I’m so sorry for how long it’s been since I last posted, which is doubly frustrating considering I only have a few more games to go in the mainstream Atari 2600 catalog. Oh sure, I have plenty of excuses: I have a freelance writing enterprise that is starting to gain traction after several years and is consuming a lot of my time, the holidays messed up my plans to post, etc, etc, etc. However, what it really comes down to is this: I’m kinda starting to hate video games.
Don’t worry. This has happened before (even in the past couple of years since I started Woodgrain Wonderland) and it won’t last. I think it’s the direct result of toying around with a lot of late-’80s, early-’90s arcade games in MAME. This is the era that turned me off of video games in the first place. It marked the advent of the “pay to win” phenomenon: just pop in another quarter (or rather 50 cents, which was more realistic for the time) before the timer runs out and you can continue playing with your current score. The more lunch money you can afford to waste, the higher the score you can put on the board. It’s such a cynical enterprise.
Don’t get me wrong: I know arcade games exist to make a profit. But at least games from the early-’80s were honest. A quarter bought a single credit that usually gave the player three lives. With those three lives you tried to get the highest score you could. That method worked with single-level games that simply got harder as the game went on, adding maybe some extra scenery or a different colour scheme.
But as technology improved, so did the expanse of any given game. Post-Super Mario Bros, video games had multiple levels to achieve and explore and sometimes entirely different modes of play for each level. So in some ways it was like the tail was wagging the dog: technology made arcade games more immersive, but in the process opened up new ways for game developing companies and arcades to part young gamers from their cash.
I guess it’s a moot point anyway. By the end of the ’90s it was pretty clear that home gaming had won the format wars for good. Home systems now had the power to deliver the optimal modern video game experience more economically with a few extra layers of immersion to boot. I’m not happy about the death of arcades, but looking back I can see why it happened.
Anyway, I just want to let you know that Woodgrain Wonderland isn’t going anywhere, even though I’m almost at the end of the alphabet. There are still lots of homebrews to review and special projects I want to reveal in this space. I’m not quite sure what the future of this blog looks like but I assure you there will be one.