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1. Competition Without Cruelty
Pop quiz: what’s the worst part about online gaming these days? The correct answer, of course, is “screaming 12-year-olds.”
Online gaming has made competing with other players easier than ever before. But you have to face endless trash talk from kids that haven’t had their balls drop. And God help you if you go on voice chat and these misogynistic randos find out you’re a woman.
While the 1990s introduced online gaming to many of us, most multiplayer games back then were playing side-by-side in an arcade or in front of a TV. While there was some light trash talk, it was more common to develop friends this way. Now, online multiplayer gaming is less likely to help you make friends and more likely to help you make mortal enemies with someone named DongLicker69.
2. An Honest Love of Cheat Codes
Every now and then, devs offer options to make games significantly easier. This includes the upcoming Psychonauts 2 adding an invincibility mode so that players of all skill levels can experience the entire game.
If you hate yourself and want to kill an afternoon, go check out the comments of people whining about this addition. Random person after random person acting completely insulted that there is an option to “cheat” provided by the devs. And this always launches into the online chest-thumping over who is and is not a “real gamer.”
However, back in the 1990s, our minds were absolutely blown by stuff like the Game Genie and, later, the GameShark. These weren’t tools provided by the devs, but we didn’t care: making Mario unkillable was cool and novel. Nobody whined about who a “real gamer” was because we intuitively understand that gamers are just...you know...people playing video games!
3. Gameplay Over Graphics
<>br> Ever try to get a youngster to play a really old game? Sometimes, they’ll fall in love, especially with games like Minecraft and Undertale making retro seem cool again. Most of the time, though, a younger gamer is likely to dismiss old games because of the primitive graphics. Or the fact that the game isn't running at 120 fps.
<>br> If you gamed throughout the 90s, you saw the graphics change quite a bit. Hell, we went from simple 8-bit graphics at the beginning to complex 3D polygons by the end. And some of us ultra-nerds still found time to play in online MUDs that didn’t even have graphics--they were pure text.
<>br> Ultimately, 90s gamers understood a simple truth: gameplay will always be more important than graphics. And just because we now have killer titles like Super Mario Odyssey, sitting down to play something like Super Mario Bros. 3 is nothing short of magical.
4. A Love of Insane Controllers
Modern game controllers are in a weird state right now. On one hand, controllers are more ergonomic than ever before, and stuff like the DualSense controller seems like something out of science fiction. On the other hand, if you look at controller design, it seems like everyone is just trying different variations of the same general theme.
However, 90’s gamers learned to appreciate some truly insane controllers. Think back to the NES controller, the N64 controller, and the original DualShock controllers. These were all insanely different, but players adapted and even learned to love these controllers.
That is because, on an innate level, we appreciated developers taking risks and trying something new. Hell, you could get a separate knob controller just to play Arkanoid! Now, you’re lucky to get an Xbox controller with a special skin on it that Microsoft pretends makes it really special (special just like the countless controllers that look, feel, and play exactly like it, of course).
5. Sharing Myths and Excitement
Obviously, the internet has been an amazing tool for gamers. It helps us to connect to others from all around the world to play games. And the internet also helps us learn every bit of gaming industry news at the click of a button.
In the ’90s, the internet was still new. And gaming news was relatively rare, which is why gaming magazines thrived. But another thing that thrived was sharing myths, bullshit, and general excitement with other kids.
Everyone knew the kid who claimed his uncle worked at Nintendo and that Mario would be in the next Castlevania game. Or the kid who swore up and down that you could save Aerith in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VII. And magazines like EGM got into the mix by publishing bonkers April Fools Day pranks that some gamers believed with all their hearts.
It was all complete BS, of course, but this constant sharing of myths and tall tales made those days of gaming feel like they were full of excitement (even if those playground kids were full of something else entirely).
6. An Appreciation of the Arcade
Do you know something that 90’s gamers had right down to their bones? A genuine love and appreciation of the arcade.
Back then, the arcades had the biggest, best games. This was where you could experience killer graphics and immersive experiences. Who can forget the first time they played around in a moving Afterburner cockpit or touched the gear shift in Crazy Taxi?
Over time, arcades began dying as home gaming technology became both more powerful and more ubiquitous. This led to a newer generation of gamers with no real knowledge of or familiarity with arcades beyond the occasional barcade visit. Sadly, this means an entire generation that mostly missed out on the simple joys of bonding with an arcade opponent over Street Fighter II, or blowing through all of your allowance to get enough tickets so you could get that stuffed animal that was only worth about $4.99.