I can recall marvelling in awe at how beautifully crafted certain games were back in the day. But now, it is really really really difficult to get past how old some games look. Even with old favorites like Final Fantasy VII. Hell, even games that aren’t that old are starting to lose their graphical appeal. I was going through my Steam library and had started up a new Mass Effect game over the weekend and was a bit surprised at how old it had already looked. Now, I know better and know that it is an excellent game, but what will people think in 5 years? 10 years? How well do video games really age?
Games in the first person seem to inherently age poorer than other genres because of the focus on graphics. First person shooters, with exceptions of course, do not tend to differ much between titles in terms of gameplay and story. So in most cases, nostalgia and game historical value aside, you aren’t missing much by not playing an older FPS. I’m trying to think of older titles (90s through early 00s) from this genre that still appeal to me. There aren’t too many besides Half-Life and a handful of others (that I cannot recall at the moment).
Games that have stylized graphics and clear art direction age better than games that choose not to focus on either of those elements. Love or hate the way World of Warcraft appears, but it still looks pretty damned good for a 6 year old game. I can appreciate effort spent crafting a zone instead of covering it with a new 3D engine. And obviously, games focusing more on gameplay and other gaming elements age well. I reckon that one version of Tetris is almost as good as another version of Tetris. I don’t think that puzzle games lose much after a couple of years.
Even other forms of media suffer from a similar problem: For every Cassablanca, there are at least a hundred throwaway movies that no one will ever see again. Films aren’t immune to time either. This issue is also relative to its audience. Many classical films, no matter how historically significant, are going to be barely palatable to audiences born outside of a certain time frame (young people!). I can appreciate old black and white films as an art form, but I wasn’t born in that era and don’t feel any sort of nostalgia for them.
Art is art and music is music. I think that there is some element about certain types of media that inherently make it age poorly. Are there currently any games that can be considered “timeless?” Will there ever be?