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I found the fun in video games again

Back in 1996, I launched my first proper website. It had nothing to do with video games, which back then, for me, was mostly Super NES, although we did play games on both Amigas and PCs as well. We were well-off in my family, in that regard. Not that we had much money, mind you, but that computers were abundant thanks to my father’s work. My first PC was a 286 that sat in a glass case on wheels, reaching my chest. I used it for (very) light programming, writing, and playing Prince of Persia.

While my first successful website was a role-playing one, what followed is probably what you, if you were a gamer and close to my age, might remember. I used to run TVspel.nu, which was huge by Swedish measures. We bought print ads in the gaming magazines, and had visitor stats rivaling major entertainment hubs in Sweden back in the day. I know because I almost got bought out during dotcom, and got some insight. TVspel.nu was one of many, the network had tens of pages, and the readership was in the upper hundreds of thousands.

Dotcom changed all that. Not only did advertising money dry up, hosting became crazy expensive. We had great discounts, but data centers got scared, and things changed. And I panicked, I guess, because I put a pause on everything. Scrapped it, wrote a newsletter (TVspel.nu also started as one, back in 1996, if I recall correctly), needed cash, so converted it to a site. That became Kong, which stuck around for a long time. It was my day job, post-dotcom, just as TVspel.nu had been my job before that.

I left it all, sold it, in the end. That’s decades ago, now, and I did it because I required something else.

My days, back then, was largely spent playing games. That might seem like a dream to some, to most, I guess, if you’re into games, but it really isn’t. You don’t only get to play the good games for as long as you like, you have to, if you’re honest, play the bad ones just as much. And, let me tell you, back then, games were worse. If I’d put together an all-time top ten video games, it’d be mostly stuff made after… well, wait. Let’s do that, shall we?

  1. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)
  2. Illusion of Gaia (1994)
  3. Wave Race 64 (1996)
  4. Mass Effect 3 (2012)
  5. The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim (2011)
  6. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
  7. Tetris (1984)
  8. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
  9. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
  10. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1992)

So, only half of the games were made after 2000, which is twenty-two years from now, more than half my age. There are outliers, obviously, but what’s more interesting is how many of the games outside the list, before 2000, was bad. I won’t compose a list for you, I’ve played far too many of them to even begin to recount, and it’s not pretty. I mean, back in the heyday, many games were the same, but with the advent of 3D and polygons, it got so much worse. Furthermore, I used to think that the movie licenses cranked out by Ocean was horrible in the 16-bit (that’s Super NES and Mega Drive/Genesis consoles, if you weren’t around) era, but that’s nothing compared to the crap we got after that. A bad 16-bit game, or 8-bit (NES or Master System) for that matter, was just bland and boring, but straightforward and playable. The crap that came out during the 32-bit era (PlayStation and Saturn), as well as for the Nintendo 64, was horrendous. Not to mention what PC gaming was up to during this period of time, the highs might’ve been high, but the lows, wow…

It didn’t use to be better, it used to be different. Let’s just leave it at that.

Anyway, looking back at all of this, and the tens of thousands of video games I’ve played – mostly mediocre, or worse – you wouldn’t be surprised that I was a bit burnt out on the whole concept. Mobile gaming was a relief to me because when the big productions, or AAA games, where gettin ridiculously huge and time-consuming, mobile games were pick up and play. I liked that, in many ways I’ve always preferred the more bite-sized nature of portable gaming. The Game Boy is, after all, my favorite console.

You probably know that I write Switch to iPad. It’s a site about the iPad, obviously, but also how to get the most out of it. The iPad is, among other things, a great device for gaming, especially if you pair it with the Apple Arcade subscription. I’ve spent a lot of time with many games on there, and others before that. Some games work better than others with the tablet format, but thanks to controller support (I’m a console player foremost), many plays just as well as they would on, say, a PC.

"The iPad mini is a nice gaming device, with or without a controller"

This has been my gaming device, most of the time. It was threatened by a gaming PC for a while, thanks to the Mass Effect Legendary Edition, but I’ve found it hard to make that a regular thing. I tend to buy a new gaming PC with every Elder Scrolls game, but now that modding support has reached consoles, I might not.

In fact, late one night, I stumbled onto an online store that had an Xbox Series X for delivery, so I went for it. (Then I got it, loved it, and bought another one for the countryside house. Cloud syncing game saves is outstanding.)

I was hooked again. It was like getting a new console generation, back in the day, except it was really a step back. My gaming PC easily keeps up, and beats, the Xbox Series X, but it’s not as accessible. There’s setting it up because I don’t have the room to always have it available, and then there’s the obnoxious updates. Getting into the game on an Xbox Series X has less friction, and is closer to gaming of yore. And the games look good, good enough, in fact, that I don’t miss the gaming PC. I sometimes miss the mods, and some games haven’t gotten the proper 4K treatment yet, that’s for sure (I’m looking at you, Elder Scrolls Online), but the plug-and-play feeling is hard to beat. Or, start the Xbox controller, and you’re in the game, as it were.

I’ve spent quite some time with these two Xboxes the past couple of weeks. I picked them up before the holidays, and I’m still playing. The novelty hasn’t worn out, quite the contrary. I’m also replaying Breath of the Wild on the Switch, with the kid watching, wide-eyed, and I’m enjoying it. If that wasn’t enough, I download more iPad games than I have for years, and the Analogue Pocket, which I’m sure I’ll get to in the future, sits in my bag. It even pushed out the OLED Switch, which I couldn’t help myself but to pick up, how about that?

And then there are the games coming up. Like Starfield, and Breath of the Wild 2, the Elder Scrolls Online High Isles adventure, Pikmin 4, and, err, I guess I’m not that in the loop anymore. All of these will work on either my Xbox Series X, or the Nintendo Switch, and the game drops on Apple Arcade sure surprise me sometimes, so I’m all set.

Or I will be, until The Elder Scrolls VI gets released. Then I’ll buy a new gaming computer. It’s tradition now, you see.

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