Games are great at reminding us of the past, even their own. But far less common is the feeling that you're looking forward in time, playing a game that will set the standard for what follows.
The rabbit hole of what what games or moments felt like the next generation had truly arrived is a little more fun, because that's how people tend to remember things: by special moments, rather than entire entities. Plenty of gamers when asked about their favourite stories can cite the Bloody Baron quest vividly from The Witcher 3. I've heard long recitals of particular characters and their arcs from Baldur's Gate. Or HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic.
You get the picture. But moments that feel like the future? Those are rarer.
This struck a chord with me because it reminded me, by chance, of a weekend with a Tesla last year. Tegan was trialling one over a weekend, which meant a little sojourn to the Blue Mountains and some of the nearby cellars.
It was a little surreal, having not gone in an extended ride before. Seeing a car automatically reverse park when you're stopping off at the shops, or getting used to the feeling of inertia in a car because you're missing that vibration that you'd normally get from a vehicle.
It's those little experiences that made me comment that the Tesla actually felt like a car "from the future", as opposed to a car that just has more modern and convenient tech from other parts of our daily life.
When it comes to games, the first time I saw in-game ads for Battlefield 2142 was a bit like the Tesla. I saw the Intel logos as I jogged past. I remember thinking, "Developers are going to absolutely love this."
It never quite took off, at least in the form of banners and traditional ads anyway. That kind of branded advertising has eventually seeped through - think things like the KFC-branded Fornite skin or the V energy drink mod for Fallout 4.
For me, someone who grew up with a PC in an era that saw a lot of graphical advancements quite rapidly, a lot of "holy shit" moments were visual or technological:
- Playing Prince of Persia for the first time and comparing the roto-scoped animation to other games;
- Roaming around Deus Ex and having such a broad degree of freedom to tackle objects, in an era where most first-person games were still very much on-rails affairs;
- Getting ADSL for the first time, and playing a game of Counter-Strike with 45-50ms as opposed to 220ms;
- The way Metal Gear Solid broke the fourth wall, and being stunned that games could - or hadn't before - accessed that kind of information;
- Seeing Mark Hamill and the all-star cast from the original Wing Commander games and being dumb enough to think that FMV could truly be the way forward (it wasn't);
- Getting a demo CD from a gaming mag, the first time our family owned a CD-ROM drive, and just going through and exploring a wealth of games that my brother and I would have never discovered otherwise.
What moments do you remember from games that make you stop and think that the next generation, or the future, had truly arrived?