Preserving Our History: Good Games Never Go Out of Style

Illustration for article titled Preserving Our History: Good Games Never Go Out of Style

Rob Zacny has a thought provoking piece up at the Escapist: on the whole, we're the worst genre when it comes to preserving our history, even the great classics acknowledged as 'great.' In a society - never mind technical area - where progress and marching forward is the name of the game, it's not exactly surprising, but a problem nonetheless. And not just for the history buffs among us:

Gamers are used to this problem by now, but that doesn't make it any more tolerable. Imagine if nobody could listen to a Duke Ellington record, or watch a Hitchcock movie, or read a Yeats poem. Not only would that rob us of our cultural inheritance, it would eliminate the influence that these artists have on contemporary culture. The same principles should apply to games. As gamers, we need to recognize that some games are more than disposable diversions, and that their relevance endures even as the technology that created and supported them falls into obsolescence.

Preserving and promoting classic games is vital to the health of the entire industry. In gaming, as much as any art form, "merit" is not always self-evident. Anyone with a passionate interest in game development should have a sense of what has already been achieved, and that cannot be developed if gamers are only playing "the latest and greatest" titles.

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Zacny suggests a concerted effort at rereleases, a 'classics revival' of sorts. I'm personally quite excited by the fact that several institutions are making a concerted effort at planning for and undertaking archiving of games and consoles - I hope, much like my beloved books that were out of print by the middle of the 19th century but were lovingly reprinted in the 20th, we see a trickle down effect from that. A more concerted effort on the part of publishers would be fabulous, but that will require an audience hungry to purchase this stuff.

Excellence Never Goes out of Date [The Escapist]

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DISCUSSION

As someone who grew up with the original NES and watched the industry mature along with me, I hate to say it, but the better comparison for games are toys, not films.

Retro gaming will endure the same way retro toy collecting will. Enthusiasts will always find a way to maintain original works or create "vintage" fascimiles. It's the next generation's version of all the creepy things Baby Boomers buy at flea markets for the real deal, or pay an obscene amount of money for a replica Flash Gordon lunchbox-and-thermos combo.

Some games will become digital equivalents to a toy like the Slinky or traditional board games such as Monopoly, that are enjoyed by generations of kids and adults. If nothing else, you can bet that Super Mario Bros. will be available in its original 8-bit glory for our grandkids to play (and hurl a controller in teary-eyed frustration when a poorly timed jump lands on the business end of a Bowser fireball right before the fucking princess. Life sucks when you're about six and lack the vocabulary to express how those Nintendo games could get you so incredibly pissed off).

Apart from a select few bonafide classics though, gaming as a medium just doesnt have the same sense of timelessness as "legitimate" art forms. I think the SNES was the best system ever, and sprite-based graphics reached their apex on that platform. Those games have aged a hell of a lot better than PS1 or PS2's nasty-ass low polycounts and awful draw-in, or the 64's smudgy textures.

Just my opinion, but I tend to avoid classic gaming as a rule, preferring to view them through a lens of blissful nostalgia. At the time, Mario 64's graphics were revolutionary, and blew me away when I lined up to play it at a Toys R Us. But now they suck. Yeah, yeah, graphics aren't everything, but they definitely stick in the back of your mind when attempting to trudge through one of yesteryear's forgotten classics and know there's a sizable backlog of today's games waiting to be played in hi-def glory.

I wouldn't want to go back and ever think as an adult that a game I loved so much as a kid now sucks.

Random question, but what "bit era" are we in these days? 16-bit, 32-bit was PS1, 64 was obviously 64, I think PS2 was 128... but after that it got hazy. Was Xbox also 128? It had better graphics... and I don't even know what the GameCube was. Now we've got three more systems, and I don't even think they use bits anymore to classify systems. Hell, I never knew what it meant as a kid anyhow, but I knew that 32 was twice as much as 16, which meant some pretty sweet fucking shit was gonna be out for Christmas (I believe I thought that verbatim).