Playing a videogame before the primacy of the internet was a simple prospect. We read about the game in a gaming magazine, pre-ordered it, got a free t-shirt on launch day and went about the business of playing it. If there were problems maybe we bought the strategy guide, but more likely we called a friend and got the answer or worked through the problem together. Videogames existed within a fairly simple infrastructure, one that other forms of entertainment were far better at incorporating into their larger experience. Strange as it sounds today, videogames were, in a sense, off the grid.
Now, of course, they are very much on the grid and deciding to play a videogame can become a very complicated process. At least it is for the obsessive among us. It’s easy enough to get lost in the hype machine of blog rumors, leaked screenshots, trailers and previews, to say nothing of the obscure pockets of fandom and ASCII decorated game guides. At times it can be overwhelming, but there is no doubt that our videogaming experience is much richer for it.
Of course the game itself is still of paramount importance, but in playing a recent release like Dragon Quest V on the DS, many of us aren’t just playing that game, eyes fresh, but rather a title that comes with the burden of history, a history that many of us weren’t aware of until we read about it on the internet. And in finally playing that game, it becomes more than just Dragon Quest V: It is an artifact, a lost classic and the inspiration for new stories and art. Videogames can finally offer an experience that is well beyond the mere game itself.
This week we celebrate the all-encompassing reality of the internet by looking at how it has changed the way we think about games, and what things might have been like had videogames stayed off the grid.