Video Game Staples that Disappeared


The video game industry has evolved just as quickly as everything else linked to computers and the internet. It moves so quickly that some things considered to be the building blocks of the industry can slip into obscurity. And we’re not talking about genres like point-and-click adventures and platformers which once dominated the market, we’re looking at hardware, software and distribution methods that don’t have a place in the modern world.

DEMO DISCS

Let’s start with an obvious one, the one that inspired this list after a nostalgic bit of banter about the good ol’ days of gaming. Demo Discs would contain anything from one to dozens of snippets of upcoming titles. We’re not talking about a cutscene or trailer, but up to a third of a new game to whet our appetites. Some of these demos saw us treading through the same bit-size chunk over and over again and introduce us to indie gems like War of the Monsters on PS2, a game I own to this day.

Where would you get these slices of gold? They were stuck to the front of magazines. Most gaming magazines made it a big part of their sales technique, slapping a disk of freebies onto their cover. Of course, after a few weeks, those discs were moved behind the counter, fished out by the staff upon purchase.

Demos by and large have dried up entirely. There’s no good reason for this to not still be a thing. Online store accounts can throw a couple of free levels or prologues to get us in the mood. The replacement seems to be free monthly game or humble bundles, so that’s neat.

CHEAT CODE

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start

iddqd

rosebud

A B A C A B B

B B B B B B B Up+B+Y

If you’re as old as I am, you can identify the game for at least one of these. It’ll be muscle memory. This used to a very common feature in games, largely pushed out in favour of game boosting microtransactions. During the 90s in particular you could assume the game had level skip, unlimited ammo, god mode and no-clip until proven otherwise. Prior to the internet, finding these codes would result in magazines being purchased and notes exchanged in the classroom.

Of course, this didn’t matter if you had…

GAME GENIE

These things could come with different names, but this was the best known brand. It’ll be some form of cartridge that would piggy-game onto your games and unlock all manner of hacks and cheats. And get radical firepower! We were an Amiga house, but often games would come with a hacked version that includes cheat options during the boot up.

COPYING GAMES

You wouldn’t find these versions of games on store shelves (unless it’s a really dodgy store…or a market). We didn’t have a lot of money to spend of games – that was a birthday thing – but pirated games were commonplace. Everyone had some form of software that would allow you to copy your floppy discs only to blanks (or over a game you were done with). Having a disk box overflowing with sharpie’d discs were the norm during the hey-day of C64, Amiga, Amstrad and PC.

STORE DISPLAYS

Another way of learning about new games was rolling down to the local game or department store and seeing what they had on display. This was easier when games were simpler, and they haven’t completely vanished, but you don’t get the dozen kids in line waiting for a turn. Sometimes you’d ride your bike to the local store to get in a game of ‘Streets of Rage 2’ because no-one had a Genesis yet. These days it’ll be a looping reel of trailers on a screen in the middle of the store.

NO SAVES

Regardless of how simple the game is, everything allows you to save your progress. Puzzle games, mobile games, rogue-likes…everything has some form of memory. Sometimes it’s just trophies you have achieved. This wasn’t always the case. In the earliest console generations, saving your progress was a non-existent concept. ‘The Legend of Zelda’ was historic for being one of the first games to include this idea.

So, what did we do without saving games?

LEVEL CODES

We can save games, we don’t have to write down ridiculous 16-digit gibberish to go back to the last level we managed to get to, but without the stuff we collected along the way. No more scribbling them down in the instruction booklet.

Actually, that’s one I didn’t think of.

INSTRUCTION BOOKLETS

I guess we just don’t do instruction booklets any more. Sometimes these would house unique art, or interesting presentations or comic book story telling. The ‘Metal Gear Solid’ games always had a nice one.

BOOT DISCS

As video games got more complex and took up more disk space, it wasn’t enough to simply own a computer. You don’t need to jump straight to a new system, though…a boot disk may suffice. What this entailed was grabbing a floppy disk and formatting it as a boot disk, a bit of extra RAM the computer could dip into when running a big file. Computer memory was so limited at the time this minor addition would actually make a big difference.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS BETWEEN CONSOLES

The console wars have really cooled down lately. Playing a game on X-Box will deliver more or less the same experience as playing it on Switch or Playstation. This wasn’t the case in the past, with unique characters and minor differences between versions. The first level of ‘The Force Awakens’ would take place during the day or at night based on your system, and ‘Soul Calibur 3’ feature either Link, Spawn or Heihachi depending on whether your have it on Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony systems.

In earlier console generations the differences went from alternating guest characters to radically different games. ‘The Adventures on Batman and Robin’ on Gensis and SNES had no business sharing a name, as they’re completely different on almost every level. ‘Robocop’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ are both major franchises that released different versions on these consoles. Which version you want is a major factor in deciding which console to invest in.

PORN

It’s insane how freely available pornographic games were on what was undoubtably a young audience’s form of entertainment in the early days. The ‘Leisure Suit Larry’ series is notorious for this, but it was largely PG smut rather than porn. It may seem extreme to say that games featured graphic (if pixelated) and degrading sexual situations that the player engages in, but there are several Atari titles that meet that definition. ‘Beat Em and Eat Em’ is to seen to be believed.