All of the rental spots I frequented when I was growing up have all but disappeared. Some have been converted into new businesses or apartments while others have been completely leveled, their existence living on exclusively in people’s memories. If you’re looking to buy a new release or console, your best bet is still to try the electronics department at Wal-Mart, still residing in the T.C Square even after the mighty department store chain exited shopping malls. For the younger generation being raised around my hometown though, there’s never been a better time to get into video games, and that’s not even because of the dedicated hobby shops that have opened.
I consider myself very fortunate that my parents were willing to give up hours of their lives making long trips to rental stores just to help me get a hard to find game. Whereas I would commonly be found moving between Harbour Grace, Carbonear and Bay Roberts in the hunt for games to rent, other kids were stuck with what was around our town. These situations are now a thing of the best now due to how rapidly technology has evolved. A generation of people might read the anecdotes in this book and think how exhausting it was to be a video game lover once upon a time.
Even with my expanded rental circle, there were titles I managed to miss out on that I only got to experience for the first time as an adult. This was because I was at the mercy of the selection of rental stores and whatever a department store happened to carry. Consoles like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and digital market places on PC are pushing traditional brick and motor retailers to the brink of extinction. To buy a game, all anyone needs to do is have a stable internet connection to download it to their platform of choice, or if they still desire physical media, have it sent directly to their house from places like Amazon.
Soon dedicated video game consoles may also become a thing of the past. Companies like Google through their Stadia platform are pushing technology that will allow you to stream video games to a device of your choosing, just like how you would consume a movie or series on Netflix. It’s funny to think that but a couple of decades ago, I had to take a long car ride to play an arcade game like Konami’s X-Men, a massive cabinet for up to six players that required two massive monitors. Before it was taken down from the app store, a game like that now could easily fit on a device you carry around in your pocket.
It’s easier to get into video games than its ever been before, and the power of the internet allows us to play games with people all over the world. For how connected the medium is though, it can at times feel like we’re more apart than ever. No longer would you see a kid excitedly making their way home because they scored a game they were dying to play at the video store, nor experiencing the thrill of the hunt of going from store-to-store trying to buy a game, building up the importance of the quest as if they were Indiana Jones. Arcades are making a come back of sorts, but you won’t see a gang of people huddled around one cabinet in the heat of competition. More than likely you’ll see machines that can only justify themselves by being as big and as loud as possible or pumping out tickets that can be traded in for prizes.
Video games have always been an important part of my life, and I have a feeling it will be like that for quite some time. Though the technology powering video games is rapidly evolving, so much so that it can be overwhelming to keep up with, you’ll still find me seeking out video game stores no matter what city I’m in or leaping to the roof with excitement when I find an arcade.
The years continue to roll in, but in many ways I’m still that same kid, transfixed by the images I can control on my television screen.