Over at twentysided, Shamus Young has a post up on “The Golden Age Of PC Gaming”. In his view, that was the brief period circa 1997 to 2002.

His angle here is graphical. Shamus considers this “era” the “sweet spot”, where the visuals had improved but were not the main focus of games. They were pretty, but other aspects weren’t overlooked. As he put it:

“Sure, graphics are better now, but we have sacrificed almost every other aspect of gameplay to get those graphics. A few games manage to get good graphics, and gameplay, and stability, and half-decent backwards compatibility (Half-Life 2 comes to mind) but most fail to deliver on at least two of those.”

No surprise, he gets more enjoyment from playing games from that 1997-2002 period than he does from most “modern” ones. And going by the comments to Labor Day Gaming?, he isn’t alone.

It’s a sad commentary that while so many of today’s games are so graphic-intensive, they have little to offer beyond jaw-dropping visuals and special effects. But is that just the fault of the developers?

As the graphics get better, the players demand more. So then the designers have to sweat and put more into the next product to appease that demand. Only, human nature being what it is, appeasement isn’t possible.

Graphics that everyone “oohed” and “aahed” over a year ago are considered “ancient” today. And the “bleeding edge” visuals of today will be “ugly” tomorrow.

This seems to be a never-ending cycle. I’ve been wondering for quite awhile when (if ever) the plateau will be reached. Is there a limit to what can be done graphically? When all the visuals are “photo-realistic” and packed with “real world physics”, what could come next? Real 3D representation? And after that?

I feel it’s all out of control now, at least as far as the “A publishers” are concerned. Like Shamus, I think the indie developers are the only hope for good games that don’t require monster rigs to run properly.

So yeah, maybe he has something here with that “golden age of PC gaming”. Read the post and see what you think.

The Golden Age of PC Gaming on twentysided