We live in an age where there's a lot of grousing and cynicism about the state of videogames - always-online DRM, DLC tactics, and a distinct lack of Half-Life 3 have left a lot of gamers with a sour taste in their mouth about this era of gaming. Yet this may be the greatest era for gaming we've ever known, for a number of reasons. 7 reasons, at least...
There was probably some moment for everyone, around the time the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo came out, where you saw some game with something your young, naive mind simply could not comprehend. Maybe it was the 3-D effect in F-Zero or the vectors in Vector Man (which must have been pretty good to name the game after them). Whatever it was, you thought to yourself "This is it. This is the pinnacle of graphics. They will never be able to achieve anything greater than this."
Of course, now we live in an age where this is possible (with the aid of a few mods):
We're at a precipitous point in graphical technology - it's so, so, so good that it's nearing something very close to realism. However, if it can't quite make the jump (and who knows whether it ever fully will), we're going to have one hell of an uncanny valley to deal with. But for the moment, games are capable of staggering beauty and incredible design that would probably shake our younger selves to the core. And even games that aren't going for the total immersive realism of Skyrim are doing great things: indie games like Fez and Limbo do incredible things and utilize technology to produce beautiful, simple graphics.
Then again, in 20 years someone else is probably gonna have a list on the singularity-net (or whatever the internet's called then), showing that Skyrim picture and saying "CAN YOU BELIEVE THOSE IDIOTS USED TO THINK THIS WAS GREAT GRAPHICS?! LOL! ANYWAYS, THE RADIATION FROM THE LAST NUCLEAR WAR IS RAVAGING MY INTERNAL ORGANS, SO I'M LOGGING BACK INTO THE HEALTHSPHERE."
One thing that is hard to deny about our current era of gaming is that the options presented to gamers today are insane and wonderful in ways never before thought possible. Things like Nintendo's Virtual Console and the Playstation Store allow gamers to download games from past eras onto current gen consoles. There are websites (like VNES) dedicated to hosting emulated versions of old games. And not feeling up for legality? There's an entire world of emulators on the internet ready to be downloaded and played to your heart's content (for 24 hours, according to a law I read about on an internet forum once). Our current era of gaming is incredible because it combines every single era before it. Mere years ago, this wasn't possible - if you wanted to play an older game, you would need to get whatever system it was for AND find the game itself. Today, you don't even have to get up from the couch. Hell, you don't even have to be sitting on a couch at all.
Region-locking and translation issues used to block certain games away from certain areas of the globe. A niche Japanese game might never be released in the United States, so you'd never get to play it, even though it looks so cool (you get to pilot a mech living in a Tokyo family's home and take care of their cat? SIGN ME UP!). Just look at the saga of Mother 3 - in development hell for years, finally moved over to the Game Boy Advance, and then Nintendo decided against localizing it for the North American market. In the old days, that would be it. You either bought a Japanese GameBoy Advance and learned to read Japanese or you were screwed. But thanks to the endless resources of the internet, pretty much anyone can find the ROM of the game and play it...FOR FREE. IN ENGLISH. Not that we're encouraging this. No, if we have to learn Japanese, all you bakas should too.