a blue video game controller

The Life Cycle of Video Games

What is it about older video games that make people want to keep playing them?
December 6, 2022
7 mins read

There are millions of video games people choose to go back to, either out of boredom or because they want to play something that’s familiar, but why does this keep happening? A recent study shows that at least 30 games are released daily, yet most of them never become popular enough to see the light of day. This occurs because of the targeted audience, the players. Most players will replay a favorite game for nostalgic purposes or an unparalleled gaming experience. This creates a cycle that makes video games popular again.

This begs the question: what do old video games have that new games don’t? Older games have nostalgia working on their side, which gamers often crave. This nostalgic feeling comes from a lack of high quality graphics, retro controls and a more thorough storyline for people to follow. For instance, games like Old School Runescape offer  a unique blend of nostalgia and engaging gameplay that keeps players coming back. New video games cannot provide that nostalgic feeling, as they utilize the latest technology. Video games have moved from a pixelated style to a more realistic one, ditching polygons for a more authentically shaped character design. Even bad controls are a feature some players miss because they showed them just how difficult the game truly was, making it far more impressive when they finished the game at a young age.  

Furthermore, older games tend to have more robust story lines and characters. New games tend to lack these features. YouTubers and Twitch streamers also play a crucial role in this cycle. For those who cannot afford to buy an old game that’s available on an old console, such as a GameCube, many take to the web in search of playthroughs of games they once loved. These playthroughs allow gamers to watch someone they idolize take a personal favorite game of theirs and bring it back into the spotlight. Sometimes this can lead gamers to search for old CDs, dusting off their old consoles and redownloading them on their computers to play their old favorites once again. Taking an old game and making something new out of it can be overwhelmingly rewarding for players, and it gives new life to games that have since fallen out of popularity. Below are examples of video games that fall into this repetitive cycle:

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Minecraft takes place in a block world where the player either survives each grueling night, or simply takes things slow and builds whatever they want. Most gamers shouldn’t be surprised to find this one on the list since every major update to the game provides something new for players to toy with. The game has expanded its survival-mode format and has branched out into a wide variety of genres. Some choose to play the game in creative mode and build from the provided blocks. Others recreate popular songs in Minecraft for others to listen to, enjoy and recreate in their own worlds. The latest idea people have implemented is SMP, Survival Multiplayer: a world where minecrafters can play with friends or complete strangers. Many people have latched on to this idea and have scripted characters and plots for everyone to follow within their given world.

Super Mario

Super Mario has become a nostalgic franchise for Nintendo to recycle, it sticks with the basic formula of saving Princess Peach from Bowser. This recycled formula has evolved from its pixelated state to a more realistic 3D world for players to explore. Super Mario Odyssey is one of the latest installments; it allows the player to explore the world in their quest to rescue Princess Peach. The newest update to the game gives Mario’s hat a personality that allows the player to take control of objects and enemies as they progress through the game. Furthermore, this iteration of Super Mario allows players to complete speedruns, which incorporate an additional level of difficulty into the game. It also allows friends and family to play with one another in each world, which opens doors to those in search of a multiplayer game where players must work together.    

Call of Duty

This first-person shooter game has a massive following, as well as multiple gaming options. Call of Duty allows its players to connect with friends online or in person. One YouTuber called swiftor has expanded CoD into a game of Simon Says. He opens a lobby for players to join, whether they be fans or competitors, and explains the rules to the players. It’s a different take on how the game is meant to be played but those that have the opportunity to join his lobby always have fun playing this childish game. It has also inspired others to start playing Simon Says with their own friends for a change of pace, popularizing the game once more.  

For the gaming community, it’s incredible to see what people have done to old games to make them feel fun and novel again for players. Outside influences, new gaming ideas and even playing with friends give games a second wind. These games won’t remain in the spotlight forever; new games with better graphics and controls will eventually take their place, completing the cycle. Whether players are looking for nostalgia or a new way to play, the community has provided a variety of ways for players to look at their old video games with a kinder eye. 

Kirsten Kalebich, Arizona State University

Writer Profile

Kirsten Kalebich

Arizona State University
Major in English, Minor in Business

A dreamer who wants to become an author or editor. In her spare time, she writes countless stories on her phone and reads an insane amount of fiction.

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