Nes controller 2

Lamenting the Death of a Bygone Era


I frequent a mom and pop games store near my house. One day I was standing at the register when I realized something. This particular store used to host tournaments nearly every Friday, playing everything from Halo to Super Smash Brothers. But I hadn’t seen an announcement for it in a while. Curious, I asked the guy at the counter if they still hosted them.

“Nah,” he said. “We used to, but everyone stopped showing up. They’re all just playing online now.”

I don’t know why it took me so long to see, but that’s when I realized that we have witnessed the death of an era.

So travel back with me, if you will, to a simpler time, a time of 56k modems and dial up that sounded like your computer was going through a blender. A time when we just took the cartridge and blew it out when the game wouldn’t work. A time when everyone went over to the rich kid’s house just to play his Sega Genesis. A time when multiplayer was you and one to three other people sitting side by side on the couch.

Being a kid from the 90’s, I remember video games being much more of a novelty to those on the outside, seen as something for kids and typically called “computer games” or “Nintendos” by your non-hip grandma.

But to us, games were something sacrosanct. With friends, we piled into basements to play Duck Hunt, promised to let someone else have a turn when we died in the Legend of Zelda, laughed at the weirdness of Earthworm Jim, grimaced as piles of bones rained down after a fatality in Mortal Kombat, and talked about how good Donkey Kong Country looked. We swapped games, bought them at Toys ‘r Us, read manuals, and even called a Nintendo help line to get past difficult levels.

Even down the road, as technology became better, I remember sleeping over at my friend’s and rage quitting GoldenEye 007 whenever her brother found it first and killed me a million times over with the Golden Gun, or hooking up multiple consoles as a teenager and playing for hours at Halo parties.

Gaming was a much more social thing then, in the sense that it was king between you and your friends. It was something that you not only had in common, but brought you together. And there’s something to be said about the satisfaction you get from laughing in someone’s face after sniping them from behind.

Probably the greatest achievement of this current console generation is the development and accomplishment of online multiplayer gaming. Ever since high-speed internet was harnessed for consoles, multiplayer has gone from being a fun gimmick to a necessary convention of nearly every major title released on the market today.

And of course, there are great things to be said for what online play has done for us as a community. Through online play, we’re able to connect with gamers all over the world as we compare our skills and stats and share our passion of games. While the anonymity of the internet and lack of face time allows some people to branch outside of the polite realm and into annoying and even abrasive, the ability to play online with others anytime, nearly anywhere, is amazing.

Relatively speaking, video games are a fairly new form of entertainment, tracing its roots back to the 70’s. But, it has evolved quickly, and this disappearance of couch multiplayer as the 80’s and 90’s knew it is all part of the natural order of things.

And while I enjoy jumping into online matches on Xbox Live just as much as the next gamer, a small part of me still misses the old days of cartridges and simple controllers, with my friends giving me advice on how to kill an enemy or what cheat code to enter in. There was something uniquely personal and fun about that age. May it rest in peace.