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Video games sure have come a long way since their conception. They have not only advanced in audio and visuals but also reached new heights in storytelling and demonstrated the ability to evoke far more emotion in their players than they were capable of doing 10 or so years ago, which is probably far more than many of us expected.
Naturally, as video games continue to advance and we are introduced to new concepts and ideas, things that were once commonplace in the medium begin to happen less and less. These are aspects that had at one point reserved a spot in a tried and true formula — qualities that we as gamers have grown used to and couldn’t imagine video games without. Seeing the way things in the industry are changing, it’s become more apparent that developers and publishers are taking new approaches to creating video games and evolving their medium. It’s because of this that we, the players, have new and improved ways of experiencing our favorite form of entertainment. On the other hand, it also eliminates the need for certain features that we may never see again in video games.
The cheat code was once a cornerstone of the gaming world, specifically within the larger gaming community. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the concept of cheat codes, they’re letters, digits, or button presses imputed into a video game either to give players an advantage or allow them to take a convenient shortcut toward unlocking content that would normally take hard work to access. Often at times, these codes would also enable certain effects that could not be activated by any other method.
Since the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System, cheat codes were almost always implemented in video games and expected by players. As we progressed into the next era and the one after that, the cheat code had created a sense of community among players looking to uncover a game’s secrets. Eventually, entire magazines and books were dedicated to cheat codes, and later on, websites of the same nature had become popular.
Somewhere around the time of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 launches, cheat codes had begun to decrease in quantity and eventually became rare and almost nonexistent. Truth be told, it’s never a bad thing to complete a game on your own without the extra help (after all, that’s what video games are all about), but that sense of novelty and slight feeling of mystery may never happen again, at least not in the form of cheat codes.
More and more often consumers peel the plastic off of their new games to find them without paper manuals.
Now, it’s not like we are being thrown out of the nest without any sort of guidance. In fact, most titles nowadays feature tutorials in their opening levels, which have, in a way, become the spiritual successors to the good old paper manuals of past generations.
One can say that it all comes along with the dawn of the digital age. The instructions are still there, just not in our hands. Those of us who are nostalgic may cherish the feeling of reading through a manual after unboxing a recently purchased game, but many if not most titles nowadays feature fully intact manuals within the options menu. Gamers are neither at a loss nor a gain in this particular instance; rather, the form of manuals we are used to have upgraded into a new generation.
When we reminisce about secrets within video games (and there are more than a few urban legends in the gaming universe), chances are we are talking about an older title. This is primarily because games these days simply do not feature secrets as extensive or prevalent as they used to be. Sure, they still make the occasional appearance, but they are certainly not as common as they once were.
Now, when I say “secrets,” I’m referring to anything hidden at the start of the game that must be unlocked by the player through progress, which varies from the obvious to the illusive. Players were once able to uncover hidden weapons, characters, levels, and even entire worlds within a game. These secrets still exist, and there is much to unlock, but the discovery is easier for players.
A lot of the time we have to pay extra for these features as downloadable content, and oftentimes, this “downloadable content” is already included on the disc. Someone, somewhere, decided that gamers had to pay for these unlockables with real-world cash instead of simply earning them through gameplay, but that’s a whole other story. The fact is, either secrets do not exist to the extent they once did or players must pay additional fees for what was once a common element in video games.
Online multiplayer is one of the primary aspects of video games today and often a deciding factor within the industry. It’s actually quite difficult nowadays to find a game that does not feature an online multiplayer mode, which in many cases feels tacked on. Some games even depend on these modes for success in sales. As online multiplayer begins to take over, the once common local multiplayer mode has begun to disappear completely.
Out of all the points mentioned in this article, this may be the least of our worries seeing as some developers still include this in their games. However, we have to admit that local multiplayer may be thrown out entirely at some point in the future in favor of 100 percent online play.
Some players may see this as an inconvenience for various reasons. First of all, though we are currently in the digital age, there are still a small portion of players who are without Internet and may be unable to play a game online. As small as this percentage may be, it still has chance to impair sales. Even those of us who are able to take our consoles and PCs online may still enjoy playing our favorite games with others on the same console. What’s the point of playing with friends if you can’t actually get together at some point? Again, this is not the end of the world; older titles with local multiplayer have not vanished from the face of the Earth.
As video games continue to grow as a medium of entertainment and storytelling, gamers have to learn to accept that you sacrifices must be made in exchange for progress. And that’s fine. We’ll live. Nostalgia may be the only real dilemma here, but there’s nothing wrong with looking back on past generations of video games and cherishing what we used to love about our hobby — or passion, for some. In return, we can look forward and hope to be amazed by what video games have in store in generations to come … one of which is not too far ahead.