Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours talking to games designer Eugene Jarvis, the chap responsible for, amongst other titles, Robotron: 2084 and Defender. The guy is one of those genius types who’s about as modest as they come. Handily—what with me interviewing him for various magazine articles—he also happens to be witty and able to provide plenty of insight into gaming’s past, present and future.

One of the things gaming’s typically accused of in the modern era is churning out more of the same, crushing innovation underfoot. Jarvis has a different take:

I’m blown away with how games have gone. Look at Defender side-by-side with Halo or BioShock, and all these modern games, and see where we got in 25 years… It’s amazing how from year-to-year we’re always complaining that everything’s just the same as the last game—sequel upon sequel. But we used to say that in the Space Invaders era! It seems like from year-to-year, we’re always decrying the lack of progress. But then after 25 years of that, it’s like: holy cow! [laughs] 25 years of cloned games and we’ve gone a long way!

I’m usually the first to complain about stagnation within gaming and a lack of innovation, but Jarvis offers a good point. Sometimes, it pays to take a step back and make a more direct comparison between past and present. Evolution isn’t always fast, and like watching a child or plant grow, it often takes juxtaposing things ten years apart to see how much something has changed.

That’s not to say that there aren’t massive problems in the current games industry, because there are. However, this most-talked-about of concerns has clearly been a headache since the very start of gaming (indeed, Jarvis noted that Robotron: 2084 is basically Space Invaders crossed with Berzerk!, and that Defender evolved from a batch of Space Invaders and Asteroids clones), and so perhaps it’s time to get over the cloning issue and just enjoy gaming’s continual—if decidedly inconsistent—evolution on the path to who-knows-where.

Robotron

Robotron: 2084. If you’re a youngster, this is where your modern console game’s controls first appeared.