Ah loading screens. The time honoured transitional that disguise the initialisation in a game. Sometimes benign. Often infuriating. These laboured compliances have endured as a necessary intrusion that have impeded player progression for decades. Though far less prevalent now, or at least not as extensive, these customery intermissions could become a thing of the past. A primitive function ridiculed by future generations. Studied by archaeologists the same way they’d examine ancient Eqyptian tombs to understand how primitive civilisations lived. The advent of the PS5 boasts an impressive custom SSD so advanced that it could potentially end load times as we know them. No more agonising delays during an intense boss fight you’ve already failed against. Having to wait and rectify that mistake. Almost instantaneous gameplay. And I’m okay with that.
Its hard to feel particularly nostalgic about an antiquated system that, though essential does somewhat slow the momentum of a game, thereby blemishing the experience. There’s nothing evocative about waiting for my shower to warm up or my food to cook. But the issue not only lies in games that boast huge environments that can be approached objectively and freely. Propagating fluidity and personal autonomy in a fully immersive explorable terrain, but also in linear narratives. Having a prohibitive interim of loading screens that perennially slows down the momentum of the story every time you die reduces your participation for protracted stretches. I’m reminded of my time in Skyrim. The anxiety of entering burial crypts guarded by ancient Draugr, wielding rustic weapons to defend their tombs. Opening a door to the next ritualistic passage, waiting patiently as the loading screen depicts the static image of a dragon, nestled atop of a protruding spire. It’s wings sprawled, bracing for an attack from some unseen adversary. As the camera slowly zooms in enhancing the dragons malicious features, stopping just close enough to see it’s dark, lifeless eyes. Until you realise that the game has failed to load for the fifth time in an hour! Good times. Well memorable at least.
There are rare instances where these laboured interludes have become somewhat indelible. The slowly creaking doors in Resident Evil for example are iconic. Some even offer an interactive experience like “Ridge Racers” Galaxian mini games or even “FIFA’s” practice arena, that allows players valuable respite to practice key skills. Most however are simply logistical obligations. Content to display static images or animated symbols until its finally time for you to take over again. Though they’ve been an inherent part of gaming for longer than I’ve been playing, there absence won’t be missed. Much.