What made old computer games fun? Opinion

Is this true?

Were old computer games more fun?

They were certainly more difficult if my experience.

But looking at the subject matter of whether they were more fun, is another aspect of retro gaming that I wanted to write about. Is there any basis for the popular opinion that older games were more fun? Perhaps there is, or perhaps emotion and nostalgia can cloud one’s opinions.

Here is what I believe made old computer games more fun to play.

what made old games more fun?

What made old computer games more fun was their need to work in an arcade setting, their willingness to explore and innovate, and working with the limitations of hardware capabilities at the time. Due to the limitations of computer and graphics hardware, it forced developers to focus on other aspects of a computer game. Also, the bar for developing games and impressing gamers was lower. It was all new and yet to be explored!

Old computer games ‘needed’ to be fun for arcade environments. Without sounding cynical, this was to hook players and keep them coming back to play arcade games. The more gamers came back, the more money the arcades would earn. In turn, this allowed game developers to earn money and make more games. It was circular.

With the technological limitations of older computers, visually – games were less sophisticated both graphically and in gameplay.

Computer games were nowhere near as strikingly hyperrealistic as they are today. Old games needed to rely on compelling gameplay and large replay value to keep players engaged.

What made old games fun? The profit train

“They would watch the other Gazelles cross the river and follow suit at all the safe points.

It can debated that old computer games were nowhere near as driven by profit. It was run by smaller studios and those who loved making computer games in the bedrooms. As funny as that may sound, it was partly true. There were smaller studios, and game development was much more underground than it was today.

Many would say that games were nowhere near as driven by money – I can only partially agree with this.

it is also easy to argue against this and say that games have always needed to earn money to either a lesser or greater extent.

But in my own opinion, it feels like many corporate companies are more willing to make shameless money grabs, make safe games and have also become a victim of their own success.

AAA Games have a certain bar of expectation. Graphically, gameplay-wise, size, and look, all need to behave and play in a certain way for the masses. And to general expectations. This can make games built to a formula and boring.

These big companies need to survive once they get on this treadmill.

Old games were more fun – because they needed to be. There are a host of smaller reasons too. What else made old computer games fun?

what made old games more fun - nostalgia is a powerful thing

What made old computer games fun:: 8 Reasons

1 )Older games were addictive

Old computer games were often more fun and addictive. For the most part, this ran in line with needing to meet market requirements in Western countries. More games needed to be ‘arcade-worthy’ in the 1980s and 1990s. Being addictive and fun was a good attribute to have in an arcade to get players to insert more coins.

I can recall inserting many coins into the local arcade machine to play Mortal Kombat 1. I just needed one more try… and the timer was ticking!

2 )Technology restrictions forced game devs to be innovative

With the limitations of hardware at the time, computer game developers needed to be innovative in creating games. Instead of banking on hyperrealistic computer graphics to carry their games, they ‘needed’ to make them fun.

3 ) It was a new industry

The games industry was new and young. This will inherently make games more likely to be fun and fresh as nobody has played these games before! So was innovation in games. It was yet to be made and played.

4 ) Developers couldn’t rely on graphics to carry a boring game

Hyper-realistic graphics that you see in modern titles did not exist back then. Nor did the hardware play hyper-realistic graphics. Instead, developers had to focus on replay value and fun.

5 ) Games were fun before the big business took over

That sounds like a moan! And I guess it is. Or perhaps this is the natural progress of things in our society if an industry does well. Investors get excited.

Retro computer games were created by a niche few and played by an equally niche few – especially in the 1980s. Gaming was yet to become mass-market.

And then gaming became big, very big! It became mainstream enough to warrant the attention of big money. And when businesses came, and studios grew, game creation became more popular and needed to promise returns. Studios that were tied to this mantra needed to make it safe and to a formula.

Metaphorically speaking, they would watch the other Gazelles cross the river and follow suit at all the safe points.

Play it safe, please the investors, and guarantee returns. This would keep studios alive.
This is a recipe for mass stagnation too and can stifle originality.

This is not unique to games either. although I should note that I am an outsider to some extent looking in, I have however watched games change over the years and observed subtle changes in thier approach.

6 ) Their challenge was part of the fun

What made old games more fun? For me, difficulty was a big part of the fun. ( I enjoy the Soulsborne type of games now. )

But, some casual gamers, ( I would now regard myself a casual gamer!) don’t want to be brow beaten by a game in their spare time.

They don’t want to scream at the television.
They don’t want a challenge.
The gamer, they/we, want an escape from the humdrum day.

Game developers have over the years tuned into this.

Older games were hard. But this for many added to the charm and fun when considering all that made old games more fun to play. I miss those days.

7 ) Nostalgia is a powerful thing

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, and can make people believe old is better. Including that which was not actually better. It can be what many would call “Rose tinted glasses”.

Old games may not actually be better or more fun. But you may associate fun memories with certain computer games.

8) We ask too much

We may think new games are boring. But it needs to be set aside that the standard of modern games is also great. And as consumers, we expect a lot – faster, bigger, and better. This can lead to companies giving us what we ask, but not what we want.

We then look to the past to find our enjoyment in old games and attempt to revisit old memories.

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What else made old games more fun?

When deciding what made old games more fun, there are some ingredients I feel added that little something to old games.

Here are just some of those old-school retro gaming ingredients I feel added a bit of magic and fun to old games.

Special ingredients that made old games more fun :

  • You had to ‘get good’.
  • Old games encouraged more social play ( sofa games ).
  • There were more 2 player / split screen games.
  • ‘Passive’ or casual play was less mainstream.
  • Some puzzle games were very difficult, some were so hard they were borderline broken! But it felt great when you beat them.
  • There were no online tips, only big cheat books (a thing of the past ).
  • There was more ‘game’ and less cinematics.
  • Autosave was less common, this could make a ‘huge’ difference in gameplay.
  • Sometimes there was no save at all! If you died you’d have to start all over again, like in Sonic.
  • If games didn’t have a save function, they had a password function instead to load a level. ( Soviet Strike, Doom ).
  • Games knew they were games.
  • Old computer games tended to put greater emphasis on gameplay because they had to.
  • The level design was often linear but concentrated. You’d remember it.

Lastly, were old games ‘that’ good?

What made old games more fun to play on your trusty console or PC? All of the above. It also made it a nightmare to.

Love - what made old games more fun

What I felt made old games more fun

I can remember various things that made old computer games fun to play. This varied from playing 2 player games with my brothers and my friends. I used to love the laughs, solving puzzles together, the sharing a fun moment with someone else. Some of the most prominent moments are when you and somebody else beat something in a game!

These old computer games built memories.

In my single-player experiences, I remember some of the most fun games being the ones that dared to be original and made you want to play and replay them.

Does this mean that modern games are not fun!?

No, I think there are fun games out there. But trends often affect the ebb and flow of entertainment, and computer games are not immune to this current.

At the moment, spectacular visuals are at the fore combined with narrative gameplay. AAA or AA studios tend to concentrate on this as opposed to novel gameplay and quirky 2D visuals of older games.

Games that focus on fun do still exist and are not uncommon if you know where to look. But the novelty of what old games used to cherish has been pushed more into the indie game-making spheres of gaming.

There are AAA studios that buck this trend, however!

But that is a topic for another day.

What made old computer games fun, that secret spice!

There is no secret ingredient as such what made old computer games fun.

The ‘secret spice’ for me could have been the joy of youth, sharing memories, graphical and technological limitations, and computer games being newer and trying to establish themselves as new genres.

I can’t help but wonder.

In all likelihood, what the children of today will be saying in another 20-30 years.
Old games were better”.

As I say, Nostalgia is a very powerful thing.

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