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Gaming technology has come a long way in the past 30 years. It wasn’t long ago that you’d be impressed by a game that looked like it belonged on the side of a cereal box and completed less than 10 percent of the games you purchased.
These days, entertainment value has been distilled to such a pure form that retro gaming almost seems like a nightmare. Below we’ll go over 10 of the biggest reasons that technology in the early days made gaming such a chore.
1. Checkpoint Codes
Before the invention of the memory card and internal hard drives, there was…nothing. Yup, you had to rely on writing down checkpoint codes to pick up where you left off, and that’s if you were lucky enough to be playing a game that supported checkpoints. Not every game bothered to include the feature, and those that did were usually so hard that skipping chapters still wasn’t much of an advantage.
Ecco the Dolphin for the Sega Genesis was a notoriously difficult game that most kids never even came close to beating. Not even checkpoint codes were enough to make this one a reasonable challenge.
2. Small TVs
Not only were CRT televisions so heavy that moving them was a potentially catastrophic event for your back, but most of them were smaller than your average Amazon box. These days we complain about hardly being able to see what’s on the screen, but back then if you didn’t sit within kicking distance of your TV, you probably were squinting when reading any text on the menus.
Now go home and hug your $199 46″ HDTV.
3. Blowing Games
While you may or may not like blowing things, having to regularly use your mouth to make cartridge games work was a real pain in the neck that we just don’t even have to bother with anymore.
Nintendo got its crap together in the later years, saving us precious breaths for the generations to come. Even then, we’ll never forget the breaths that were slain on the battlefield.
4. Cord Fraying
Wrapping a controller cord around itself was much more of a hazard than any parent at the time was aware of. The exposed wiring was a reminder that you either needed to ask for a replacement for Christmas or risk zapping yourself to death in the middle of playing Final Fantasy VII.
Chances are that you were probably using some cheap knockoff controller brand like Mad Catz, which not only meant that the cord fraying process was expedited, but that if you managed to accidentally expose yourself to the wiring, your life was at the hands of underpaid factory workers. Good thing you survived.
5. Slow Freaking Internet
Having trouble progressing in a game? Just hop on the internet and check GameFAQs, right? Well, the problem back then was you were reliant on 56k internet, which not only shut down your entire home’s phone call capabilities, but took minutes to connect (loudly), and then another half hour just to load the dang images and text. (That is, if you privileged enough to even have access to the internet.)
6. Ball Mice
If you spent any of your time playing PC games in the early ’90s that weren’t Wolfenstein or DOOM, then chances are you have some interesting memories.
Until optical mice were made affordable, it was normal to deal with cereal crumbs stopping your mouse from functioning, as if having to lift your mouse high enough for the ball to clear your mousepad wasn’t enough of a chore. There’s a reason that a large number of early PC games didn’t even bother using the mouse, and those that did didn’t require much precision.
7. Losing A Disc
Okay, okay, so there was something neat about swapping discs in games like Final Fantasy VII. It was almost as if were you turning a chapter in a book.
The problem was that most kids just weren’t organized enough to be responsible for the organization of disc collections. You can bet there are a few thousand people out there that never finished Riven: The Sequel to Myst thanks to losing one of its five discs.
These days most of us just buy our games digitally, making it virtually impossible for this to happen.
8. Controller Ergonomics
For one reason or another, console manufacturers thought that designing controllers to be shaped like a paint palette was a good idea. Two decades, millions of callouses, and twisted hands later, Sony arrived on the scene to show that ergonomics were important.
Early controllers were so uncomfortable to hold that, in a way, they served as a way to prevent kids from playing video games for too long. Our hands hurt just thinking about it.
Before the days of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X there was the 32X, Sega CD, and a multitude of other bizarre and wonky add-ons for consoles. They weren’t just expensive, they were nonsensical and marketed with million-dollar budgets to make sure you asked your parents for one even though it was a bad idea.
These days there’s no way Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft would ever get away with releasing hardware add-ons like the good ol’ days. Thank goodness for that.
10. This Thing
It took a long time for gaming hardware to receive enough iteration to become the polished platforms that they are today. Case-in-point: the Game Boy’s Handy Boy.
This monstrosity was gargantuan and expensive. What’s worse, it was pretty much required since the Game Boy’s screen was downright impossible to see in most lighting situations and had speakers that belonged in a 1960s McDonald’s toy.
Millions of Handy Boy units would be sold through the ’90s, demonstrating just how much work Nintendo needed to put into future handheld designs.