“Classic video games” is a term which in itself is probably enough to set alarm bells ringing in the heads of many people. However, video games have been around for over a generation now, and it is about time that people let it go. Classic films have certainly been made in the last thirty-plus years, and classic novels have been penned too, as have classic albums. Therefore it is fair to say that classic video games do exist, even if the concept upsets a few people. What those games are is another debate entirely.
For many people, the ultimate classic video games are ones which were released very early on when gaming was more simple than it is now. In fact, some people will try to convince you that the old, simpler games are more deserving of the “classic” tag than ones developed ten or twenty years later. They’re really just trying to convince themselves, though. Some of the more recent games are undoubtedly genuinely jaw-dropping in their playability and their innovation. If an album recorded in the last five years can be dubbed “an instant classic”, so too can a video game.
Of course, what makes a game deserving of the tag “classic” is another matter. It is probably in the eye of the beholder to a large extent, as playability and enjoyment are totally subjective things. Consensus seems to settle around the real classics, which gain the title through being constantly surprising, addictive (in a good way) and original.
Completing a video game from start to finish used to really mean something. In fact, in some games it was impossible. The game simply sped up incrementally, until the gamer was forced to relent or otherwise became as one with the game. Eventually, because you need to sleep, you’d have to stop. The games that could be completed often required a few months of committed playing to get to that stage – but that was never going to fly in the modern day for too long. This resulted in the development of the “cheat” code.
Usually entered by typing a certain key sequence (frequently extremely complicated – you don’t get anything for nothing), cheat codes can help a gamer who is just having that bit too much trouble getting past a certain stage of the game. Keep dying because that one guy won’t stop setting you on fire? What about a cheat code that makes you impervious to fire? Not so clever now, is he? Of course, cheat codes used to be guarded jealously by the software developers and had to be discovered by gamers (“Oh! You can skip this level if you press Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, A, B, START! How did I work that out?”). Now they are pretty much all on the Internet.
It may say something about us as a society that cheat codes are now necessary for just about every game. Perseverance will take you so far, but if you can resist looking up a way to overcome that guy with the Molotov cocktails, you really are practically Zen in your patience.
The technical term is “cross-platform”, and it applies both to games which have made the leap from one console to another as well as just about any form of media which has been adapted from one medium to another. It’s not a new concept, even if the jargon is new. Often in the past, when individuals harangued one another to read a certain book, it would be seen as somewhat humorous to respond with the quip “Nah, I’ll just wait until the movie comes out”. This doesn’t happen so much with video games, though. The quipping, that is, because games are increasingly crossing platform.
OK, so there are some games which will never make a good movie. PacMan would lack a certain something in terms of story development, it’s true. It is also hard to imagine anyone particularly wanting to spend the price of a good meal and two hours of their life watching “Space Invaders: The Movie”, but others have made the move and been successful in doing so. One which springs immediately to mind is Tomb Raider. Additionally, stalwarts such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat have been released to mixed reviews.
One reason often advanced for this is that video games are becoming increasingly filmic in terms of their look and feel, but the truth is that some of the most filmic games – Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row among them – have not been cross-platformed and many argue against it ever happening. A good video game stands and falls on its own, many argue, but obviously there are those who disagree.