Uphill, Both Ways

Uphill, Both Ways
Mega Man: A Transmission from Another World

John Constantine | 27 Apr 2010 12:28
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You hear it all the time: some millennial trolling on a board wondering what happened to the Sega or Namco of old. "What happened to those Japanese developers that made games so weird and colorful that they were practically narcotic?" "What happened to the blue skies?" They never went anywhere. Mega Man 10; after all, it isn't really a different game than Mega Man. We just know a whole hell of a lot more about it, and that's what's really at the heart of any perceived differences between gaming today and the so-called salad days.

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Gamers have much more access to information now than they did in the 1980s. American games journalism was born out of the then-larval audience's hunger for any content about videogames. Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz started Electronic Games Monthly - not to be confused with Electronic Gaming Monthly - in 1981. They recognized the gulf separating creator from consumer and moved to fill it with the sort of enthusiast publication most hobbies already enjoyed. Electronic Games Monthly, like almost every early gaming magazine, including the previously mentioned Nintendo Fun Club newsletter, was more of a base promotional tool rather than a fount of insider information, analysis, and cultural discussion.

These early publications were catalogs before they were anything else, and while they certainly made those early gamers aware of what was available, they weren't exactly brimming with information about who was making these games. Whether they were Japanese or American, their origins were still, in large part, mysterious. As games journalism evolved alongside the medium into the '90s, the editors and writers of magazines like Next Gen and Gamefan started to shed more light onto the creative minds behind gaming. But, even then, these publications only came out once a month. The audience, hungry for more information about their favorite games had limited access to it, which the advent of new media changed.

Throughout the late nineties and into the early Oughts, online games journalism and online gaming communities were still relatively limited in their scope and reach. Online sources certainly started to fill some of the information gaps that were present in the early days of the medium, but they were in many ways still bound by the cycle and role of print journalism. Gaming Age and The GIA were staffed by the types of inquiring writers thirsty to detail the ins and outs of every game under the sun, but these forums weren't as common as fan sites devoted to individual games and franchises. Stumbling upon some Geocities page devoted to Blaster Master in 1998 didn't illuminate the inspirations behind Sunsoft's game. It merely enhanced the game's natural strangeness by the fact that it inspired such a totemic devotion.

Later, though, as internet access became ubiquitous, outlets like Kurt Kulata's Hardcore Gaming 101 started to appear, which offered exhaustively researched spotlights on games old and new alike. Coupled with the rise of blog-centric games journalism and a daily news cycle to promote games, it became close to impossible for any aspect of a game's creation to go undiscussed by the now massive gaming populace.

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