(cross posted from ow)
Browsing around Gamasutra this morning and stumbled across this great Brandon Sheffield piece on game preservation and once again found myself wondering whether in ten years time, there’ll be a big black hole where this generation of games lies.
I’ll freely admit to enjoying the benefits that this uber connected-always-on world brings us and brings to our gaming. It’s an incredible time to have our hobby with so many things going on right now but more than ever, I find myself thinking that with the race to push the game player further and further towards service based, we’re kinda fucking it up a bit for future generations.
We’re already fairly reliant on piracy for preservation because the software industry is especially volatile, studios open, studios close, studios get sold on, people move on, time and hardware move on at a rapid rate. Companies buy IP but care little about heritage and why should they? They exist to make money not to preserve culture as icky as that is to me. Sure, there’s some money to be made from it in reissues but the amount of games that would be deemed worth reissuing? Not many, methinks.
The measures the industry is taking currently to combat their personal devil slims the chances of these things being easily preserved even further. Of course, it’s not just anti-piracy measures as egregious as those can be, there’s the move towards multiplayer and removing dedicated servers from the equation, there’s reliance on online scoreboards, social networks, all sorts of integrated things where each and every layer makes preserving the experience of a game even more difficult. Every service games get tied to is one more point of failure, one more chance of a server shutdown or service closing taking the game with it. Imagine for a second if we’d tied our games to Friends Reunited or to MySpace…
It wouldn’t surprise me to be looking back in ten years time definitely thinking “man, there’s just a black hole where some of the things we created were”, y’know? “Remember all those games we used to play but now can’t?”
John Anderson talked about a fair few of the issues surrounding the matter in his Where Games Go To Sleep series and the follow up Selecting Save On The Games That We Make, The National Videogame Archive is a thing that exists and that’s a good thing although of course, there always remains the questions of not just how to preserve things but what also. I’m in favour of The Museum Of Computing’s attitude of “all of it” and obviously, if it doesn’t include Williams’ Blaster then it’s all for naught anyway but that’s by the by.
There’s another aspect of preservation though that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while and it’s something that everyone can help in.
As a clue, here’s RR regular @ToreSupra damning himself for all eternity for Save The Videogame. We can all lynch him later, ok.
Over here in the UK, I’ve always found the way we talk about our heritage as a bit, well, fucking embarrassing mainly. This was brought home a few weeks back on the lovely Speccy’s 30th Birthday and rather than stand up and be truly proud of what we had, once again, we drift into the same pathetic arguments over which format was best, the C64 or the Speccy with the obligatory CPC owners looking on a little bit befuddled.
I know, I know some of it is mild entertainment and it’s hard not to resist a breadbin dig and they can still be rather funny but I bring this up to make the point that the one thing we’re tremendously good at in the UK is letting our games history become footnotes rather than achievements and milestones.
We’d sooner squabble than celebrate and that’s kind of a shame.
We don’t champion our quirky stuff nearly enough, we don’t champion the stuff that’s distinct, unique or y’know, just bloody fun anywhere near enough. Because we don’t talk loudly enough about our games. And we don’t really discuss them with a critical voice either. How else could we still have people walk the Earth believing that Rick Dangerous was a good thing to happen?
3d Monster Maze becomes a footnote in first person shooters, Ultimate are those guys that went on to make SNES games and Xbox avatars and we’ll talk of Jet Set Willy and Elite and Minter and Chaos but little else. Obviously Retro Gamer magazine puts in fine service on behalf of most formats and most games but it’s an outlier, we don’t talk about our gaming heritage, our gaming history nearly enough and when we do, we talk about the same things.
We’re the ones who grew up with these games, we grew up playing them, we’re the ones who’ll be first to hit up an emulator to play Obscure-o-game X and yet, we do so little to pass this knowledge on. We just don’t talk outside of our little forums and communities, we don’t give these games a chance to be heard or replayed by those who will never otherwise know about them. And that, also, is something that contributes to games disappearing into the mists of time. Because there’s no-one to tell their tale.
Who then, of the next generation of kids, will know about Technician Ted or Rapscallion or Tir Na Nog? How could they know? What are the chances of them stumbling upon any of them when the history of videogames consists of Space Invaders, Elite, Mario and something something something NINTENDO something something PLAYSTATION something something GEN3 APPLE?
You’d never know we had such a rich and diverse history in this country when it comes to videogames because it’s always Elite, it’s always Jet Set Willy and it’s always bloody Chaos or something.
So your task, for today and for the future, is to go out there and talk about the videogames you played and loved. Tell people what you found great about that pocket money game from Mastertronic with no shame because it’s one step closer to keeping these games and our history alive.
Write a blog post, make a youtube video, make a tweet, tell your kids. Shout about it. Talk about these things outside of retro circles, outside of retro meets and outside. Let’s talk about our games, the videogames that are special to us because if we don’t no-one else will.
Let’s talk about videogames. For the future and for the past.
 I’m with Paul Barnett on this one, sorry folks.
 Probably because they’ve never seen a game in colour before, only in green
 Unless it’s Rick Dangerous then SHAME ON YOU