Your Gaming Future, Gaming Past

Matt Barton's picture

In my upcoming Matt Chat with Scratches designer Agustín Cordes, we talk a lot about our perspectives on classic games such as Myst and King's Quest, and how those have changed over time. Agustín says that he doesn't consider Myst (1993) to be a vintage game, simply because it feels too modern to him compared to the earlier King's Quest (1984). It made me start thinking about how we perceive time when talking about individual games. There is 9 years difference between Myst and King's Quest, but 18 years have passed since Myst first graced the Mac (16 for PC). It seems to me that each year that goes by seems to compress that 9 year gap to make it seem shorter, so that it seems like Myst followed very closely on the heels of King's Quest (and thus I feel comfortable grouping both under the category "classic"). For Agustín, on the other hand, that gap seems much wider, perhaps because the Myst-style is still "modern" in the sense that most adventure games still follow its model.

These observations have me thinking about the future and how these various "game ages" we talk about now will seem then. Dan Carlin (of Hardcore History and Common Sense podcasts) like to say that in the future, the history books will combine the two world wars and ignore the gap in between, which will seem more like a temporary ceasefire than an actual break between wars. I wonder what will happen to games. Will we even perceive a major break between the disk and CD-ROM eras, for instance? Or will it seem like a very minor development barely worth a footnote?

I'm also trying to think on a grand scale about what achievements and breakthroughs in the gaming and computer industry will still hold fifty years from now, and which ones--that seem critical now, mind you--will be delegated to the footnotes. Will there be talk of a "videogame crash" of 83/84, or will it seem that the NES just picked up immediately where the American consoles left off? It seems like a big gap for most of us, but I can imagine why a future historian might consider that period too brief to warrant such a grand description.

I even wonder if fifty years from now historians will even bother to separate console from computer gaming, since that division will probably make little sense (at least if current trends towards virtual machines and cloud computing continue). My prediction is that they will be much less concerned with devices and platforms and more focused on the important games.

On a final note, I'm wondering what the various "Top" lists will look like fifty years from now. Will any games from the 80s, 90s, or even 00s be on it? I suppose classics like PONG might remain simply because of their importance in establishing the industry, but will games like King's Quest or Myst be worth mentioning? I suppose the big question is whether those genres will have continued in some form.

How do you feel about time and history when it comes to games? Looking back over the history of gaming, and peering forward to its future, do you see clear shifts (or punctuations) that will become even more distinctive and definitive, or more of a gradually flattening curve? 50 years from now, will anyone still care about the move to CD-ROM or the early arcade-obsessed console industry? How many of the games currently considered "classic" and historically important will just be forgotten, replaced by later games that will seem so much more sophisticated and innovative?

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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The Top/Best of lists thing

The Top/Best of lists thing is indeed an interesting conundrum. I think the only fair way to do it is via categories. In the case of videogames you'd have to do "Greatest Games up to 1979", "Greatest Games from 1980 - 1989", etc., and then determine if it's better to break it down even further, like action/non-action. Even though other forms of media suffer from this, there's such a technological gap between games of different eras that it's all too easy to trivialize the quality/importance/fun of something from say the early 80's to something from today.

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Carmine
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Joined: 09/05/2010
That's such a doozy of a

That's such a doozy of a topic, one I frequently discuss with my old man.

At this point I think the difference between PC gaming evolution and console evolution is huge. MS-DOS cranked out Wolfenstein 3D and Doom which essentially birthed the genre that is taking over gaming as we speak. The two platforms played off of each other. Without John Romero, Goldeneye wouldn't exist. Nobody under 25 even knows who John Romero is. Practically nobody at all knows who Warren Spector is. It's concerning to me that plenty of teenagers are well aware of classic cinema and music but virtually none are aware of classic games and their creators. Is it because games as a medium have always been toys as opposed to art? What was the first artistic game? Was it Myst?

clok1966
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its alwasy been a sore spot

its alwasy been a sore spot with me. Best of lists always seem to favor the newest. I think its becuase those gameplay sessions are freshest in ones mind. The other problem with best of lists, as stated already, many of the people making them havent seen/played the old games. AND IF THY do.. how can playing a DOOM game compare with the lastest COD to a person in his early 20's.

I look back, if I wanted to point to some KEY moments in my gaming life. DUNE II, the first RTS i has played (and suprisingly I did Own Herzog, but never really thought of them as the same type of game). That forever defined my take on RTS games, it was waht all others where judged by. The feeling of playing that when it was NEW, it cant be understated. Everquest will forever define my view of MMORPG's. I played Muds, I played Meridain59, I played UO.. But that feeling of a full 3D world, the utter fear of working my character up to 15 and dieing... how would I find my body again? What if I died with a bunch of mobs around me, how would I get it back? What would I do if I was naked and had to start with nothing at level 15? At that time when I was playing it new.. that was all AWSOME!!!!! it sounds like crap nowdays, but at that time, true loss was a real part of MMOPRG's and it made you do every single thing in your power to make sure it didnt happen unlike nowdays. The whole genre has changed massively. What was one time thought to be intense fun by 100,000 people now is looked at as a horrible annoying grind and to brutal for the Dainty players of today. Death shouldnt be HARD! WTH? I have to work back my exp since i died? this is no fun... Sorry, my point is, we look at some games 100% different now.

To sombody who actually played those games when they where new, they where NEW! Thye where exciting. Take somebody now how was to young to have played them, but has played video games for 5 + years. How could they get excited about DOOM? Kings Quest? MULE?

They would look at those games and hate the crude look, the limited choices, the small color palet, the bad interface... they simply would not see what the original players saw.
We are to a point where there is very littel new, just "inovation" (had to use that! :) ) of old ideas. If you really look at new games, what is special about them? Graphics, yes, most have wonderfull graphics, but that is a result of hardware not game design (of course artitist o make it make a difference, but older games wouldhave looked better with better hardware, look at all the tircks they did to do some very cool efect back then)... Ok next? Better interfaces (this one is one I can jump on the bandwagon) new stuff? not really new ideas on how to show old stuff, yes.. Story telling, not really, easier to tell it more vividly yes! Dont get me wrong, alot of old games had no story.. But take a look at Star Control, awsome deep story you had to figure out. And there are others.

I would have a hard time saying COD:BO should be a game that sits on the shelf with Kings Quest, DUNE II, Wolfinstine,Zork.. its didnt do anything but take an idea and refine it a very fun ane entertaining game.. but there is nothing new in it. Now before anybody says anyting BO is a great game, but will it be remebered as somthing that changed gameing? How? I didnt see anything in it that was new to me.. again, thats not a bad thing..

and my point? it will be on sombodys best 10 games of all time list? why? simply becuase a relook at doom to a guy in his early 20's is like us going back and playing marbles.. it would entertain for a few minutes.. but we would lose interest quickly..

Bill Loguidice
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I guess it's a relatively

I guess it's a relatively straightforward scenario, Clok. For instance, I consider "Fight Night Champion" one of the best boxing games ever (been playing that a lot lately). But does that mean that it's the ONLY great boxing game? Absolutely not. So how do we rectify a game that has the latest and greatest state-of-the-art audio-visuals and gameplay to match, with games from the past that don't have the same audio-visual prowess, but also have a compelling (and different/unique) take on the gameplay? By any measure they're all fantastic games worthy of play, yet there's arguably one that's better. So we can say (for the sake of argument) that "Fight Night Champion" belongs on the list, but since no one single game is perfect, how do we effectively account for earlier games that don't quite reach the same level, but are still great, worthy, and perhaps even timeless classics? That's a tough one and I think that's why any "best of/top" list just begs for the use of eras.

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clok1966
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agreed
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I guess it's a relatively straightforward scenario, Clok. For instance, I consider "Fight Night Champion" one of the best boxing games ever (been playing that a lot lately). But does that mean that it's the ONLY great boxing game? Absolutely not. So how do we rectify a game that has the latest and greatest state-of-the-art audio-visuals and gameplay to match, with games from the past that don't have the same audio-visual prowess, but also have a compelling (and different/unique) take on the gameplay? By any measure they're all fantastic games worthy of play, yet there's arguably one that's better. So we can say (for the sake of argument) that "Fight Night Champion" belongs on the list, but since no one single game is perfect, how do we effectively account for earlier games that don't quite reach the same level, but are still great, worthy, and perhaps even timeless classics? That's a tough one and I think that's why any "best of/top" list just begs for the use of eras.

Well I guess it does depend on the lists intentions too. I look at cars (sorry.. im a car nut) the first car is the basis of all that came after it, quite possilby the very REASON all cars came after it. Now as far as what a car does it cant compete with a modern car (shich in turn will most likley look primative in 50 years also). SO which is the ost important in automotive history? the older one roles down the road, is self powered and such, the newer one has many more options, is faster is just better in every way. I still look at it that the first one would belong on the list of most important autos.. it will be remebered 1000 years from now, the best car today wont be. The electric car craze, while its not the first, the Chevy EV was one of the first to be used by consumers... its barely a footnote today (almost hidden) it was not a smashing success, but it was a success. (conceprisy theroy people can nmow talk amongst yourself about big oil).

Wolf3D, Doom will long be remebered.. the BEST FPS today will not (opinion) in the grand scheme. But the person who started playing games 3 years ago would look at doom and not understand its place in creating FPS's to them it would just be an ugly flat 2-d shooter.

On boxing I would put 4D sports Boxing as the greatest.. though I would much rather play the Fight Night ones (just picked up the latest off ebay for $12 but havent checked it out yet).

it is certianly a good topic to discuss, and many views are "good" even if they conflict.

What game made in the last year will be a "kings quest" "doom" 10-20 years from now? I cant think of many (heck none from last year).. Company Of hero's changed RTS in the last few years. HALO (i hate giving it any props) changed console FPS... What else? Dont get me wrong, 100's of great games. But changing games? I wonder?

Bill Loguidice
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Well, I guess part of the

Well, I guess part of the fact that we appear to have fewer "changing games" today, clok, than in the past is because the industry is so much more mature that it's much harder to do something truly unique. That's what happens in every industry. Once a new industry gets out of its infancy, it becomes much harder to clearly innovate. It doesn't mean it doesn't happen, though, it just becomes much harder to spot/distinguish itself.

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gilgamesh (not verified)
Good games are timeless

It is just like movies. Each year dozens of action movies are produced, but if somebody asked a group of people what action movies they knew, there would be only a hand full of names on that list.

Take chess for an example. The rules evolved over the centuries, but now they seem stable. Although the history of chess may be very interesting for its own sake, but it doesn't add to the game itself.
Now consider Tetris. Tetris was instantly in a stable state. You just can't make a better Tetris.

Really, I think those stable states are the ideas of games, which are rather timeless. One or two prototypical games will be remembered.

Matt Barton
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Most people don't care about

Most people don't care about "firsts" or pioneers, not really. Do you know the first science fiction film, or the first movie that used CGI, etc.? That's kind of fun trivia, I guess, but most people (including movie buffs) don't give a shit about it.

What people care more about are really GREAT movies, movies so good that they stand the test of time. Nobody with a brain watches Apocalypse Now, for instance, and complains about the lack of CGI or that it wasn't in 3D or whatever. Same for most every great film that people remember and care about. We can say the same for music. Who besides guitar nuts cares about who the first person to use tapping was? Or the first to use a synthesizer? I mean, fun stuff, I guess, but not of interest to most people, including serious fans.

So, what I'm saying is that there will always be some trivia buffs who will remember Doom, if it's going to stand the test of time, it'll be because of the gameplay and other less tangible features (aesthetics, style, nostalgia, etc.) The same way we prize an album or movie -- Hendrix is still considered a guitar hero, for instance, although plenty of later guitarists can easily beat him in terms of notes per second, to say nothing of all the digital effects at our disposal now. He's just great, period.

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gilgamesh (not verified)
First CGI in a movie
Matt Barton wrote:

Do you know the first science fiction film, or the first movie that used CGI, etc.?

Star Wars ;-)

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Sorry no... Future World

Sorry no... Future World used computer generated graphics for faces. Unfortnalty it sucked... both the computer generated 3D and the movie.. Westworld is much better (for those who dont know FutureWorld is the ... er... crap that followed Westworld). Star Wars was the first use of it that looked good maybe. And there where many shorts before those. The TRUE first 3d in a movie that people paid to watch was in early 76, a french movie (which was credited with inspireing FutureWorld to use it).

As for first sy fi movie.. Trip to the moon? it was like 1904-5 i think... its been copied a million times.. Smashing Pumpkins used it in one of there videos. I have it on an old DVD collection of very early Si Fi movies.. its listed as the first on that.. but no idea if it is.

Guess those questions much like this discussion depends on what you feel the meaning of those terms are.

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