Op-Ed

Op-Ed
Old School vs. New Wave

The Escapist Staff | 4 May 2010 18:00
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This is a continuation of the videogame debate Old School vs. New Wave. Click play to listen to the debate or read on for more insight.

JC: Back when my old blog for Nerve 61 Frames Per Second was still up and running, passing on game literacy to my children was something I wrote about on a regular basis. In the same way that my own father shared the sci-fi and western pulp novels he was raised on, I look forward to making sure my child's teeth are cut on the NES adventures and platformers I was. Great as the games we play today are, damn near all of them are rooted in the same fundamental mechanics as the games made twenty-five years ago. They are the Rosetta Stone for the entire medium at this point.

Unless something happens in the near future that changes that--say Natal, the PS Move, and the next Wii iteration spark some kind of motion controlled renaissance for example--a familiarity with the classics will be fundamental for game designers, if not game players.

TE: How much of a sense awe has been lost? Early on, when a game was released, say when Sonic the Hedgehog first came out or FFVII, there was much ooh-ing and ah-ing over the new concept or clever use of technology. Have games advanced so far and become so ever-present that we no longer are impressed by huge leaps? Or are there just less huge leaps?

JDR: Regarding awe, it still here in massive doses. Sadly, the awe often gets overshadowed by the mega releases like Call of Duty.

Fine, the raw graphics may not longer have the same oomph. But who cares? In many ways, that's the least interesting element to be in awe of! I was blown away from Chris Hecker's Spy Party prototype. The graphics are super basic, but the psychological engagement is beyond belief.

Let's be done graphics and tech related awe, and focus on other aspects of what games can deliver. FYI, consumers have already moved on, and is largely why the PS3 (banking on graphics/tech awe) has done so poorly versus other platforms providing different experiences.

JC: I think there's little to no awe left in gaming, at least not the same sort of, "No way is that even real!" surprise that followed the release of games like the aforementioned Sonic or FFVII, or especially titles like Super Mario 64. When the Dreamcast and Playstation 2 released at the turn of the century, reactions to new technology had already become grounded by realistic expectations. Yes, games like Soul Calibur and Metal Gear Solid 2 looked fantastic to gamers, but they were merely matching expectations. The leaps aren't as dramatic as they used to be, but even bold new aesthetics in games, like the stylization of something like MadWorld or 3D Dot Game Heroes, things that would have dropped jaws twenty years ago, are met with enthusiasm but not awe.

TE: Why are so many gamers and developers currently obsession with older games (remakes, demakes, etc)? Is it just nostalgia or indicative of the current state of the gaming industry?

JDR: This is not a particularly interesting phenomena. Recycling, regurgitation, refreshing content and culture is standard among all forms of art and entertainment. So, I see this as healthy and would actually be concerned if it wasn't happening.

JC: Definitely not indicative of just the current gaming industry. Like you said, Jason, arts and entertainment repeat themselves naturally.
(If it ain't broke, don't fix it, etc.) Games' history of iteration and reiteration is interesting though, because it's been defined by stiff jumps in technology in the past. Console releases, a game type/franchise is made, it's iterated on with sequels, technology jumps forward with a new console, game type/franchise is remade to accommodate it. I think it's very possible that going forward, as technology evolves at a more fluid pace and is no longer segregated by platform, game makers' obsession with older games might seem less formulaic, if not less consistent, than it does now.

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I want to thank John Constantine and Jason Della Rocca for taking the time for this debate. If you're interested in more from their points of view, take a look at Mega Man: A Transmission from Another World, John Constantine's article in issue #251 and Gaming for Our Future by Jason Della Rocca in issue #252 of The Escapist Magazine.

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Jason Della Rocca is a jet-setting strategy consultant for the games industry. He tries to game everything, and blogs about it via RealityPanic.com.

John Constantine is a freelance games journalist whose work has appeared on The Onion AV Club, MTV's Multiplayer and 1UP.com. He is the founder of 61 Frames Per Second and wakes up every morning hoping Chrono Trigger 3 is announced.

Greg Tito wishes that this debate was settled cage match-style instead of polite musings.

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