Dean West

I’ve found myself for the first time in a while, staring dead-eyed at the younger generations, feeling a bit jealous of just how much they have at their fingertips – literally – because of technology.

Much in the way my preceding generation looks at the stuff we grew up with – DVD players, mobile phones; a false sense of entitlement that we could do whatever we want, quickly quashed by a series of international events that we in no way wanted or were prepared for. You know, those sort of things.

I also often marvel that most five-year-olds are more proficient with an IPad than a 55-year-old. I don’t begrudge these kids for being fortunate to have their formative years coincide with one of the biggest technological booms in history. What I do begrudge them for, however, is for having access to incredible video games and not realising how lucky they actually are.

This crossed my mind when I watched Game Informer’s YouTube video with Insomniac, about how the swinging mechanics work in Spider-Man. It all looked so easy and seamless, like you wouldn’t actually have to think that much at all.

Now, this train of thought can go in two directions. You can look at this and suggest it is a hand-holding type of gameplay that doesn’t allow or require you to make too many decisions; that the game plays itself. Or, you can look at this like the interactive, flashy, special-effects laden spectacle it is intended to be – the justification for your shiny PS4. Either way, it is clear that Spider-Man games have improved drastically over the years. Here is what I grew up with:

Let’s get this out of the way quickly as a side note: wasn’t voice acting naff back then? How disinterested did either of these characters seem in the bank heist that was currently happening. For superheroes, they definitely lack the sense of urgency one would expect from them.

I played the above demo a lot when I was younger. This was back when video game magazines had free demo-discs – the good old days – and this is the one I had. I look at this demo and it plays the same as I remember it; swinging from one building to another was slow and plodding. This isn’t a comparison drawn out by the passage of time, or because there is a more recent iteration of the Spider-Man games, but this is what I genuinely remember it being like. Although, at that time, all action games were like this. The tech at the time just wasn’t good enough to have fast-paced, truly cinematic action experiences. The way these games played seemed to directly contradict their big-screen counterparts, as opposed to today when they compliment them side-by-side.

Sometimes, we just endured a video game and saw though its bad parts to enjoy the broader experience. In the case of Spider-Man in 2001, it was playing a game that would not allow you to swing diagonally, only in a straight line. A game where combat looked like two drunks flailing at one another, making us only wish that they could re-enact the martial arts wizardry of the films.

I think it is because young me wanted a game that resembled a movie that I could directly influence. Video games in the nineties and early noughties were great because that is all we had and, much as today’s cinematic games are often criticised for being QTE-fests which prioritise visual spectacle over gameplay, I can’t help but feel that kids playing Spider-Man today are getting a better deal than I did.

Still, I can’t begrudge them too much, just like I don’t hold anything against the five-year-old masterfully wielding an IPad. Because in twenty-five years time, they too will look on in wonder at the technological leap they have seen in their lifetime and feel just like I do. That’ll teach them. Ungrateful little scamps.


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