If you’re in your late twenties and have loved games as much as your average nerd, you probably remember those incredibly infuriating yet addicting PC games. You know, the one's nobody ever bought but always seemed to have downloaded. Games that had you grab item A, walk around endlessly till you found item B that matched with it. Then proceeded to deepthroat your keyboard in hopes you press the right combination of buttons that made item A and B activate… whatever it was that it activates. This ladies and gentleman was the essence of the old school point-and-click adventure games (P&C for short) .This genre was incredibly popular yet fell off the face of the earth for quite some time. Where did they go, and why have they come back? To understand why such a hard stop and quick return occurred I did a little investigating. Thanks to some helpful (older) GameGrin employees and some simple research I have come up with a few simple explanations.
The early days of PC gaming was tough for the users. It wasn’t just click download and play like it is now. It was knowing which games would work with your hardware and software. Piling your hard drive up with shareware games that came with your CD’s. Then there’s the “insert disc 15” to install the game causing your shelves to stack high with CD cases that you HAD to keep when your PC inevitably crashed and had to install everything all over again. It was madness. It’s no wonder so many in the late 90’s made the jump to consoles. Far simpler to run and cheaper to buy.
“Uuuh Nathan, why are you sure they changed from PC to console?” An excellent question my cherished reader! Well, I was looking over the release dates for the more popular P&C titles, then the overall release dates for the genre. That’s where I noticed an odd connection. The release’s for P&C titles was at it’s all time lowest between the years of 1999 and 2002 and stay that low for the better part of the 2000’s. What happened in this time? OH RIIIIIGHT!... The PS2 was launched. I’ve always been a GameCube fan myself. Yet there is no denying the greatness that was/is the PS2. With its launched backwards compatibility, robust hardware and O.S. It’s no surprise that it became the popular little black box that is was. Even less surprisingly was how many PC gamers made the switch to console in this time frame to the simple and elegant console. I don’t think there is a gamer alive who didn’t either own one or had a close friend or relative who did. Additionally the performance gap between PC’s and consoles was considerable smaller than today. So as a gamer why would you spend so much time and money on a PC only to maybe get a game to work. When you could buy a cheaper console that actually did get the game to work every time, this is generally speaking of course. So the choice was obvious.
This affected the P&C games in my opinion because they were designed for nearly a decade with PC controls in mind. Making that jump to the console’s simpler controls made for difficult to navigate environments, controls and many gameplay issues. Not to mention that console gaming was always suited more for the simple action titles that relied more on reflexes whereas PC games allowed for more complex and methodical type of games. Because of this the P&C genre quickly faded away for the most part of the 2000’s.
Now in the last 5-7 years the P&C genre came back with a vengeance. This time however it grew and evolved. The best example of this would have to be the wonderful titles released by Telltale Games. At first glance the two don’t seem to be related, but look at the details. Each are narratively driven, with simple click type gameplay and movement. Yes it’s not much to go on but like I said, it has evolved into something more and grew in popularity quickly. Not to mention there are countless numbers of these titles being made into mobile games and available for download all over Steam. Due to the inexpensiveness and few resources it takes to develop these titles compared to yesteryears it has become a great starting platform for many amature developers and designers.
Now why did it grow so fast? Was it because of Steam’s easy to upload platform or Telltale’s quirky, fun designs? I don’t believe so. In the 2000’s many of us spent so much time running down pedestrians in our stolen tanks while being chased by police and 360-no scoping strangers online. Eventually we too grew and evolved. We craved for something more than stunning visuals and 60fps. We wanted stories. Well written, thought out stories, with relatable, unique characters we rooted for or even loved to despise. Gaming has gone beyond simply trying to get the highest K/D spread. We now want to experience wondrous and enlightening tales of triumph, sorrow, joy. I believe this evolution in us as an audience is being reflected by this rise in this old and under rated style of gaming.