At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at a cloud, I don’t half miss the old days. There was a time when the Internet cost a penny a minute (absurd, I know) and I got most of my gaming news from magazines. I always remember having a rough idea in my mind of when E3 was scheduled to take place, and I’d anticipate the next issue of my favourite publication in order to get all of the information. It was so exciting eventually browsing through the pages and seeing screenshots of all of the latest and greatest titles on the way.
But it doesn’t work like that anymore. The immediacy of the Internet has brought us closer to games than ever before. We can, quite literally, follow our favourite developers on social media; we can watch livestreams of E3 press conferences and see all of the action unfold in front of our eyes. It’s undoubtedly better, of course – but the mystery’s gone a little bit. Growing up, the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto and Yu Suzuki almost seemed like mythical magicians to me, but these days you can send someone like Neil Druckmann a message and he might even respond.
The absolute best bit for me, though, was visiting CEX in Birmingham in the nineties. Anyone familiar with the West Midlands may remember the store (I’m not sure if the exact branch is still open or not to be honest) which was situated in a grubby underpass. Its location was part of its allure: you had to head underground to access it, and it honestly felt like you were entering a damp, smelly secret lair, where stained carpets and video game riches waited inside. There was a huge PA system bookmarking the checkout area, and it was often blasting out exotic rock records that you’d never hear on the radio.
But this shop never failed to leave me wide-eyed. Its stock spanned every console you could imagine, all second-hand and dressed with the dried pasta sauce of a previous owner. Every time we visited I’d thumb through the shelves hoping to locate something different; a Japanese import of an anime spin-off that seemed fantastically foreign, or the cracked case of something similarly unusual from these very shores. It was a different time, then, when you couldn’t pull up YouTube on your iPhone and watch footage of the discoveries you’d just made.
I miss it greatly. It's obviously advantageous to have the industry's ins-and-outs on tap, but I lament that feeling of mystery that games used to give me as a child; finding my next favourite title and reading its instruction manual in the car ride home was almost as exciting as the act of playing it for the first time. For as much as I love sharing the latest gaming news with you everyday, I can't help but feel like the instantaneous nature of information on the Internet has destroyed the art of discovery. There was just so much magic in the unknown.
Do you have fond memories of the days when gaming information came in magazines? Was browsing shop shelves the closest you ever got to some video games? Or have you grown up during the Internet era and never known a time when information wasn’t quite so immediate? Put on your rose-tinted glasses in the comments section below.