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On Nostalgia

An article in Kill Screen made an interesting statement – that if you looked at the first 100 games on the Atari 2600, and the first 100 games on the Xbox 360, the Atari features dramatically more variety of gameplay. Figured I’d take a look at some of the early games of each.

Atari’s 1977-78 titles (my best guess of genre for each):

Arcade x4
Educational x3
Card Games x3
Racing x3
Shooting x3
Sports x5
??? (Codebreaker)

That’s 23 titles. So, the first 23 games on Xbox 360:

Action Sports x2
First Person Shooter x4
Survival Horror
Sports x7
Third-Person Shooter
Racing x5

The lists are about the same length. We’ve certainly seen the clustering change, but the variety is about the same. (It would look even better, too, if we excluded all the yearly updates of sports titles. They’re not really indicative of changing trends, since they’re updated every year like clockwork.)

I see comments like this occasionally, boiling down to “I miss the good ol’ days.” It’s all nostalgia, and it makes me sad for these gamers, because their nostalgia is blinding them to how good they have it now. These are the good ol’ days. Games like Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption are amazing achievements, and I’m glad I live in an age where they can exist. Some genres have seen an objective increase in quality, such as racing and sports; Pole Position has its charms, but Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit controls better, looks better, plays better, rewards better, and progresses better. Because we’ve learned something from making video games for 30 years.

Categories: Game Design, Game Thoughts
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