Thursday, July 28, 2011

Links, Links, Links and Appreciating Older Games  


Games: So, I find myself playing another XBLA game that's currently under embargo. However, this is certainly a title that deserves much praise from what I've seen of it so far...

I've put in a request asking to specify whether I can talk about it (or not) as long as no official review is published, but in the meantime, let me just say that [redacted!] is pretty friggin’ SWEET.

... seriously, nothing but love for it.


In case you missed the links on Twitter or haven't been to GameCritics in a while, I just had a couple of new reviews go up. Click on these to see what I had to say about Bastion, Akimi Village and From Dust.

Also, the most recent GameCritics Podcast (episode 56) is now up, and it's a real monster. Featuring a bunch of games, a little bit of movie discussion, and an event-filled interlude with a drunk-dialing @RichardNaik, there's a something here for everyone. You can download and listen to it right here.


My friend @PeterSkerritt is an extremely sharp guy and he has a lot of really on-target things to say about the gaming industry. One of his recent blogs talk about some of the mistakes that Capcom has made recently, and even though I'm someone who has a lot of love for the house of Mega Man, I certainly think Peter is preaching the gospel here. Check out what he has to say.


Finally, I can't quite remember what brought the subject up again, but I often think that it's a shame that a lot of older games don't get the appreciation they deserve. Or, more specifically, I think a lot of players lack an appreciation of history. [disclaimer] It's a bit of a complicated problem and I'm not sure that I am awake enough to do the entire subject justice at this particular moment [end disclaimer] but it seems to me that there are two main issues here:

The first is that many players trying older games for the first time lack historical context, and the second is that games, moreso than any other medium, suffer from the rapid pace of improving technology.

Still good.
As an example of the historical context problem, put Goldeneye 007 (N64) in front someone who's never played it before, and I guarantee that their reaction will be less than positive. However, people who are old enough to have played it when it first hit often speak of all-night multiplayer binges in reverent tones. The difference there is that people who have the proper context know what gaming was like at the time, and what it was like before Goldeneye made the strides in multiplayer that it did.

I'm not saying that current players must play the game and love it the way that older folks do, but I do think it's important to remember that particular games became milestones for a reason, and forgetting that means forgetting how we got to where we are today.

Still good.
The second issue, improving technology, is a fairly obvious one.

Anyone can go to the library and pick up a book from ten, twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years ago and appreciate what the author had to say. Oh sure, some of the language may be different, but the barriers to benefiting from such a work aren't really that high. The same goes for films. Anyone can track down a movie from the last few decades and watch it, and although special effects and production values have risen quite a bit, the quality of the performances and the message of the writing will still be able to be enjoyed. That enduring quality does not seem to hold as true for games.

I'm not trying to say that current gamers are shallow, but it's rare when I meet someone who’s interested and motivated enough about educating themselves on the medium to put up with the graphical quality and technical issues of a game from last generation, let alone two or three generations ago. That is, of course, completely putting aside the issue of the logistical difficulty of finding the games and hardware to play in the first place…

(For more on this, my friend and former E3 roomie @KyleOrl wrote a piece on his own journey of discovery here.)

I think there’s a lot of value in seeing where games came from and what they used to be like. Not only does it give a greater appreciation for the quality of games being made today, but it also shows which "innovations" are actually iterations on ideas previously put forth and provides a lot of insight into current design. I'm not even forty years old, but when reading certain reviews or talking with gamers younger than myself, it seems quite clear that many of them have large gaps of knowledge that, if filled, would increase their appreciation of the hobby, not to mention informing discussions and examinations of same.

Still good, but good luck convincing modern gamers of it.
What's the solution?

Well, I've certainly got a few ideas of my own, BUT I'm interested to hear the thoughts of my blog’s brain trust. So... if you've got some ideas, what say ye?


What next?

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1 comments: to “ Links, Links, Links and Appreciating Older Games



    I think establishing some kind of videogame canon would be a great thing for young and older gamers alike. Yes, canonization -- in any medium -- is an essentially political process, but I'd be willing to put up with the drawbacks if it meant allowing more gamers to be aware of their videogame heritage.

    The problem, and I would add this to the two you mentioned in your post, is that videogames are -- for the most part -- beholden to the hardware they were programmed for. Sure, there are legitimate emulation routes a la Virtual Console, PSN, etc, but how much of the original experience is lost in translation?

    Pure fantasy, but what if there was an honest, legal way to play, say, select levels of certain games? Super Mario Bros 1-1, the initial Pacman maze, a boss from Final Fantasy VII -- cornerstone gaming moments.

    A dispassionate videogame canon available online through emulation. That would be something.