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Gaming in the Internet Age: Have we Kept the Spirit of the Older Games?

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Although the internet has come a long way since this revolutionary technology first got started in the computer labs of Stanford University in the late 1960s, one of the earliest uses it was put towards has remained popular throughout its history: gaming.

Initially conceived as a way of sharing data and information between networks of laboratories spread around the world, from early on, this revolutionary new technology was already being put to use for more social purposes.

This early version of the internet was structured around a technology knows as ARPANET, which was essentially an early precursor to what we now know as the ‘world-wide web’. ARPANET allowed users to connect their machines to a central mainframe computer and to interact with each other in real time.

By at least the 1980s, two undergraduate students at the University of Essex were using ARPANET to play a text-based fantasy adventure game. When other users on the ARPANET connected to this game, this essentially gave birth to online gaming.

Interestingly, beyond roleplaying games like this played on ARPANET, casino games were one of the earliest forms of gaming to take advantage of this revolutionary technology.

This happened in and around 1994, when the small island nation of Antigua and Barbuda passed legislation to grant online gambling licenses. By 1995, the first online casino was already operational, which for the first time allowed users to play online blackjack real money with other users from around the world. Since then, online casinos have continued to be at the forefront of this revolutionary technology. Even more – you can find plenty cs:go skin gambling sites as a result of the gaming evolution.

Since then, online gaming has become an increasingly popular way to use the internet. While for some it is a social lifeline that allows them to connect with friends, for others it has become a global industry worth billions of dollars in annual revenue.

But in this progression from its humble origins on the ARPANET to a multi-billion-dollar global industry, have we kept the spirit of the older games? Or has the spirit of online gaming been lost along the way?

The continued popularity of ‘retro’ games

For fans of retro gaming, the answer to this question is that the spirit has been lost. Although technologically impressive, modern online games simply can’t compete with older games.

While their love for retro gaming is often dismissed as pure nostalgia, there are a number of factors retro gaming fans point to in support of this argument beyond simply an emotional connection.

Some of these relate to hardware. This is a particularly important point given how expensive, if not prohibitively so, new game consoles have become in recent years. With the cost of the latest console or high end gaming PC potentially costing upwards of a thousand dollars, the ease at which you can play older games on a range of devices comes as a breath of fresh air.

Beyond the technological limitations of newer games, there is also something to be said for the simplicity of older gaming classics. Many older games are characterized by comparatively simple game mechanics. 

The technological limitations faced by game developers in the 1980s and 1990s meant there was a big emphasis on simplifying the gameplay, while also adding depth to other elements such as story, music or the overall aesthetics of the game. For fans of retro games, this made the playing experience considerably more satisfying. In this sense, we can see that there is more at play than psychology alone for why retro games get so much love.

Rise of independent games developers

The spirit of this halcyon time in the history of video games has not been completely lost in the modern era, however. Thanks to the rise of independent game developers, the spirit of older games is being successfully revitalized.

Independent developers — also known as ‘indie’ game developers — have done a considerable amount to revitalize the gaming industry.

Much of this is due to how consumer-led indie developers are. They often have a much closer relationship with their target audience than the bigger development studios do.

They are also not dependent on corporate funding to quite the same extent, which means they can take bigger risks when it comes to developing new and original games.

Indie developers also tend to more readily pay homage to their retro roots, with many of these titles re-using familiar game mechanics from classic games. In this way, indie developers keep the spirit of these older games alive in the internet age.