Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Play and Discard Culture

We have a pathological obsession with the new.

This is true for most people in regard to most things; from here come the trends: the teen vampire trend, the fashion trends, the anti-carb diet trends... We humans like new stuff, and we have a tendency to think new is better than old.

But tech enthusiasts have a particularly severe case of the "new" disease, and among them, video game enthusiasts are probably the worst offenders. 

We are always looking to the next big thing; we play games while fantasying about the possible sequels; so much, that in fact, many games are already produced with sequels in mind. Every month, several "good" titles, titles that people have enjoyed and talked about months before release, are left discarded by the wayside, another footnote in the history of gaming.

Conversation about those games ceases one, two months after launch; interest vanishes. How many good games has a player missed, how many development lessons has a developer left unlearned, simply because that one-month-old game disappeared from the enthusiast consciousness, relegated to the back catalog of an online retailer with a 60% price cut?

Sure, most people in gaming will put their connoisseur hats for Deux Ex, Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy VII, System Shock and another handful of high-profile classics - and even then I would argue that these pillars of our hobby are analysed and discussed far less than they should be. But this is not about those games.

Where are we talking about the otaku culture influences of No More Heroes? Why is not more virtual ink devoted to the lovely cultural awareness and intricacy of Shogun II?

Why is discussion about a title limited to a couple of months after it comes out, and - very rarely - years after the fact, when it becomes retro-chic?

I'm tired of feeling the pressure to ride the new wave, to write about the new. And this does not mean I only want to hear about retro. Rather, I want people - and gaming press - to be able to have a conversation about Assassin's Creed II. About Just Cause. About Crysis. 

A video game, in most cases, even when it's not a very good one, is a wonderful construct with a lot of moving parts, and can be a joy to explore and talk about. I recently had a great time blitzing through notoriously weak Saturn action-RPG Virtual Hydlide, because I went into it with a particular perspective, and in doing so the game provided me with an experience that went beyond the mere act of playing it.

So, what do you think it would take for more games to be relevant for a longer period of time? Why are we so fixated on the new and so dismissive about the not-so-new (until it becomes vintage)?

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