As the next generation of consoles is still under construction, now is a good time to take a look back on the history of gaming and gauge exactly where we are on the age spectrum. Arcade gaming has clearly hit its peak—but there’s more to gaming than what console it plays on, and how it’s presented. This article takes a look at the games themselves—their quality, quantity, and popularity—to measure them against the past and project into the future. Looking at all the different features that were new this generation (for PC and console gamers alike), I am sure that this is the golden age of gaming.
In the past, games have had their share of quality and quantity, especially with the Nintendo systems, but such games were relegated to ‘nerds’ and ‘gamers’ only. This generation introduced the ‘casual’ gamer, and game systems became common place in living rooms of all ages. Entering the mainstream has been a boon to the industry, and because of casual gamers, titles have actually seen a huge diversity in genres and gameplay styles. Between FPS games, artistic games, and action games, all have seen a welcome boost to their diversity and quality (even if a certain genre has started to oversaturate the market). Combined with the explosion of the indie scene, games have become mass-marketed and hugely popular, as well as affordable for all ranges of income (as long as you can afford a computer, phone, or console to play it).
The fact that artistic games even exist is a testament to how successful the gaming market currently is. Like the artistic Renaissance, games no longer need to focus on realism or epic portrayals, and may instead explore different ways games can interact with the gamer. From an intensely moody ambiance, to highly stylized art, to concepts that have no plot and no way of winning—things which seemed contradictory in older games are now available in healthy quantities for gamers interested in a new experience.
These factors all add up to a very good time in gaming history—but what justifies it as the best time? Simply put, there’s very little room for visual improvement in gaming. Each generation has raised the bar for games in a dramatically visible way—but next generation will likely focus on back-end features, such as increasing RAM and harddrive space, improving render rates, creating smart AI, and implementing better control systems. While these are all excellent things to improve (and, let’s face it, there’s always room to improve things like this), the steps up to taking them won’t be as dramatic as the previous generations were. These kind of leaps simply make a three-minute high-quality cutscene playable in real-time throughout the game—in more and more detail as programmers and engineers find more and more efficient ways for a lower price. In the end, I believe that this means gaming has reached its peak—though, hopefully this golden age will stay here for many years to come.