But let's not put too fine a point on it. They are not, for the most part, fun. One of my favorite things about my classic games collection is my ability to keep having this conversation with my friends:
"Oooh! Old games! I loved Pitfall! Do you have Pitfall?"
"Can I play it?"
(Five minutes pass.)
"This isn't any fun."
"No, it's not."
I have this huge collection of old games, but I spend all my gaming time with my XBox 360 or PS3. (Or, on increasingly rare occasions, my Wii.)
The reason I bring it up is because of this fascinating article about the unquestionable classic, that inspirational breakthrough, that great of greats, Ultima IV.
Basic summary: Professor teaches class on classic video games. Makes students play old games. Goes all right until they try Ultima IV. They find it to be opaque, dull, and completely unplayable.
Look, nobody worships at the altar of Lord British more than me, and you can't put into words what a breakthrough Ultima IV was at the time. It set me on the path to writing games for a living. I played it again and again. It literally Changed My Life.
But it isn't playable now. The controls make no sense. The dialogue is bland. All of the little UI tricks that make RPGs accessible (tooltips, in-game maps, pathfinding) were not yet invented. And, and this is really important, everything that Ultima IV introduced everyone has done far better. Ultima IV had an epic quest and morality woven into the game, which was amazing at the time. But everyone does those things way better now.
So it's been years and years since I've recommended anyone play a game with Ultima in the title. Or, if they really want to try a game in the series, I recommend Ultima VI, which is awesome.
I like looking back to the past. Nostalgia. History. And there are some old designs that really should be modernized. (Archon. M.U.L.E.) But, hey, classic gaming back in the day? Pong? The Atari 2600? Man, I was there. It's better now. Wherez mah Halo?
Oh, and I will finally know that we have shaken off the dust of the past when it is no longer possible to play Joust. God, but I hate Joust.