Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Post-rental gaming

Jack and I have been talking about the Konami code of late, and this discussion has brought up some nostalgia for me.  Now that I don't own a console system, most of the games I play now are by indie developers.  And while that's totally cool, hip, and even hip-ster, I realize that I miss the old days.  The days of video game rental.  That was a fantastic time.

I don't know about you, but for myself, and Jack too, we didn't just buy loads of games.  We couldn't afford it, and our parents certainly weren't going to do that for us, especially not with video game rental.  I played dozens of nes and snes games, but only owned about one - two dozen of each through the entirety of my owning those systems.  I chose to buy, with my meager paper route money, only the best, most guaranteed games.  This usually meant Squaresoft, or Nintendo, and sometimes a random game I rented that I loved, like Snake Rattle N Roll.  Which I think was Rare- the company, and the adjective.

But during the rental period, there were bunches of games that were good, even great, but just not enough to buy.  I loved being surrounded by games I would rate B- to B+.  And I remember growing familiar with the different publishers.  Rare, Hudson Soft, Enix, Konami, Capcom.  There were bunches more, but my memories are fading on the subject.  Each of these companies had a sort of personality that you grew to know.  When you picked up a Konami game, you had an idea of what you were getting into.  Capcom meant action - they probably had one of the most distinctive personality, and it seems to endure today, though I don't know where outside of Street Fighter games.

Back in the rentals, you could just browse through the games.  It was sweet.  There were games that I never bought, but I would rent multiple times.  Sometimes to beat, other times just because your family was going to the video rental store and you were NOT about to pass up a chance to rent a game, whether or not you had anything in mind.  Sure, I'll rent Megaman 2 again!  What the hell, let's try Adventure Island?  Hey, this game over here is by Konami, it's probably good.  Goddammit, is the Sword Master ever coming out?!

I wish sometimes for a modern rental system.  On the other hand, indie games often cost close to the same as a rental did.  Sometimes they're even free!  Games like Angry Birds, Super Crate Box and Realm of the Mad God are all totally fun and totally free, if a bit limited in scope.  Super Meat Boy, Braid and Bit.Trip.Runner have pretty high production values, don't cost much and are great fun.  I'm slowly building a new vocabulary of game publishers.  

And, then, of course, there's emulation.  Where-in any and all games for a past system are available, all at once.  But so far emulator production values have not been strong, and it doesn't feel the same.  I want to see an emulator, in which the Rom library is represented as game-boxes on a bookshelf.  I can click on the box and get a view of it, look at the pictures, read the description and then choose whether or not I want to play it.  That would be totally sweet.  Not the same, but a start.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that there is something about the experience of playing a game that exists outside of the screen and the controller.  This is something that is lost when playing games on my PC, irreplaceable using emulators, and I do miss it.  


  1. [Random Thoughts in full sentences]:
    -With Capcom, I usually think about either Mega Man or Resident Evil.
    -I totally forgot about Hudson Soft, although I can't tell you any game they did; did they do Adventure Island??
    -I remember saving up my milk money ($0.25/day) in 3rd grade and chore money and bought Major League Baseball on the NES
    -I remember plenty of games that I've only rented once or twice that were solely based off the box art which I don't get when in a GameStop and may have to plunk down $20 on a game I've never played, maybe it's an environmental thing. I'd like to expand this thought: Maybe it's just because I'm getting older and money is more of an issue than when I was 15, but when renting a game versus buying a game, I felt I was a lot more adventurous. Granted I might've been more selective if renting a game were to cost me $20, but I definitely had a lot of "Hey that game looks cool, I'll rent that!" I don't get that a lot in GameStop or even browsing online like at Amazon or on Steam.

    Maybe I'm just rambling, or maybe not, but it's 1:30am over here, so I'll go to be thinking about this and somehow have a dream bout driving a tractor in the middle of the night while towing a bus filled with humanoid mushrooms playing chess. You figure it out.

  2. I'm glad this subject got you going. I think I've got more to say on the subject. But I did just come up with a solution:

    Public libraries should start carrying games! It's not too late to start now! There are plenty of places to buy classic games for cheap. Granted, there are lots of really terrific games that are pretty expensive collectors items by now. Box art is available online, it wouldn't be hard to reproduce for the purposes of the library shelf.

  3. While having game check outs at libraries would indeed be awesome, I don't think many cities would be up for starting this kind of program, especially with all the library budget cuts that a lot of cities are doing now. There would not only be the cost of purchasing the games, but also having someone on staff who knew what they were talking about in regards to the different games/consoles. It's a great idea though.

  4. Well then I guess I have no choice but to get a degree in library science, settle in a town, get a job at the local library, and locate the funding needed to make this a reality.