We’re comparing two proclaimed times to see if we’ve missed it or are currently living through the modern gaming golden age
The golden age of arcade video games was the period of rapid growth, technological development and cultural influence of arcade video games, from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.
Notice how the result focuses on arcade video games? Yeah. We noticed that, too.
Now we don’t have an issue with arcade games (it’s kind of our thing, anyway) but when the golden gaming age is mentioned, people tend to only talk about arcade gaming. What about modern gaming?
Look at Minecraft. It’s literally the best-selling video game of all time with 238,000,000 in sales and it isn’t from the “golden age” of gaming (a.k.a the 70s and 80s). It’s from the twenty-teens — released in 2011, to be exact. So, what are we getting at?
The golden age of gaming might not be only linked to arcade games from the 70s/80s. In fact, some say we might be experiencing the second wave — the modern golden age of gaming.
COMPARING THE TWO PERIODS OF GAMING
We’ve talked before about how the gaming industry has changed over the years, but let’s dive a little deeper into why the 70s and 80s continue to be talked about with such esteem when it comes to the gaming world and its relationship with modern gaming.
THE GOLDEN GAMING AGE OF THE 70S AND 80S
Although the exact years differ, most sources agree the golden age for gaming was from about the late 1970s to early 1980s. Technology journalist Jason Whittaker, in The Cyberspace Handbook, places the beginning of the golden age in 1978, with the release of Space Invaders.
During the late 1970s, arcade game technology had become sophisticated enough to offer good-quality graphics and sounds, but it was still fairly basic (realistic images and full motion video were not yet available, and only a few games used spoken voice).
Thus, the success of a game had to rely on simple and fun gameplay. This emphasis on gameplay is why many of these games continue to be enjoyed today despite having been vastly outdated by modern computing technology.
If people have an enjoyable experience, it could be talked about for years. Which is what we see happening to date.
The “Golden Age” of the 70s and 80s was a time of great technical and design creativity in arcade games. Games were designed in a wide variety of genres while developers had to work within strict limits of available processor power and memory. The era also saw the rapid spread of video arcades across North America and Japan.
The period from the appearance of Space Invaders in 1978 (as we mentioned earlier) through The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 is often known as the Golden Age of Arcade Games.
This was when 8-bit Arcade Video Games emerged to rule popular culture, coin-operated Video Arcades appeared in every shopping mall, and soon the Atari 2600 and its competitors popularized home video gaming by capitalizing on arcade ports.
Related reading(s): GOLDEN AGE OF VIDEO GAMES
We could say it’s a matter of being able to produce entertaining games that have never been done in such a way. It was exciting and competitive with advancements such as new hardware, laserdisc players, and new controls such as the trackball, lifelike steering wheels, light guns, and other specialty controls such as pedals for racing games.
Basically, it sounds like the 70s and 80s are spoken about with such high esteem in the gaming world because a lot was accomplished with limited resources in comparison to what we have on the market today.
THE GOLDEN GAMING AGE OF THE 2010S AND 2020S
For many, we are currently living in the golden age of gaming. The advancements in technology, fast, stable internet becoming the norm, and the rise of the casual and hyper-casual gamer has brought gaming into a new era.
Plus, with both the vintage gaming options and current hi-tech options available, people feel that they have the best of both worlds — thus marking the 2000s as the true golden age for gaming.
On one public gaming forum, a user commented that everybody’s “golden age” is really just a sliding time-slot depending on what people grew up with and what console they were supposed to choose from. They continue:
Golden Age has always felt to me to be a term to describe a time that was great until everything went bad. Right now, after the video game crash of the early 80s, we are in the golden age. The audience of video games has been steadily increasing, revenues for developers has been increasing, technology for games has been improving, and cost of games has remained within inflation levels.
The user also says that we’re locked into a golden age for a while until something happens to off-set the smooth sailing that we’re experiencing now.
The 70s and 80s were the first time video games hit the scene big.
And in terms of industry revenues, this period was one of the highest peaks the North American video game industry has ever reached to this day (and the highest overall when adjusted for inflation).
While the 1980s was the golden age for arcade games, some consider the 1990s to be the Golden Age for home video games (i.e. consoles and computers).
Meanwhile, some consider the 2010s to be the golden age for online gaming or streaming. With one argument being: “All the old games still exist and new games keep coming out all the time.” They concluded by saying that, until video games stop being made, we might just be in one long golden age.
And, yet, others feel that the golden age of gaming is still to come. There are so many opportunities for technology to play a part in elevating the game from the forms we have now, to really develop it into a new and improved art form.
So, what does this prove? It proves that opinions vary about what era is considered to be the true “golden age” for gaming. And with updates in technology, more accessibility, and an increase in device usage now compared to the past, comparing the 70s and 80s with the 2010s and 2020s could be tricky — especially since we still don’t know what’s yet to come in the future with virtual reality, cloud gaming, and real-time personalization.
Related reading(s): IS THIS THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAMING?