I was being unskillful with my thoughts, wasting time on the computer and clicking through items on Steam, when I realized I hadn’t gotten the achievement for beating Final Fantasy VIII.

I had Squall at level 100, everyone else barebones, with max Strength and wicked stats across the board. Ribbon, Auto-Haste, the works. I quickly installed, fixed the soundtrack, and booted up the game. I ran across Ultimecia’s Castle like a madman with turbo and Encounter None on, and proceeded to double Lion Heart the ol’ girl into submission. I solo’d the final boss with Squall alone.

I then sat back and watched the ending. Put the stats, the cool weapons, magic spells, and abilities aside. Put aside grinding Devour stat-ups, spell draws, and card games. Spoilers ahead: Squall wanders across a time distorted desert before passing out from exhaustion and despair. As memories and flashbacks and the very atmosphere seems to distort and break and warp, we see for a moment that Squall is crying, perhaps out of fear. What proceeds is a heartfelt and endearing moment of Rinoa searching for and eventually finding Squall.

Laguna visits Raine’s grave before being met by Ellone and Kiros and Ward. Seifer fishes with Fuujin and Raijin in Balamb and they watch as Garden flies over. Then the credits roll, and unexpectedly, camcorder footage plays showing all of the characters in the Garden cafeteria, smiling and waving at the camera… all except Zell, who is choking on a hotdog from eating too quickly.

If you haven’t played Final Fantasy VIII, much of this won’t make any sense. That’s why you should open up Steam, drop $10 on this gem, and play it from start to finish.

Don’t worry about becoming the King of Triple Triad. Don’t worry about reaching 9999 HP or getting 100 Ultima spells or getting every GF (you can get them all in the last dungeon).

As I watched through the ending, I realized that there are a few really good reasons for occasionally playing old video games.

You come to appreciate modern gaming technology

Some games have aged better than others, and in different ways. Final Fantasy VII hasn’t aged very well because of poor localization and the hodgepodge of graphical styles that were employed.

The way Final Fantasy VIII handled magic, stats, and junctioning is convoluted and the story after Disc 2 gets pretty weird. Square hasn’t given it the same treatment as other games in the series and it’s suffered newer generations not playing it.

Final Fantasy IX… well, IX aged fantastically.

What I’ve noticed with a lot of the newer games is that they’ve focused more on fireworks than endearing stories, deep characters, or tons of lore.

Occasionally playing old games makes you appreciate how far video games have come, and also offers a lesson to game companies on when passion begins to slip. Developers can look back at old games, games filled with hand-drawn graphics and lovingly crafted stories and worlds. On that note…

You get to see an older world and how people thought in it

Games like Final Fantasy VIII are strongly anachronistic. The player eventually visits a space station and acquires an airship. You even visit a city that has an invisibility barrier… but no one has smartphones or even cellphones, no one seems to use the few computers that are available, and people largely live like they did in the 90’s.

Much like watching old movies, you really get to see how people lived before internet and smartphones and computers in every pocket and room. People communicated differently, moved through the world differently. Arguably, they were more at peace, though I’m sure I’d prefer to cover that in a different post.

You can begin to get this feeling when playing games like Chrono Trigger and Cross, Final Fantasy VII through IX, games with an astounding level of creativity. Eumatsu’s music perhaps does the most heavy lifting in this regard. You really feel like you’re part of the world you’re playing in, one that is more laidback and nostalgic.

Even more attractive is playing in a world that was thought up before social media, rage mobs, and a society awash in news and political correctness. On that note…

They’re less demanding

Because of the time old games were made in, they tend to be limited by the technology, making them slower paced and more relaxing in terms of atmosphere. They can be played on many more machines due to their lower hardware requirements, and yet you still get the same level of storytelling. Actually, the old classics remind me of books in that they require very little and yet they can tell incredibly powerful stories and change minds.

Why else should we play old games? Let me know.

Photo by Ben Neale on Unsplash

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