8-Bits of Frustration: None I Tend To Let Go

In 1889, children would’ve made a pastime out of stacking blocks of wood in an orderly pile. One hundred years later they put it on their Gameboy and called it Tetris. In 1984, every boy pretended to be either a fireman or an astronaut. One year later we all had awful Italian accents and dreamed of someday becoming a plumber.

That’s right I’m talking about Nintendo.

Since its creation, Nintendo has been responsible in leading some of the most impressive advancements in entertainment technology, outdating the competitor’s product as well as theirs that came before it. The Nintendo Wii, their newest game console, is an entirely different machine than the original NES or Nintendo Entertainment System that I learned to love as a child. With each new console, we get further and further away from where we began—a humbled mess of chords, cables, and eight bit graphics.  Today, the newest generation of spoiled gamers don’t appreciate the milestones that have been made in video game technology.

If there is one place to start, it is surely with the remote controls. When turned sideways, the Wii remote looks strikingly similar to the original, but that is where the similarities end. With wireless and motion sensing capabilities, Wii remotes offer a reality far beyond what any NES player ever imagined. To most people, the ability to detect the hand motions of players is enough to talk about at teatime. For me, the fact that they are wireless is a dream in itself. No cables, only batteries that are rechargeable by sitting in a safe cradle. This is just simply a whole new world of remote control. In the “olden days,” after my brother and I were done wrestling and tearing up the living room, we would have to spend a good ten to twenty minutes untangling our remote control cables before we could even play. Even if we did remember to wrap them up (and possibly because we did), casual game play would tangle the cables right up again, and we’d have to pause. They would get so worn that they would instantly intertwine and knot, but that was just life and we were used to it. While the NES remote chords weren’t very forgiving, the button play allowed for a more simplistic game play. Having only two buttons to choose from left players with more of a natural arcade feel. The Wii remotes today have spoiled the gaming population. Today, if the batteries are low in these wireless-motion sensing beauties of creation, children are screaming.

Surgery

The switch from cartridge to disk is certainly the most unnoticed but massively important change in video game technology, allowing gamers to play with an easy consistency never known in the NES era. The Wii is not the first console to use this practice, but today’s gamers have adopted it as if it was always this way. The disk takes up a lot less space in the console thus making it a smaller and more convenient machine. Also, the game generally will play every time, and if there is a scratch on the disk, it is usually an easy fix with cleaner. This was not the case with the cartridge approach. The game would turn on but only about 60% of the time, and only after using some tricks learned on the schoolyard, or as we called them, “starting rituals.” For instance, blowing into the cartridge repeatedly in an attempt to excavate every last dust particle that lived inside your game was a good start. Then you would blow into the console itself, hoping your spit would regenerate whatever it was that was dying inside. After nearly hyperventilating, the gamer would turn the console on and off three times in a row then it would generally work. As the console got older, the more often this process occurred. It was hell, but when the game worked, it was heaven. Today, disks are popped in and the game plays, it’s a beautiful thing really, but there was nothing earned. These kids today don’t understand the joy of being drenched in sweat before you even start your game.

Game-play is another story altogether. Looking back at the demanding level of difficulty my childhood video games were played at, and compared with the ease of game-play today, it’s no wonder why this generation is constantly unsatisfied. Players today can beat games within a day, if not a few hours, and then be on to the next within minutes. On the contrary to the original Super Mario Bros, we were happy to reach level four of just about any game. There was no “easy, medium, or hard” it was just hard. Has anyone reached past level four of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I’m still convinced it doesn’t exist. Even games that shouldn’t have been hard like Wayne’s World and Crash Test Dummies left players crying and pounding their fists into your foreheads.

Of course the largest difference in game-play from then and now is the ability to save progress. One of the things that made NES game-play so immensely difficult was starting from the beginning every time. Often I would get yelled at because I would “forget” to turn off the console after I was done playing; there really was no other way to save. Today, gamers save their progress without a second thought, and the only thing they have to wait for is the twenty seconds it takes to load.

Every now and then I will dust off the old NES and pick up some cartridge classics. I go through the starting rituals, and if I’m lucky I will get through the starting menu and I get to play. Although you can generally find all these games online and play them without even using the NES, it’s still a joy to bring it out and revere this oddly simple yet difficult machine. I grew up with a generation who constantly admired every advancement in video game technology but still left room for memories and respect. Maybe I’m just getting old and jealous at what these kids have today that I didn’t have. Either way, when it comes down to it, at least I’m not stacking wood.

A Comparison Essay for English 101
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2 comments

  1. Wow! Kevin, I had no idea that you were such an astonishing good writer! You should do more of this! Do you have a degree in this or something, or did you used to work for a newspaper, because this is seriously good stuff with great humor injected as well. Keep up the awesome work! P.S. Also loved your post about the “Sons of Kalath”. Super interesting to read about!

    1. Hey thanks Jarin! That’s very encouraging of you. I do not have a degree (except for the deodorant), I’ve always wanted to write so I’m forcing myself to sit and blog in a regular type of fashion.

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