Press Released: The Golden Age

Sean Sands | 5 Sep 2008 21:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

Super Mario Galaxy, Bioshock, God of War II, Portal, Braid, Call of Duty 4, Spore, Team Fortress 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Mass Effect, World of WarCraft: The Burning Crusade, Half Life 2: Episode 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Gears of War, Halo 3, Crackdown, Oblivion, Sins of a Solar Empire, Forza 2 and Rock Band.

That's not really including many handheld titles, XBLA or PSN games or even the increasing relevance of the iPhone and its related games. And, that's to say nothing of upcoming titles such as Diablo III, Starcraft II, Fallout 3, Warhammer Online, Rock Band 2, The Force Unleashed, Little Big Planet, Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, World of WarCraft: Wrath of the Lich King and countless others.

The games industry seems poised to string together what, I think, is arguably the strongest three consecutive years of gaming since the mid 90s and possibly ever. This success flies in the face of the occasional malaise that too often characterizes both gamers and developers. Despite the certainty of only a year ago that the price and restrictiveness of gaming had become a serious barrier to entry, the 360, the PS3 and certainly the Wii have built strong foundations and are now churning out compelling releases.

But, I think the most important indication of a golden age reaches beyond the revenue and games canon. I think the real indications of a golden age are seen in places like the grandparent picking up a Wii Remote, my wife and friends playing Rock Band, the popularity of casual games, the fact that my PS3 is as much a DVD player and shop as it is a game player, services such as Steam and Stardock, the interoperability and compatibility of electronics that can access traditional gaming platforms. The innovation of the industry, of which there can always be more, isn't isolated to games but extends now into fulfilling some of the long-held promises of hardware.

There are serious problems and issues still to be addressed in the industry, among them: the matters taken up by Brad Wardell's Gamers Bill of Rights; a constant battle over the pervasiveness and effect of piracy; restrictive DRM and games that "phone home"; skyrocketing costs of development including manpower and equipment; the continued erosion of faith in the games media. But, for whatever reason, these problems have not interfered with the ability of the industry to evolve and thrive in a complicated marketplace, and hopefully haven't infused gamers with such an overwhelming sense of ennui and entitlement that they aren't able to recognize a renaissance when they're smack in the middle of one.

Sean Sands is the founder of gamerswithjobs.com and a born again gaming optimist.

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