Is history linear or cyclical? At the top of the New Year, it is pretty typical to get philosophical over questions like these during slow news cycles. While we won’t go so far as to join Battlestar Galactica fans by intoning, “All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again,” we will note that some things this week in history (January 4-10, 2009) do sound strikingly familiar, including the many woes of Midway, the constant force of CES, the déjà vu of Xbox marketing, a game that has yet to appear, and even a little side note in Escapist history.

On January 7, 2000 Christian groups protested when the city of Chicago gave $2 million to local game developer Midway. City officials claimed the grant was awarded to keep Midway from relocating from the city and would protect at least 700 jobs. The protestors claimed the grant was a civic endorsement of violent games such as Mortal Kombat. These days, Midway’s fighting for survival with no relief grant in sight, although the company’s woes are hardly new news, financial and otherwise.

One tradition that’s as solid as taking the tree down after the holidays is the Consumer Electronics Show; the winter edition is held in Las Vegas every year during this week, give or take a couple days. Sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, this trade-only event plays host to many product previews and new product announcements. Although the first CES was held in the summer many years ago, the first winter show was added in 1978. Twenty years later, Las Vegas proved the more popular show of the twice-yearly event, and the schedule was officially changed to a single show in 1998. Along with the other typically large technology milestones, the original Xbox was first unveiled at the 2001 show, when Microsoft chairman Bill Gates proclaimed the device the “future of videogaming”. The phrase would come back over four years later via the press as Microsoft prepared to redefine the future of videogaming again, this time discussing the Xbox 360 in spring 2005.

Returning to this week in January 2001, 3D Realms announced the addition of “Texture Grunt” Timothy Wilson to the team on January 9. Billed as the “final piece in the DNF staff puzzle,” he was quickly put to work on Duke Nukem Forever He also worked on Max Payne as part of the “3D Realms Strike Team”. Last January, Max Payne and its sequel were made available for purchase on Steam. Duke Nukem Forever still isn’t for sale.

In local news, does anyone remember January 8 in 2006? Here’s a tip – it was the day that Yahoo! selected The Escapist as Pick of the Day, noting the magazine was “by and for the men and women who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s along with the dawning videogame industry” and commenting thoughtfully that through it all “The Escapist remains a magazine that knows (and remembers) what gaming is all about”. It is still true, even today.

Researcher Nova Barlow has adopted the CES strategy of planning in advance and already knows what she’ll be writing this week next year.

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