Revisiting the Classics

This month The Escapist has an excellent article, “Excellence Never Goes out of Date” by Rob Zacny, in which he argues that the medium of videogames is suffering because of its inability to access and appreciate its past. I really recommend you read the article, as its interesting and well-informed, and throws out what I think is a very good idea to get gamers to buy back into the classics. Indulge me while I block quote the last paragraph or so:

There are many reasons to doubt that more than a handful of diehard fans would pay to play a 13-year-old game in its original state. To share classic games with people who have never seen or played them before, the games would benefit from a little more graphical polish and, more importantly, supplementary content aimed at the passionate gamer.

Most serious gamers would probably appreciate a “collector’s edition” approaches to re-releases and remakes. Limited edition releases of Blizzard titles include books of design notes and concept art. And with The Orange Box Valve has proved that in-game commentary tracks are not only possible, but also enjoyable and informative. The importance of these extras is not that most people use them, but that they give the few who become creators, critics and enthusiasts the opportunity to explore the medium on a deeper level. We’re the ones who will shape gaming’s future – it’s only fair that we’re granted access to the lessons and achievements of its past.

Good call, Zacny! This is important because, as Steve Gaynor said in his interview with Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer (which Zacny has also beat me to the punch in quoting), “It does the medium injustice if you put all this work and time, instead of attempting to express something unique and personal to yourself through interactivity, you’re expressing the experience of playing another video game that you like, or was profitable.”

The gamers I know are adults with work to do, kids to take care of, social engagements to keep. They are also very intelligent gamers, steeped in the canon, always on the lookout for games that are original, intelligent, or forward-thinking. We just don’t have time to play another game that only apes other games. Maybe this is why the gamers I know who treat games as a medium worthy of critical thought tend to gravitate to more original visions, like Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, or No More Heroes, all games that draw more inspiration from art, mythology, literature, and pop culture than from recent videogames. In this way I think these games closely resemble classic games. Think of Miyamoto claiming that The Legend of Zelda was inspired by the expansive feeling of wonder he got from exploring the fields, woods and caves near the city of Kyoto when he was a boy, or the detailed sci-fi world imagined by the creators of Spacewar!. Zacny’s got more good points in his article than I do on this blog post, so go and give him a read.

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~ by Ian D. on June 30, 2008.

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