. Having started off with an N64/GBC combination and steadily upgrading to my current wii/DS combo, I have seen nothing but improvements in gaming. Each sequel I have played has been steadily longer and more innovative. Though nothing can match the pure wonder of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess have all kept me enthralled for just as long, if not longer, than the original.

    Similarly, games like Super Smash Brothers continue to bring quality gameplay to a wide audience. In fact, that may be what makes the consoles so significant in this golden age of gaming. Nintendo manages to release games that can appeal to wide audiences time after time. These games may not be perfect for everyone, but they are quality products with few bugs, well-designed plots, and definite signs of effort. This probably seems a lot like incoherent rambling, but the point is Nintendo consoles have steadily grown more user-friendly and effective. The result is that while competitors chase after the most impressive, memory intensive graphics and creating the next Halo, Nintendo prefers to develop quality games that people want to play. Plus the new touch-screen/motion-sensitive technology, while not yet perfect, has created so many revolutions in console gaming that it is hard to imagine going back. And on top of everything else, there’s Nintendo’s devotion to backwards compatibility. If I want to, I can play any GBA or GCN game on my wii or DS. I can download many older games through the Wii store. And several old Zelda games were re-released on GCN, which I can now play on wii. The result is that I can still play my 10 year old games. I remember a time when playing computer games on my PC was natural. Pop in a disk, play some UT or Starcraft, go to sleep. Now I slip a cartridge in my DS, play some Meteos or EBA, and go to sleep.

    The moral of this story is: Nintendo continues to make consoles that don’t necessarily appeal to the uber hard-core gamers out there, but the appeal to the majority of gamers. As you mentioned in a post yesterday, Shamus, in the end it’s the gamers in the middle who shape the direction the market goes. Oh yeah, and Shamus, you need really should play the Metroid Prime series. It’s not exactly what you’re looking for in a good game, but it has a few of the elements. There are usually some startling horror moments, especially in the beginning of the game when your firepower is limited. The plots tend to be decent, but death is not inevitable. And Metroid Prime 3 really shows what the future of FPS gaming on Wii will be. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than dual-analog stick.

  21. Galen says:

    As far as I can tell there are two kinds of games that actually succeed. A good game needs to be original in concept (portal and spore come to mind) or an incredibly good version of preworn genre. I think that producers are finally realizing that either they work hard to perfect a genre that has been ‘perfected’ several times or they come up with an all new concept. I’d consider this a good (maybe not gold) age for gaming simply because the trend of reusing genres is beginning to give way to things like the wii, ds, portal and spore. Now gamers are trying NEW types of games not just NEW games.

    I’m certainly not bashing all other games, I still like classics and not so classics of shooters and rpgs. but developers are either being replaced or looking for new outlets. I think that makes this a good age for gaming.

  22. Lunafysh says:

    I have to agree w/ Shamus on this one.
    I can recall when I was excited and upset every month or so as a new release came out and I had to shell out hard earned cash to play, and play I would. Half-life, Diablo & Diablo II, Unreal, and the beginnings of the multiplayer universe.
    Now look at all of the MMPORGS and go “meh”. I just don’t care and nothing is nearly as compelling.
    Oh and “NATURAL 20, BABY!”

  23. Robyrt says:

    On Bioshock vs. System Shock 2: Both games are excellent, and feature some of the best environments ever committed to pixels. Both kept me up at night pushing for the next level, without making me grind – a sure sign of a good game. Arguing about which one is better is missing the larger point that both games are leagues ahead of the average single-player action game.

    Don’t give up hope on PC games – yes, the current golden age has left them behind, but as soon as someone figures out how to make a genuine PC game that doesn’t rely on critical mass like WOW / Sims / Spore, it’ll come back. Look at what happened to music games with Guitar Hero, or party games with Wii Sports and Rock Band – there’s something genuinely awesome waiting in the wings.

  24. Shamus says:

    Dev Null: I’m going mostly by the Zero Punctuation review, and about twenty minutes of the demo* and BS does indeed seem to be a skeleton compared to its predecessor. Stuff like inventory, unique abilities, and leveling up, an in-game economy, a robust weapons mod system in addition to a weapons SKILLS system… etc.

    SS2 was basically an RPG.

    * Saving is disabled in the demo. I had to quit and do something else. When I came back I realized I’d have to sit though fifteen minutes of un-skippable exposition, intro, and tutorial again, so I just uninstalled it.

    I’d been looking to see if there was anything comic-worthy in the demo, but nothing came to mind. Meh. It wasn’t even worth writing about. Maybe I’m wrong and the goodies were right around the next corner before I quit, but I doubt it.

  25. Hal says:

    Shamus, I know you’ve said that, with the Wii in the living room, you can’t get any fodder for the comic so it’s slightly less productive gaming.

    Still, you haven’t spent much time with it yet? Seriously, there are some great titles on there you really ought to try.

  26. Adamantyr says:

    One person’s golden age is another person’s dark age, I would surmise.

    I know that many people consider the post video game crash era of 1983-1986 thereabouts a ‘dry’ spell, but I read one account that said it was one of the best eras for creative game design, because the shoot-em-ups of the former console era were not marketable. It seems many of the best CRPG’s had their start in that era as well on the PC’s of the time.

    Bioshock isn’t bad, but I think it’s a bit over-hyped. It’s definitely more creative in the background and plot design; SS2 is little more than an Alien ripoff.

    For myself, the golden age of gaming was when your average gamer could still WRITE a game. Those days are long since past, of course, commercially viable games quickly became too complicated for one person to conceive and write. (Tarn Adams, creator of Dwarf Fortress, being an exemplary exception to the rule.)

  27. Kevin says:

    Golden age over and done with? Hm. I have only myself to go by, but here it is. I used to game a bunch with my wife. We had huge amounts of fun on our original Playstation. Each new generation of consoles has held our attention less and less. I made a joke about it not long ago, but the video game that has really gotten me the most excited recently was Monopoly on my iPod Nano.

    I like WoW a bunch, but it’s been two months since I’ve really made any time for it. Now when we go looking for titles to play, (which is very infrequently) we keep finding ourselves looking to recreate those experiences from long ago.

  28. Midnight Thunderboy says:

    Another good point to mention about console gaming compared to pc gaming is the fact that for Pc, multiplayer centric has become the norm and single player is the exception. Consoles, due to Xbox live and co not quite having taken over the player base, have more single player oriented games than MP ones (or at least, have x players on one console multi as opposed to net multi). That’s the main reason I got sick of PC gaming some time back and got a PS2. I don’t regret buying it as it has enabled me to play some good rpgs that were getting really rare on pc.

    The fact that these have no instals, DRMs and minimum specs problemes is a really nice bonus. But with consoles trying to immitate more and more PCs (and console games costing up to 50% more than pc ones) and the rise of online multi on consoles, that is soon to pass.

  29. Kris says:

    I personally think the best gameplay and story-telling was done on the Super NES. The N64 was fun, but that’s where Nintendo started pushing the graphics and control mechanisms over what would engage a player and keep them coming back.

    I go back and play a plethora of games for the SNES, or play the re-releases for the Nintendo DS more than I play anything else. I’ve actually avoided getting a PS3 and a WII on this basis, because the number of compelling titles doesn’t match the cost of the systems anymore.

    At least, that’s my opinion. :)

  30. Razhem says:

    The Nintendo, Super Nintendo and Playstation era were the golden age of gaming from where I stand, being the Super Nintendo the big winner.

    Except for the wii (and it’s only first party titles), I couldn’t care less about the latest generation of consoles. The DS looks like a whole other animal and deserving some respect and of course there are gems in all consoles, but the last time I was ever hyped about something was with the original playstation.

    That the game I’m most interested in today is Spore and Megaman 9 should tell you where I stand. I love old school, I love platforming I love quirky things, all those things are pretty much dead today, this is like the adventure gamer must feel.

  31. Blackbird71 says:

    Not to derail the topic completely, but if we’re in a golden age of “gaming in general,” where does 4th Edition fit in to all of this?

    @Sven (5)

    “When I play my computer I have to sit in my office chair and play on a 22″³ LCD. Granted, it's a decent monitor, but the whole experience just isn't as “comfortable” for me anymore.”

    Hence why right behind the video card, any PC gamer should always invest in a good chair. The right chair is everything. Mine right now is made by a well-known mattress company and is crafted out of memory foam. That thing is soooo comfy, I use it for lots more than just my computer!

  32. The Lone Duck says:

    No such thing as Golden Ages. Just nostalgia of the past, and rose-colored glasses on the progress of the present. The characteristics of games has changed; just as cinematography has changed, art has changed, and music has changed. What games are the most rewarding? Old games have nostalgia around them, a form of reward not implicit in the game itself (Super Mario World, for example.) Games that create common ground between people is what makes them rewarding, whether it’s a common appreciation for Mario, Halo, Rock Band, or WoW. Much of the enjoyment comes from sharing our enjoyment with other people. If you were the only one who’d ever played System Shock, and no one else had any clue what you were talking about, it would have less reward for you. Much of the enjoyment comes from shared experience.
    With that in mind, games are becoming more mainstream, and create that reward of interaction to a greater degree. But all ages have there problems, injustices, their own garbage and filth. In retrospect, the Playstation 1 seems like a golden age of games, but it had it’s share of crap too. Calling the present a Golden Age is absurd; we have so much further, so much better to become.

  33. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Nah.Sean talks about quantity,but its quality that marks a golden age.I dont think any of the games on his list will be played 10 years from now(while some version of world of warcraft is probably going to be played,it wont be the burning crusade),unlike the games you mentioned in your post.

  34. Illiterate says:

    The custom controllers in use for the current “let’s play simon with music” breed, guitar hero, rockband, ddr, those could have come about in an earlier generation but didn’t.

    The kinetic controller on the Wii was the selling point for me from the beginning.

  35. Mark says:

    We’re currently amid a golden age of portable gaming, certainly.

    Console gaming changes so often that it’s hard to tell whether it’s in a golden age. PC gaming has usually tended to approach the same basic platonic ideal of a deep, pretty, unforgettable exemplar of its genre, coming as close as technology will allow and fudging the rest; console gaming seems to be more about making do with the tech you have now. Additionally, there’s a stronger tendency towards fads and imitation among console publishers. So instead of getting golden ages of console gaming, you’ll get golden ages of highly specific genres.

  36. Eric says:

    As someone whose had at least one console since the snes days, I have to say the Golden age of console gaming started back with the playstation,N64, and sega saturn generation. Our golden age just hasn’t peaked yet. The only thing the current gen is really adding is online play, and mainstream attention. That generation of consoles is responsible for today’s current gen.

    I believe today’s current generation may actually be our peak. I’ve noticed we are having our pop-in-and-play revoked, trying to transport your save game to your friends console is insanely impossible, at least for the ps3, and what I feel is the most devious, now were getting the dreaded patch system.

    Now I’m going to just talk about each system:

    First the Xbox 360, The first of the current gen to the dance. This was a smart move for the company, not only did they give developers a jump start to familiarize themselves with the hardware, and have bigger library. Xbox live is back again, and made more a must have than an option.

    The Wii is that guy at the dance everyone wants to be friends with, but said guy’s original friends he blows off consistently. Yes the wii is more accessible to everyone, but at the same time not accessible to it’s core gamers that have kept nintendo up and running to this point. At E3 they did not mention any of their triple A titles for the coming year. That means No Zelda, No Metroid, and especially No Mario!! If they keep this trend up it’s really going to hurt them in the long run. I only see the wii ending up to be one big fad.

    Now finally with an hour left at the dance here comes the popular jock, fashionably late as usual. The ps3 is the strongest in the hardware department. The ps3’s problem is that as last one out, developers aren’t used to developing for it….yet! The big thing for the ps3 in the long run is blu-ray, because it removes space restrictions for the games, for example Bioshock is coming to the ps3, the developers have been really enjoying the removal of space constraints, and to show this they’ve added levels they couldn’t on the 360. They’ve also said how easily it actually was to program with the ps3, at first it was a little daunting, but as they went along it became easier, and easier. The newest thing that ps3 has in it’s arsenal is the Playstation network, everything xbox live offers but entirely free. The BAD thing about the ps3 is it needs software, and it needs it NOW!!!

    So as I’ve said before I believe console gamers have already been in a golden age it just seems to me we might be peaking this gen.

  37. Razhem says:

    Lone Duck, I have to disagree, although it’s great to geek out about a game, it certainly is not what I look in my gaming. I played all my youth without having any friends that played games like me, so the social part is useless to me. Hell, most online content for me is meh.

    Also, I know I have more fun with yeh olden games, I still play them today in a form or another, and they still get me a lot more interested than the newer things (my gamecube still feels horribly ignored except for some smash bros once in a while, and I have triple A tittles that need gaming there).

    There’s a great amount of beauty in simplicity, something that is sort of getting a come back thanks to virtual consoles, the only aspect I care for in this generation.

  38. Scott says:

    Ahh… The Golden age of gaming? I don’t find myself playing too much Zork with DOSBox on my iBook anymore… (that app is mostly reserved for the mighty ‘Valhalla’) but you WILL find me chugging away at Chrono Trigger for the umpteenth time. At home on my couch, you can find me playing Zelda 3 or Final Fantasy 2 (4?). The Super Nintendo is where it was (and is) at, if you are looking for a golden age (Excluding the FPS which is still evolving beautifully). The best platform games and RPGs can be found there with enriching stories and lovable (and hateable) characters.

    The only games I would like to play more than Super Metroid and the games mentioned above would be Super Mario Bros. 3… and Portal…

    But! Different strokes for different folks, as my TV used to tell me. If you are the kind of gamer who lives for the noble FPS or for the newest and best special effect driven drivel, your delicious comeuppins are yet to come. The second golden age may yet be upon us all! But I don’t have MY hopes up, certainly. I don’t think designers today have the singular mind, heart, and vision required to make a game that can speak one-on-one with the player anymore.

    Not like in those bright times.

  39. For: Being a (rude) fanboy. You must be new here. Bye.

  40. Eric says:

    Pc gamers are used to more options to their games, more than what console gamers get, but who cares what pc gamers say they’re a dying breed, their heyday is long gone and never coming back. Consoles are the future, Resistance is futile.

  41. Ben says:

    The Wii is the only ‘next gen’ console out there. The 360 and PS3, whilst good, are essentially just the same as previous iterations but with nice graphics. Accessible and integrated online play is their only claim to being ‘next gen’.
    We’re on the verge, I can feel it. Rock Band is the start of something, Wii is the start of something.

  42. Steve C says:

    Shamus asked

    What is it about this generation [of games] that's really rewarding?

    Three words: Money, money, money.

    That appears to be the metric that Sean Sands thinks matters. If you are concerned with financial solvency of the industry as a whole, he has a point. But like other things he has said, Sean Sands missed the point and is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Daemian Lucifer said it best, “Sean talks about quantity, but its quality that marks a golden age.”

  43. Eric says:

    as I said before, the wii is a fad, I have one and I haven’t played it in 6 months. The biggest use I got out of it was the virtual console, now that’s sad that I’ve spent $250 on a system to play old generation games, which I could get for free on th computer. The only wii game I’ve bought was Fire Emblem, which doesn’t even use the motion sensing technology. Now Nintendo has a great idea, but I feel it’s only a small part of the bigger whole, that I don’t think they will be able to piece together any time soon.

  44. RPharazon says:

    For me, the Xbox 360 represents an easier alternative to PC gaming. I fell of the Graphics Card Treadmill about a year before the Xbox 360 came out. I DON’T want to build my own computer when I can have an easier, more viable, alternative for half (or a third, or a fourth) the price of a gaming computer.

    The fact that I can stay in contact with friends 3000km away, and play the latest games with them AT THE SAME TIME, for $50/year, along with the fact that I’m off the graphics treadmill, don’t have to worry about system requirements, DRM, or PC-incompatible friends is a definite selling point for me.

    Along with downloadable content, legal emulation, and the ability to locally game with friends without BRINGING HIS ENTIRE COMPUTER OVER, the Xbox 360 is more appropriate to my life.

    Yes, PC gaming has its merits, such as mods or the free DLC (Think TF2 and Oblivion), but for usability and price, consoles are a win.

    Shamus, reading all your complaints about draconian PC DRM, and the slowly-declining quality of PC games, I am completely sure that one of the consoles in this generation (either the 360 or PS3, depending on your tastes) is right for you.

  45. Eric says:

    well said RPharazon.

  46. Barron says:

    It occurs to me that the idea of game companies running to console-land actually doesn’t bother me. Big budget games just aren’t as fun to me. I liked Bioshock, alot. But it really did feel like a dumbed down SS2, albeit in a very cool new setting. COD4 was just COD2 with a modern-day skin and more accurate weapons. I enjoyed Oblivion, but for the most part it felt like a dumbed-down Morrowind.
    Meanwhile, if you can look beyond the big-budget marketing campaigns from EA and their ilk, the little guys are still there. I’m loving X3: Reunion, and Dwarf Fortress, neither of which would ever work on console. Seriously, Dwarf Fortress has given me more enjoyment than anything I’ve played in years. And it’s not just DRM free, it’s FREE.
    So to sum it all up, the mass-market games may be going to console-land, but the FUN games are staying right here on PC. Which is where they always will be.

  47. Eric says:

    Barron, It must be awesome being drunk 24/7.

  48. Spam Vader says:

    Eric, it must be fun to be drunk 24/7. You call the Wii a fad, no it’s not. It’s already had many great games, and with more undoubtedly coming. You complain about the lack of announced titles for Nintendo’s flagship franchises, but it’s been one year since Galaxy and Corruption and two since Twilight Princess: Too soon for a new game. According to your own admission, you’ve only bought a turn based strategy game(emphasis on turn based strategy), and you’re disappointed at the motion controls. You complain about only using the Virtual Console, but that’s one of the Wii’s selling points to me: The ability to play your classic Nintendo games, legally and with a control made to accomodate them. You’ve said nothing about the WiiWare library and it’s brand of brilliant games. Dfend your Castle? Lost Winds? What about upcoming titles? Last Flight, perchance?

    Anyway, in short: You’re wrong. Just wrong.

  49. Mark says:

    All game consoles are fads, really. Few years down the line, ain’t nobody gonna be playing on the current ones.

    Granted, obsolescence has always been a factor in that.

  50. Eric says:

    @ Spam Vader:

    First off, I’m saying that Nintendo is on the right track, but how they’re implementing the motion sensing technology is terrible. Most of the games I’ve played, I’ve opted for the gamecube controller rather then the wii controller.

    Secondly, regarding their core games, I’m not saying they should be out now, but there should some sort of screenshots or word about it. As you said it’s been two years since Twilight Princess came out, and since it was a flop on the wii, they should be working on it. They should at least be able to announce they are working on something since games like Gears of War already have its sequel ready to be released in less then two years after the original was released, same with Resistance it was released nov 14,06 and Resistance 2 comes out nov4,08, that’s two franchises that have had sequels coming out within two years of each other. I’m tired of only hearing about wii fit, wii yoga, wii balance board, and wii music. As a nintendo fan I’m tired of getting the same old rehash games of wii sports but with different skins. Mario galaxy was a great step in the right direction, although I did not care for it. They haven’t done anything since then to progress their own software, and alienating their core fan base by ignoring them completely to get grandma playing with the kiddies. A good thing in the short term, bad thing in the long term.

    My problem with the virtual console is that to me it’s the biggest attraction to the wii, it was what really sealed the deal on getting one. I’ve reiterated the same thing you said , in which I’ve already said: The virtual console is the only selling point to me, and other old-school gamers. I find that sad.

  51. Eric says:

    *old-school console gamers

  52. Vao Ki says:

    I’m going to comment without reading anyone’s posts this time. Sorry, I’m tired and need to go to bed, but I thought I’d throw my 2cp into this one first.

    A buddy of mine has a PS3 and he swears by it. We have a habit of working on games together: Final Fantasy series, Resident Evil series, etc. We both had a Sega, Sega CD and a Super NES at the same time, with tons of titles. He now has both a PSP and a Nintendo Game Boy, probably a DS as well. I have a Wii and a PSP myself and love them.

    Long story short, we’re console gamers as well as PC gamers.

    I would say that yes, console gaming has come a long way. The main reason I think console gaming is kicking PC gaming’s butt is that game designers know when designing for a console the game has to be finished and polished. When designing for the PC however they feel that it’s fine to ship unfinished products, since the customer has yet to stop buying from them when they do (Though I have stopped buying from some).

    To me an unfinished game is like a half cooked pancake: sure it looks good on the outside but once you take a few bites you realize you should have went with an omelet, or maybe a different brand of pancake. In short, you force it down, buy something else or go hungry.

    Then there’s the DRM, etc. It’s foolish and will only succeed in driving potential and current customers away from PC gaming, boosting console sales.

    I would say mainly that ease of use, being that we know our console will always run our games, and no authentication hoops to jump through are 2 huge reasons to play on a console rather than a PC.

    I still love my MMOs and quasi-MMOs, such as Guild Wars, and will stubbornly keep playing games on the PC as well until they force me to stop.

    Hopefully someone out there is listening to us and a new golden age for PC gaming will begin. We can hope.

  53. The Lone Duck says:

    Quick response to Rob: When I meant social interaction, I wasn’t talking about the ‘geek’ community, though it includes them. I also refer to brothers and sisters playing together, grandparents playing on the Wii; shoot, my mother is fascinated with the Breakout clone on her Blackberry and compares scores with her friends at work. I’m not talking just about forums or hardcore players, but all the interactions. When you say a game is good, you express an unspoken desire for other people to see and enjoy the same good game that you experienced. That is a social interaction.
    Console-wise, all the current systems do what they strive to do well. I’va played on each console enough to know this. Nintendo certainly has changed, but that’s understandable consideing the financial troubles they had. And while some of the Wii stuff is repetitive, I respect Miyamoto for continuing to do new things rather than getting stuck only with existing IPs. As far as quality 3rd party support, Nintendo has struggled with this since the N64. SNES days were different for two reasons. One, the SNES was “next-gen” in its day. Secondly, Nintendo had remnants of its NES monopoly days. It’s unrealistic to expect that business out of them with the current competitors, and there budget.
    Microsoft is much better than they were with the original Xbox; they’ve done a better job getting Japanese developers on board, while maintaining the western developers. They’ve also create the most robust player community.
    Sony has made a console that built upon all their previous accomplishments, while having a somewhat polished multimedia interface. Sony is currently struggling with games, but none of their systems have had good launches, and all of their systems have been long lived. PS2s are still selling. The gap between 1st gen PS1 games, and the last PS1 games is remarkable. Same thing for PS2. The Playstations have been long enduring consoles. (The hardware hasn’t always lasted, but it’s hard to test systems for long term wear.)
    I’m only familar with Sega’s Dreamcast, none of the other systems. The Dreamcast had good games, but the interface was not ideal; also certain IPs were mishandled.
    I reiterate that there is no Golden Age. I happen to like the PS1 and SNES games, games that are 2-D with sprites. But it’s my subjective opinion, not an accomplishment of the industry at the time.
    As a last note, I’d say if you own a Wii, and are desperate for games, try picking up some Gamecube games. They don’t look bad, and many of them were good. Backwards compatability, in my opinion, is the strongest selling point for a console, because it continues the ‘golden age’ of the past, while creating a new platform for the future.

  54. DocTwisted says:

    This is, I believe, the cusp of a golden age of gaming, despite the copious problems bogging down the PC gaming market.

    The first indicator of this for me right now is the fact that the PC Market is now such a *smaller* percentage of the gaming market.

    In addition to the DS and the three main console systems to choose from, we have games downloadable to our cell phone, indy games playable (for free in many cases) all over the interwebs, emulator programs that let us play classics of yesteryear if we have that particular itch… and that’s just sticking to video games. Don’t get me started on all the ways increased connectivity online is affecting how people can play the tabletop pen & paper games of DnD, GURPS, and that whole family. Oh, then of course there’s Yahoo Games for the short-time-learning-lifetime-mastering games of checkers, chess, bridge, backgammon, go, et cetera…

    Oh, what’s that? The console market? Look at the innovation in the past decade in how we play. Look at DDR, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and now all the “get up and move around to play” titles on the Wii. We’re getting closer and closer to full-on simulation of the activities we used to control with a rocker switch and two action buttons.

    It’s an exciting time to be a gamer. It would get even better, if the dinosaurs of PC game production would roll back the minimum requirements and pump up the innovation.

  55. Kimberly says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster…I hope I’m not stepping on any toes here.

    I’ve been a console gamer since the late NES era, and my husband longer than that. I’m inclined to agree with the others who called the SNES era (especially the later end) the golden age, especially since my gaming preference is JRPGs.

    Also, if the SNES era is the golden age, the PS2 age is the silver age: a lot of very good games, although not many stand out as great. (One that does: Persona 3. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Odin Sphere come close. Not touching the topic of Final Fantasy.) Also, English voice work on JRPGs continues to improve, if still uneven in quality.

    Portable systems I consider separate from consoles, but the GBA would get the title of ‘golden age’ from me. Prospects continue to improve for the current set, though (with the DS having the edge, for me – we have both).

    If there’s one big thing I had to pin as the difference between the SNES era and those following, it would be music. Once the Playstation era rolled around, game music started sounding more homogeneous and bland, and composers started spinning their wheels. (Uematsu, I’m looking at you.) The only two soundtracks that really stand out in my mind from the post-SNES era onward are from the earlier-mentioned Persona 3, and the PS1 title Legend of Mana.

    Anyway, I think it’s too early to call this generation of consoles: stagnation is the biggest problem I see, and it endangers all 3 systems. The PS3 is crawling while it waits for more titles (and given the trend in recent years, I don’t think FFXIII is going to be as big a shot in the arm as people expect), third-party developers are still figuring out what to do with the Wii, and the 360 looks like it’s already owned by almost everyone who would want one. (Disclaimer: I do not own a 360. Here’s your complimentary salt block.)

    Oh, and Shamus — you’re borrowing a PS3? I don’t suppose you have access to Disgaea 3?

  56. ngthagg says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but there seems to be a consensus that consoles are in a golden age right now, and a lot of people mention Nintendo products.

    Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that Nintendo got out of the graphics race back when they released the Gamecube?

  57. Chris Arndt says:

    I absolutely miss stuff for PS2, and there are still games I want for my Sega Genesis.

    The system I have the most games for is my Atari 2600.

    I tend to skip entire generations.

    Fact is: I resent this generation and yet I think the Wii is a fad.

  58. qrter says:

    Maybe I'm wrong and the goodies were right around the next corner before I quit, but I doubt it.

    You were wrong, at least as far as I was concerned. It took a while before the game.. clicked. Quite a while after the demo ended, in fact. I’ve had the same kind of experience with quite a lot of games, including System Shock 2 btw – I mean, the demo was just the intro and an intro is just an intro, it’s hardly ever where you’re fully into the game, well at least for me.

    It wasn’t a bad demo, mind you, it’s just that for me it wasn’t representative of the full experience. That said, it did hint at what it could be, so I took a chance.

    I have to say, Shamus, reading you make a statement like “BioShock is shallower, shorter, and less fun than System Shock 2” when you haven’t even finished the demo, let alone played the actual game.. that’s more than a bit disappointing.

    (This is all beside the strange DRM malarkey – it didn’t bother me, really, but I absolutely see your point.)

  59. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I’d have to go on a limb and say I agree with the people who say that maybe you don’t know what you have been talking about, when speaking on Bioshock. I’ve played it up to the hospital, and for the short period of time, I’ve quite enjoyed myself.

    Now, I am not you. But 20 minutes of demo, 5 minutes of it being the boring introduction that it is (and the following being the in-game tutorial about how to fight and use plasmid) is not representative of that game. And Yazthee’s review?!?!?!?! YATZHEE’S REVIEW?! You actually use that as a substitution for playing the game and compare it to it’s predecessor? Not to forget that he acknowledged that it was quite a good game, but that nobody likes it when he is nice to a game.

    I.. I don’t care that you liked or not BS, Shamus (except I care when you write about it, ’cause it’s a nice read). But.. Seriously, that reasonning is beyond what I came to expect from my favorite blogger.

  60. Microphobe says:

    Golden Age.

    What that brings to mind.

    Back in the day (c. 1690-1730), Pirates roamed the Seven Seas – and not a single one of them were recorded to live more than three (3) years.

    The Golden Age of American Animation (1928-1960~). To quote Wikipedia: “Many of the most memorable characters emerged from this period including Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Popeye, Betty Boop, Woody Woodpecker, Tom and Jerry, Droopy Dog and an incredibly popular adaptation of Superman.”

    The Golden Age of Greek Mythology covers at least five goddamm generations!

    However, if we are indeed living in a “golden age,” we must then be subject to the rules: the Golden Age usually ends with a devastating event, which brings about the Fall of Man. Quote, Fall of Man, capital letters. Not to mean that Doomsday is tomorrow, but to point out that the Ages end with a progressive Bronze, Silver and an unsurpassable Golden. That, in reference to ancient events, we won’t know until we’re past them.

    Shamus, I ask you: How can we know we’re living in a “Golden Age” until we’re past it? Until we can see that what came next is indeed inferior?

    Addendum: Objective viewing is a bitch. Sh*t.

  61. Alex says:

    My “Golden Age” of general-purpose gaming was the SNES/Genesis era. Especially near the end, when we got the Chrono Triggers and Super Mario RPG’s around the end of the system’s lifespan.

    It was a fun ride down though. I personally loved the N64, the Dreamcast, the PS1 & 2 and Gamecube. I’m not too keen on today’s games however. It’s all graphics and no substance. And movie tie-ins. And Halo clones. Even the guys behind Final Fantasy, the supposed leaders of storytelling in mainstream console RPG’S, let me down with XII(which, surprise surprise, looked great but bored me to tears.)

    To put it simply:

    SNES/Genesis: Golden Age
    N64/PS1: Silver Age
    Dreamcast/PS2/Gamecube: Bronze Age
    Wii/PS3/Xbox360: Iron Age

    Sadly, I missed out on the 8-bit days, and only caught up in recent years through emulation. I suppose if I were born before 1987, those would be the “Platinum” years…

    “Dev Null: I'm going mostly by the Zero Punctuation review”

    …You’re using BEN CROSHAW as a means to determine the worth of a video game? I gotta say, that’s not the greatest idea you’ve ever had, Shamus.

    Watching Zero Punctuation for a realistic assessment of the quality of a video game, that’s like reading a tabloid, or one of those black-and-white newspapers with articles like: “Elvis Hiding In Donald Trump’s Hair” for factual journalism. Sure, they can both be funny, but they’re hardly informative. They’re also known to make stuff up just to keep people shocked/reading.

    (Case in point: his atrocious Smash Bros. Brawl review)

  62. Daemian Lucifer says:


    It is a nice game,true,but its not great.And compared to system shock,it excels only graphically.Thats a fact,live with it.

    Oh,and consider that yahtzee and shamus have similar tastes,so shamus can go safelly and replace playing a game with watching his reviews.Remember last time he didnt do that?Plus,if you look beneath all the funny bashing yahtzee does for the sake of having a good video,you will see that he raises good points.

    It is a nice game,Ill say that again,but its not spectacular.

  63. blah blah blah says:

    It’s a golden era for gaming as a medium, not as a genre.

    That sounds awfully pretentious, and it is, but it’s also true. In the bad old days of the mid to late eighties, games were all pretty similar. Sure, Mario was different from Legend of Zelda, but not fundamentally. You had lives, you killed badguys, solved some simple puzzles, beat the bosses and then took on the final boss. The end! There were a few simulation type games like super punch out and f-0, but that’s it.

    Over time, those basic tropes never changed, they just got more and more complex and over-wrought. I no longer play FPS games because the controls have gotten too complex: one joystick or set of buttons to point, another to move, more buttons to cycle forward or backward through weapons, shoot, alternate attacks, etc etc etc. RPGs have become completely redundant, as have strategy and exploration games. Sure, they’re longer now, they have more items, units, characters, what have you, but they are essentially the same games they were 15 years ago.

    But in the past few years, games have really started to branch out. Think of Rez and Katamari Damacy: these are not your normal games, and you do not play them the normal way. They sort of challenge what it meant to be a game.

    And then along came the DS and Wii, and blew the whole thing open. There are now ‘games’ you can play where you draw pictures, do jumping jacks, or learn spanish. The whole idea of what it means to be a game and be a gamer has been altered indelibly. As we’ve now come up with newer and more innovative ways to interact with entertainment machines besides just button-mashing, newer and more innovative games will appear that exploit them. It;s not just that people are playing the Wii and DS that never played video games before, it’s that these people have come to play new kinds of games that couldn’t even exist before. Already the range of experiences that were including in the phrase “playing video games” has exploded, and as innovation continues, video gaming will evolve to be an even greater force for cultural and artistic expression.

    My prediction: the next generation of systems will all include webcams, a la Apple’s new laptops. User-generated content is the new… whatever the old thing was. No, fuck that. It’s so new, there isn’t even an old version of it.

  64. SolkaTruesilver says:

    @Daemian Lucifer

    Not my point. It’s not that he liked or disliked the game that counts, but he dismissed it out of hand after looking ZP’s review and playing not even the full demo. And now Shamus is using the (very little) experience of the game to actually judge it.

    And Yahtzee began the review saying a LOT of good things about it, but afterward said that people don’t like when he’s being nice to a game. So, he just wanted to get done with the positive and crushing on his spiky review.

    I won’t consider myself in a position to actually evaluate a game unless I’ve played it for a few hours, and went ahead in the story. Yahtzee did, but Shamus didn’t. And I find it… strange that Mr. Young actually use a game he didn’t even played as the exemple of “everything that went wrong in the world of PC Gaming”. Specially if it’s not that bad of a game (which even Yahtzee agrees on).

    So, as I said, I don’t care wether Shamus liked or not the game. I care if he is talking without knowing, or even without having TRIED SERIOUSLY to know, which he didn’t.

    Edit: Because, you know, I consider Twenty Sided to have some sort of standart. A minimum of “I know what I’m talking about” ratio. If I wanted to read people’s opinion over something they don’t know, I’ll go read the Conservative’s opinion of Mass Effect.

  65. B.J. Palmer says:

    Well, when I was younger and I owned an SNES, Genesis, and we had a PC capable of playing most games, there were maybe 1-2 games released each year which were worth playing. RPGs took 20 hours or less to beat, Doom was releasing 50 expansions and mission packs a month, and everything was just a cavalcade of shit and mediocrity.

    Now with all three consoles and a gaming PC, there is still a vast amount of shit and trash. This is because of Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap. The difference between then and now is that the 10% of quality is ten time bigger than it was, with at least 1-2 decent titles released per MONTH. So yeah, I’d call that a golden age.

  66. Matt says:

    I’ve been playing games since 1982, and yes, I haven’t felt as strongly about any recent games as I have about, say, Ultima VII, the original System Shock (which I prefer to the sequel), Thief or Fallout. Having said that, I do think that Portal is a great game, I enjoyed Stalker a lot (even though it would have never made it past those “gamer rights”), I had tons of fun with the GTA games and am certain I will enjoy the fourth game just as much. Yes, some things were better about gaming ten ago. But a large part of that is also nostalgia. I wouldn’t necessarily get the same enjoyment out of Ultima now that I got 10-15 years ago. I’ve moved towards more casual gaming, mainly because I have other priorities in my life that I didn’t have back then.

    I understand that for certain audiences gaming is getting worse and the best times were in the past. I definitely see your points. I just wish that more people would acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons for thinking that gaming these days is better – and these people aren’t necessarily wrong or mouth-breathers or braindead idiots.

  67. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Using bioshock(aptly shortened as BS)as an example of “everything that went wrong in the world of PC Gaming” is not based on the quality of the game,but on its DRM.The fact that shamus(and many,many others) didnt buy it just because of DRM is proof enough that something is wrong.Not to mention the numerous reported bugs that shamus read about.So it wasnt based just on zero punctuation and it wasnt attacking just the gameplay or the story of the game but the whole experience,which is not that good at all.

    And it is shorter,and it is shalower,and it especially is less fun than system shock,which had no intrusive DRM,no online activation,no limited number of installs and no major game braking bugs(that mostly come from the DRM).


    Its hardly nostalgia in some cases.Fallout,for example.Ive played that for the first time some 6 years ago,and loved it.And Ive read peoples testimonies that have played it even more recently and loved it too,despite its outdated graphics.Ive played X-com after fallout,and its even older,yet Ive loved it too,despite even older graphics and older sound.So a great game stays great for a long,long time,its not just nostalgia.

  68. Matt says:

    @Daemian Lucifer:

    I fully agree with you that it’s not just nostalgia. There’s no doubt that Fallout has more depth than, say, Mass Effect. But I’d also say that many (if not most) “old schoolers” overestimate the general quality of games 10-15 years ago and that to some extent they keep falling for the “my tastes=absolute standard of quality” trap. Is Portal as long, as replayable or as deep (in terms of gameplay) a game as Ultima VII? No. I’d still say that if you go by other, equally valid standards, it is as good a game, and in some ways it’s better (and I’m not just talking about obvious things such as graphics and sound).

  69. Shamus says:

    Okay, to everyone who keeps calling me out on the BioShock thing?

    Was the game 6 hours long or not? Did an inventory system suddenly appear after a few hours?

    Come on. The features weren’t there. You can claim the game is more fun, but the game is simpler. Maybe you like that. Fine. But don’t claim I have to play the entire game before I’m allowed to point out there’s no leveling system and the maps are linear.

    You don’t need to drive fifty miles to tell the difference between a Porche and a riding lawnmower.

  70. Matt says:

    Your point was that Bioshock is an indicator of everything that is wrong with current PC gaming. Is the game simpler than System Shock 2? Yes. Is it shorter? Probably. But unless you’re telling those who think it’s more fun that they’re wrong about enjoying it more, your original post does come across as rather hyperbolic and somewhat hysterical. The valid points that you make (IMO) are somewhat overshadowed by your tendency lately (again IMO) to overstate things. I agree with you on much of what you say, but in the last one or two months I feel you’re starting to sound a bit like Chicken Little.

  71. ChrisAsmadi says:

    Personally, I think Console Gaming has gotten worse, recently, given that the two genres I generally play on consoles are RPGs and Platformers (especially Sonic).

    Platformers are a wasteland these days (THERE ARE NO SONIC GAMES AFTER S&K!) and there are too few RPGs on next gen consoles (with the exception of the DS), whereas the PS2 had tons of RPGs (including finally bringing Shin Megami Tensei into english).

  72. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I agree that you don’t need to play the whole game to get to know it, but 20 minutes!! I’d like dipping your finger into a glass of wine and lick it to check if it’s good or not. I don’t know how long was the demo (where it ended) but you could have at least tried to get into the game before deciding if you like it or not.

    You may judge BS the way you want, I don’t care much one way or the other.

  73. Vao Ki says:

    @ChrisAsmadi #71: Have you tried Sonic Rivals? I’m not sure what systems it’s on atm. I have it on PSP myself. I was a Sonic junky as well, and this game seems to have satisfied that craving for now. Added bonus: it’s portable!

    Someone above mentioned the golden age of gaming seems to be the 8-bit days or 16-bit days. I almost agree with that. That was a time of story and innovation, but at the same time EVERYTHING was new, no matter how silly or devoid of plot. We ate it all up gladly.

    Some memorable titles popped up back then, such as the Mario series and before it, Donkey Kong. Everybody knows who Pacman is, and Sonic. I come from the generation who rushed to the arcade to get our gaming fix, playing things like Centipede and Galaga. We thought those titles were great.

    When we did get consoles we had an Intellivision, and an Atari 5200 at one point. These were state of the art for the times. Compared to now, the graphics and game design are laughable.

    It is my opinion that each generation of console will have a few memorable titles that forever add to the general consensus of how gaming should be. A few of those in order or close to it would be:

    Donkey Kong
    Super Mario Brothers
    Final Fantasy
    The Legend of Zelda

    While by no means a complete list, it shows where I’m coming from. Each game had something to add to gaming in general, and many if not all were copied.

    Each of these titles made a mark on gaming. You can’t deny that fact. But we are now living in a time where the same effect is happening. The only difference is we expect much more from our technology. Story takes a back seat in general to pretty graphics, although there are amazing advances in game play and design.

    Current memorable titles I would add to the above list:

    Grand Theft Auto (not a favorite, but it belongs)
    Guitar Hero
    Rock Band
    The Wii system itself (for getting us off the couch a bit)

    Mentioning the Wii, I have to compare it to an earlier incarnation…the NES system. That thing had so many peripherals you could buy and add to it. I believe the designers were toying with the Wii technology back then. There was a glove you could wear and use as a controller. There were these “goal-post”-like plastic things that detected motion between them. And do any of you remember the gun used for Duck Hunt? They even experimented with some kind of virtual headset I think. The point is, though most of that stuff turned out to be crap, Nintendo has my respect for being innovative. Where other corporations push the graphics envelope, Nintendo thinks outside the box.

    My whole point would be that as a whole, I think we have been in the Golden Age of Gaming since it’s birth. We will remain there until the big corporations that control this market saturate it with what they want us to play rather than listening to the masses and continuing to create material we are willing to waste time upon. If the console market follows the PC design trends and begins cutting corners, gaming as a market may be doomed.

    It’s a good thing many of us can design our own.

  74. Shamus says:

    but in the last one or two months I feel you’re starting to sound a bit like Chicken Little.

    Sorry if my meager offerings aren’t doing it for you. You’ll find the Back button along the top of your browser. Bye.

    I don’t care if I go back to having ten readers. No degree of peer pressure is going to make me pretend to enjoy this watered-down crap on the PC just because it’s all they serve around here these days.

  75. Vao Ki says:

    Shamus, many kids of today don’t understand what they’re missing. The problem is what they see these days is the norm to them, so they come out swinging as fanboys will. They never experienced deep immersion in a powerful and well thought game, but believe they have.

  76. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Nice reparte :)

    Personnally, I didn’t minded the Crispy Shamus of the past week. I think that recently, you have grown back into your usual self (or have I grown a thick skin?). Anyway, I know I won’t be able to change you mind and/or opinion, what’s 1 viewer on the internet?

    edit: I don’t want to, nor care, make you love any games. I just personnaly feel that you haven’t played ennough. I know it’s a somewhat dumbed down version of System Shock 2, but I don’t think that simple fact should make it a bad game.

    And let’s not forget about Portal. Portal alone redeemed 2007.

  77. Matt says:


    No one’s asking you to like what you don’t like – but pardon me if it isn’t allowed for people to disagree with you. If you feel that I’m being rude, that’s okay. I’ll stop posting. But you asked for the other side of the argument. If you’re asking simply so that you can belittle their tastes, then you are being rather disingenuous, as far as I’m concerned.

  78. Shamus says:

    SolkaTruesilver: Okay, you got me there. Portal is an absolute gem and it came out in 2007. I’d also give some credit to the Half-Life 2 series for ridiculous levels of excellence.

  79. Shamus says:

    Matt: I’m not understanding how saying BS was shorter and shallower than SS2 – which I think is an easily observable truth – is belittling anyone. BS probably isn’t a terrible game, but it’s prettier and simpler than SS2. Which is part of my ongoing thesis here.

  80. Illiterate says:

    Sorry Shamus, but spitting bile at your readership can only increase it. Just ask Yahtzee.

    You should never apologize for giving your honest opinion of a game. We all play these things to have fun, right? If someone else doesn’t have fun playing something we like, then that is just because they have different tastes than us. Nothing to get in a huff over.

  81. Zaxares says:

    I find myself agreeing with The Lone Duck from Post 32. There is no real Golden Age of Gaming, since everything in the past we view through nostalgia. Looking back at my gaming life, I’ve realised that there were games that gave me hours upon hours of entertainment, regardless of the time period I was in.

    This line of thought brought me to one startling revelation, although it should have been obvious to me from the start. My criteria for what makes a great game has gotten higher. As I grew older, games evolved, my tastes evolved, and now the games that I enjoyed so much when I was younger, I actually would be pretty disappointed with. We now demand more from our games; engaging storylines, believable characters, rich graphics (not necessarily blazing graphics, but nobody really complains about good graphics, do they?), haunting soundtracks etc. etc. Thinking back to my early days as a kid, most games I had involved cliched storylines about saving the princess/world/galaxy, characters with all the plot development of a wet towel, simplistic graphics, tinny music and so on. And yet, I still look back on those games with great fondness, even though I could never play them today and get the same enjoyment out of them as I did all those years ago.

    So I wonder… Are we too harsh on the games of today? Perhaps we find ourselves dissatisfied with the quality of today’s games because we are older, wiser, and possibly more jaded. ;) We’ve seen a lot of games; there’s little out there that would really bring a sparkle to our eyes again, and so while we may have originally rated 10 games as 5 stars, now we only rate 2 or 3.

    I actually would really like to sit down and talk with a younger gamer 10 years from now, one who is growing up in this current era of flashy, Hollywood-esque games, and find out what they think of the games of the future, and whether they look back on the greats of today with the same nostalgia as we do for classics like Planescape: Torment, System Shock, etc.

  82. Matt says:

    “Watered down crap.” “Sorry if my meager offerings aren't doing it for you. You'll find the Back button along the top of your browser. Bye.” My point, which I made earlier, is that I agree with you in large parts but find that you’re tending more and more towards the sort of overstatement that is only preaching to the choir of those who agree 100% and who see things in black-and-white terms. What I appreciate about this site is that you’re actually looking for discussion, but comments that amount to “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out” don’t sound like you’re interested in discussion.

    Thing is, some old-schoolers made the same arguments about Portal that you’re making about Bioshock, for instance. Very little of that game was highly complex. It’s pretty easy to waltz through 90% of the levels. Only towards the end does it become anything of a challenge – and then, after 3-4 hours, it’s over. I haven’t played Narbancular Drop, but changes are that Portal is “prettier and simpler” than its predecessor. Nevertheless, it’s an “absolute gem”. Likewise, I’ve read a number of old-schoolers belittle the Half-Life 2 titles because they’re designed to make it easier for players – and they do, although arguably in more subtle ways than Bioshock. Your criticism holds true for them, yet you’re not calling them out on appealing to a broader, more casual audience (and rightly so, as far as I’m concerned). So what makes these games different?

  83. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Actually, when you think about it, being short might be a good thing for some game. Okay, I know, it might at first seems bad: shorter gaming experience.

    But tell me, Shamus, what would had been your critic of Inigo Prophecy is the game had stoped (with a wrapped ending) halfway trough the game? You know.. to prevent it from going down with the (zombie) flu?

    I know that you(we) would have protested that it was too short to be enjoyable, but on the other hand, you wouldn’t have had to go trough the necrophiliac sex scene, and that alone would have made it a better game.

    The shortness of Portal prevented it’s storyline (?) and humor to spoil on the way, and become.. un-funny. Maybe the shortness of Bioshock kept the story well rounded?

    Can somebody who actually played both BS and SS2 to the end tell me the difference in storytelling, which has the highest-story in quality?

  84. krellen says:

    Zaxares wrote:
    but nobody really complains about good graphics, do they?

    I do, all the time.

    “Good” graphics, for me, tends to ruin the experience. Graphics have lived in the uncanny valley for several years now and it’s caused problems in my mind and complications with getting interested and immersed in a game. 3D problems aside (I prefer 2d for most things; 3d causes vertigo and odd changes of perspective for me that sometimes makes me miss things), a good graphic style can tie together a game wonderfully in ways that “good”, ie “realistic” graphics cannot.

    I sit by a window at work and often look up to see what’s going on outside. Computer graphics will likely never reach that depth of detail, colour, lighting and nuance in my, and quite probably many succeeding, lifetimes. Until they do, striving for it is rather pointless, because we all have real eyes and a real world to look at; the more “real” your game’s graphics try to be, the more our attention is drawn to the flaws and ways in which they are not. When you abandon the desire for “good”, “realistic” graphics, our minds are able to fill in the blanks themselves and simply take the style for what it is, without having to compare it to a standard it will never meet.

  85. Dev Null says:

    Come on. The features weren't there. You can claim the game is more fun, but the game is simpler. Maybe you like that. Fine. But don't claim I have to play the entire game before I'm allowed to point out there's no leveling system and the maps are linear.

    Nope. Just enough of the game to get to the leveling system and the non-linear maps.

    And I’m not even coming close to claiming its more fun. Or that it isn’t in some ways simpler. Just that some of the specific ways you have claimed it is simpler are at least far more debatable than you seem to be claiming… which is an easy enough mistake to make if you haven’t played the game.

    Hey, I hate DRM too; you can rail about the DRM in BioShock til the stars fall and I’ll be standing over here in the chorus singing “Hallelujah brother!” but if you want to ding the plot of the book because you read the dustjacket… well I’ve got to call you on that one. I really wish they’d suddenly grow a clue and remove the DRM so you could play this game, so we could have an interesting discussion about where they _did_ go wrong in simplifying the leveling system compared to SS2, but if you’re still claiming it hasn’t got one because Yahtzee didn’t mention it then its awful hard to get the conversation started.

  86. Otters34 says:

    Wait, wasn’t Portal a tech-demo? sure sounded like one, from what I’ve read.

    As to the discussion, the Golden Age is quite easy to discern:as times when the colours were more vibrant, good and evil were more easily told apart, and there were fewer people.

    Case in point, the Golden Age of comics, where the above were readily apparent, and everything wasn’t so damnably SHINY.Seriously, make the shine go away.

    Oh, and CoH/CoV rocks more than anything.Why? ’cause you can’t die by falling.

  87. Jos says:

    I’ll have to agree with others that this may indeed be the Golden Age of Portables (or perhaps just the DS). The DS is bringing forth both solid traditional titles, but developers are also willing to try out a bunch of clever little things. Personally I think this is, if not a Golden Age, then at least pretty darn healthy.

    Consoles… I don’t know. I think not, to be honest. Yeah, sure, ‘more into the mainstream’ (although if you hear some forums talk that kind of thing is going to be the death of console gaming), but that’s not enough. The Wii is doing interesting new things, but the 360 and PS3 seem much more reluctant in that respect. I’m just not feeling the wild innovations I would expect from a Golden Age. There’s Portal and stuff like Zack & Wiki, No More Heroes and Wii Sports, but… well… that’s kinda sorta the extent of it.

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