Saturday, January 09, 2010

Video Games at the Close of a Decade

Because we're turning over into a new decade, we're reading endless lists and essays on the "Best This of the Decade" and "Best That of the Decade." With games, it's no exception, and I really do look forward to reading those whenever I find them. The medium is just frivolous fun, an entertaining pasttime, and a great social tool.

Videogames are also a young medium, one that is still discovering itself. What is a "video game" in the year 2010, anyway? Do we point to the quick-paced arcade games of the 1980s and 1990s? Do we look at the console platformers and sports games and adventures? Where do we factor in the home computers, the PCs, the dedicated consoles, the handhelds? Where do we fit in these new gaming arenas such as Flash, Facebook, and iPod? And how does this fit in with the endless technology rush to produce Hollywood-styled movie games and spectacular visual effects?

Games have evolved tremendously these past ten years, more so than at any other time, really. The rise of the internet as a disruptive force; the emergence of emulation, whose potential remains untapped; the development of new control systems like Nintendo's Wii Remote and Microsoft's Project Natal; the long-dreamt-of expansion of videogames into the general population, including women; the staggering costs of the seemingly endless hardware race, which threatens to collapse the entire industry. All of these have emerged in the first decade of the 21st Century.

This is why I'm so disappointed and bored by reading the video games sites and blogs. These larger issues are never discussed, or even acknowledged. Entering into 2010, gaming journalism is still trapped in Mommy and Daddy's basement, furiously munching on Cheetos and Mountain Dew while bashing away on First-Person-Shooter #5,006. Their world is no different today than it was during the heyday of Diehard Gamefan and EGM and GamePro back in the mid-90s. It's still only about Graphics Graphics Graphics, only now there's a new obsession with validation. Video Games as the New Hollywood. Video Games as High Art.

Videogame journalism is being left behind. That's another notable evolution of the past decade. The internet saw largely to this, and the expanding audience will play a larger role over time. The Boys Club has been crashed and there's no going back.

I think we should address all of these issues. There's a lot of fertile ground to explore and discover, and we should learn how to adapt to this evolving landscape. I'll try to do that, from time to time. I'd also like to take a look at some of the great games that may have been forgotten this decade. The hype machine, as usual, seems only interested in the last six months. I think we should remember our past. Videogames cannot be a perpetual motion machine, only locked into the present and immediate future. There is a rich and storied history, and that history must be preserved and respected.

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