In fact, it seemed that everything was quite friendly at that time. Whether it was Alex Kidd playing Rock, Paper, Scissors for valuables, Kirby just being a big pink ball of fun, the adventures of Bud and Bob, or the whole host of Disney games that were available on the SNES and Megadrive/Genesis, there was a real feeling of friendliness from console gaming at the time. Even though their ad campaigns were ripping chunks out of each other. They felt inviting, and to a point, they even felt safe. Their worlds felt magical in a cartoon kinda way. You wanted to spend time there because you knew that there was no other way that you could hang out with a wide-eyed green dinosaur who wears boots, and travel with him through happy lands to the sounds of upbeat themes. Again, it couldn’t be helped each time a smile crept up and got me.
However, somewhere along the way, something changed. For better or for worse, something about gaming was altered forever. Maybe it’s the fault of some of my personal favourites like Doom or Mortal Kombat, but whatever’s to blame threw a spanner in the works and transformed the videogame landscape faster than you could fail at attempting to repeat Scatman John’s vocal line. A dark cloud came over the world of gaming, and engulfed it.
I was so on board with the PS1 when it launched. It’s graphics were amazing, and it’s darker tone worked really well. I would have been just hitting my teens when this machine dropped, so it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Even though my voice hadn’t quite broken yet, leaving me sounding like some kinda bastard hybrid of Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader, I knew I wanted some Playstation in my life.
Playstation pulled no punches in it’s first year or two. One of the first times I played it, I indulged in the blood soaked demo for Loaded. It was a top-down shooter in which you’d reduce metal patients to nothing more than grotesque blood stains, complete with entrails, as you made your way through their asylum. This was the real deal. There were no Tiny Toons characters here, just lunatics to splatter against walls in piss-covered padded cells. All this while playing as a steel-jawed dude brandishing a rocket launcher that unleashes missiles, capped off with breast shaped warheads, or a full grown man in a baby diaper. And that was only the beginning. Things would heat up quickly from there on in. Twisted Metal would let you choose from a host of mad men and women. You then take the wheel in a heavily armed car and send you out to war against other equally deranged drivers. As the missiles flew and machine gun barrels rocked, you mercilessly laid waste the city of Los Angeles... on Christmas fucking Eve! The story dictates that you must kill countless civilians during this massacre, all for your own selfish needs. The icing on the Christmas cake; the fact that the follow up game went even bigger and better by having you destroy the entire world, one monumental landmark at a time.
There were some happy-go-lucky games on the system too. Croc and Spyro the Dragon would be some of the more memorable ones. Standouts like Pandemonium and Rayman also spring to mind; even though they felt like their entire reason for existing was to prove that you were a shit gamer. However, these games were completely over shadowed by the more adult titles. It seemed like nobody really wanted cute characters with fun stories in harmless worlds any more. Instead, they wanted violent games like Grand Theft Auto or Alien Trilogy and games that were more realistic like Tomb Raider and Metal Gear Solid. Gaming was growing up and putting away childish things.
The following generations continued the traditions lay down by the original Playstation. Just look at the top selling gaming franchises over the last few years and you’ll see that gritty, realistic military shooters are the order of the day. Call of Duty games dominated the landscape of the Xbox360/PS3 gaming scene. From there, everything and it’s mother decided that dark first person shooters were the hot topic. Brown and grey seemed to be the only colour scheme videogame developers were aware of for a long time, as they coughed out countless brooding tales of war. On the other side of this blood splattered coin is the GTA series. A franchise that really came into it’s own during the Playstation 2 days with titles like Vice City and San Andreas. To say it’s still gathering strength would be an understatement. 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V is currently the biggest selling piece of media ever created. Bigger than Micheal Jackson’s Thiller album. Even bigger than the 1997 movie, Titanic... although probably not half as long or boring. It even smashed the previous video game first day sales record set by CoD: Black Ops II... Na nah na nah!! GTA games are bright and colourful, in the sense that they feature stunning sunsets, beautiful beaches, and amazing scenery. But let’s not kid ourselves, that’s not why we play them. We play GTA because it’s the king of crime simulators! If you’re looking for hard hitting storylines laced with drive-by shootings, sex, violence, foul language, betrayal, drug deals, torture, destruction of public property, hit-and-runs, robberies, beatings, the murder of countless police officers and a whole lot of craic to boot; GTA is your only man! It has these attributes in abundances, and all through the eyes of the criminal. These games don’t fuck around. They’re harsh and they know it, but they are also fantastic.
Perhaps Minecraft has managed to pull the spanner from the works, and set the gears for more family friendly gaming in motion once again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike violent videogames. In fact, I love them. Twisted Metal, Mortal Kombat, Doom, and Splatterhouse are some of my all time favourite franchises. Whether it’s decapitating a mancubus and watching the skin roll off it’s lifeless bones or watching the vital organs of my enemy being ruptured in x-ray vision, I love the harshness of these games. The dark stories that go along with them, and the thick atmosphere that leaves me breathless time and time again. These are some of the reasons I love videogames as a whole. However, I can’t help but find it refreshing to step of if these violent worlds and appreciate something a little more cuddly. Sometimes I miss worlds where the skies are always blue, the oceans are consistently clear, and even the enemies look cuddly. It’s nice to step outside a world where I’m constantly bollocks deep the guts of my foes and step into one where the most explicit thing that would happen is a bad guy exploding into a fireworks display of colourful stars. Maybe, in order to move forward, gaming as a whole will have to look back on an era long forgotten and take some hints from it. Although leaving the Timmy Mallett, platform boots, and the motherfucking Macarena behind would probably be for the best.