I am an avid PC gamer, have been for nearly 30 years now. I remember programming in basic. I remember getting Quest for Glory 1 (called Hero’s Quest back then) for Christmas one year and playing that game for nearly a year straight. I remember Dune 2, one of the first RTS games. Civ, XCom, Commander Keen… there were some absolutely amazing games back then when the ground was still being broken. Then, as with all markets, someone saw an opportunity to make cash and the whole free-ware wave came in. Crappy games, filled with viruses, for under 5$ each. Consoles (the NES and SNES for sure) came around and gave you some very simple multiplayer games. The PC lost it’s way forward during the 90s, with only some sporadic content worth mention. That being said, the games worth mentioning are the cornerstones for gaming today.
Steam keeps me going with my current game catalog. I can find friends, play pretty much any game on it and access games from any computer. There are a few tweaks I would like to see (like me playing XCOM while my wife plays Plants vs Zombies on the same account) but in the larger picture, Steam has done to consoles what consoles did to PCs 20 years ago. Made them practically irrelevant.
One hiccup Steam has, and it’s by no means a killer, is that older games don’t get a fair shake due to the nature of the online platform. Good Old Games can hook me up with that. I picked up the Baldur’s Gate series for 9$. Interplay games are in a “pay what you feel” sale right now. I got Stonekeep for 3$. There are hundreds of games from the late 80s to late 90s available – some even from later.
A few neat points. First, the cost is low. I don’t think I’ve seen a game over 10$. Second, there’s an integrated client to download everything about a game, even the manuals. Often times, games had some obscure clue in the manual to prevent piracy or to actually help you finish the game. Third and related to the previous, there’s no DRM. There’s no always on, there’s no PC limit, nothing. You bought it, you own it. Which is damn cool.
I realize this sounds more like a sale pitch but my point is that there are amazing games out there that many people have never played. Trying some of these out, you can see how games today have used those ideas and improved upon them.