Thursday, December 19, 2013

Response to Tobold's Question about whether older games are still relevant.

Being lazy here. Tobold asked "How Long Are Games Relevant?" and I was inspired to write a fairly long comment. This poor blog is a bit short on attention recently so I though it would fit here as well.

It isn't just games. In every area of culture we humans have an insatiable demand for novelty. Extremely worthy contributions from a few years back are ignored in favour of the "next big thing".

The issue is muddied somewhat in the field of games because the rapid pace of technology means that older titles are often uglier than modern games. However I do not believe that this is the main reason people do not play older games. Minecraft became a major mass market success in recent times even though it looks like a 1990's game. How many folks are still queuing up at movie theatres to watch Finding Nemo? How long has it been since The Da Vinci Code was in the best seller lists? Technology has not moved on substantially in the fields of movies or book publishing and yet those blockbusters of 2003 have largely been consigned to history.

There will always be a niche market of enthusiasts who learn about and enjoy older works. Gog.com and to a certain extent Steam are catering very well to those markets in PC gaming.

For the mainstream mass market however older works get forgotten except for a small number of stand-outs that have become cultural reference points like the works of Charles Dickens or the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.

I think it is fair to say that some older games have become such cultural reference points and are therefore still relevant. Super Mario springs to mind immediately. In PC gaming Doom probably qualifies even though I believe it is almost unplayable for modern gamers. Call of Duty certainly qualifies because of its enormous legacy even though most of today's players have probably never seen the original.

Please note I am not talking about the "Citizen Kane of video games". While "Citizen Kane" is a stand-out movie that has become a cultural reference point it is most noted for having revolutionised the genre and raising the artistic bar for all future movies. Not every cultural reference point has to do this.

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