Uphill, Both WaysMega Man: A Transmission from Another WorldUphill, Both Ways - RSS 2.0
The other key factor in the dissolution of gaming's one-time mystique is that we gamers are no longer alone. Something that kept gaming so strange and fantastic to players was that there was no way for them to communicate en masse. Yes, there were MUDs floating around on the early networks, but gatherings of game players were confined either to living rooms, basements or arcades. While the ability to easily communicate with each other doesn't necessarily equate to a better understanding of games themselves, discussions with like minds certainly goes a long way towards demystifying the medium. Just knowing that someone else besides you noticed how bizarre and hilarious early translations of foreign games were (the coda of "Fight Mega Man! For Everlasting Peace!" springs to mind) made them seem slightly more normal. The emergence of online gaming communities and interacting directly with the press - once the gatekeepers of information - removed the isolation that early gamers experienced.
It isn't really a loss that gamers no longer live in a vacuum, though. Great games aren't diminished by the constant stream of news and information about them being released twenty-four hours a day. The fact that games are as common and as easy to ignore as newsstand paperbacks, that they are less mysterious to the non-gamer public, is an overall positive development. More people play, more games are made, and creators continue to refine and invent. We are, at this precise moment, witnessing gaming's golden age.
We live in a time where games are enjoyed by anyone who can get to a PC, a TV or even a phone. In addition, the tools to actually create them are accessible to all, demystifying not just the artifact, but the process of their invention. Bizarre, quirky games in the old Eastern tradition or Western-style simulations are made in every shade imaginable. They are cheaper to buy and to make than AAA titles. There are opportunities to create games that don't serve any consumer needs, but express only their creator's vision.
Mega Man 10 may not be dramatically different than Mega Man, but it is a better game. It isn't as strange of a game, though. It is less secret and befuddling, and as a result, not quite as alien. Mega Man 10 is a story from Japan, a very familiar, very real place, and it is a story explicitly built to speak to gamers familiar with it and its creators' history. It is no more mysterious than Sonic the Hedgehog 4, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, or any number of recent successors to games from an earlier, more ethereal time. Our appetites have grown alongside our access and, especially for the serious gamer, we have started to treat games with less gravitas than we once did. Games are better now, but they will never again feel like weird missives from another reality.
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.