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Obsolescence and the Gamer

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

There are a few flirtations and love affairs we indulge in, as gamers. Not all of them are lovely. Often times we find ourselves stuck in unhealthy relationships with these mistresses. Callouses, eye strain, RSI, and the one that I think hurts me the most: the painful sting of obsolescence.

With technology advancing at a speed usually reserved for falling coconuts, our beloved games are superseded and replaced with bigger and better successors at a phenomenal rate. There is a new or updated platform on which to play games almost yearly, and the games being churned out for them are constant. I remember a time where one console would last you years, and games usually only came out just before Christmas. Of course this is great in some ways, it means we’re adding more and more wonderful components to our gaming platforms, and as such our games are capable of much more amazing and impressive feats. But there’s a looming downside behind all this progress. We’re losing our old favourites. People are trading-in their old consoles and games in order to pay for the new ones, leaving only the very keenest of keen that stockpile every console, controller, power adapter, cable, game, and accessory for every gaming platform they’ve ever owned. Are we going to lose our gaming history? Will it soon be impossible or at the very least extremely hard and expensive to take a walk down memory lane?

Thankfully, someone is trying to make sure this doesn’t happen. The National Media Museum and Nottingham Trent University in Great Britain have joined forces by setting up the National Video Game Archive, to ensure we remember where we came from. Their mission statement is to “preserve, analyse and display the products of the global video game industry by placing games in their historical, social, political and cultural contexts”. The National Video Game Archive (NVGA) is allowing visitors to not just play classic games in their original arcade or console formats, but to also understand what external factors motivated the designers and dictated certain decisions in the development of the game itself. Thank goodness someone is looking after the games that get thrown away after something bigger and better comes along. For those of us outside of the UK who can’t visit the NVGA in person, don’t lose hope. The major game development houses are doing their best to pump us full of nostalgia. Currently in the works are revamps of Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Donkey Kong Country, Metroid, Zelda, and Goldeneye, amongst others. It seems there’s more than one person lamenting the loss of our old favourites, and doing their best to bring them back into our lounge rooms.

Obsolescence is sometimes inevitable, but most of the time you can fight it by holding onto the games you adore. If you’re sick of the sting of obsolescence, put the time and money into making sure you can be backwards compatible. Make sure you find the cables you need to input into your shiny new television. While trading in seems like a great way to save money and be a frugal gamer, don’t get caught up in constant upgrading. Make sure you show respect to the games that shaped you as a gamer and brought you to where you are today. I will always tip my hat to the games that firmly put me in Gamerville. If someone told me to choose between eating again and my Nintendo64, I would have to seriously think about it…

Drear-E3

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

A few weeks on from E3 and I’ve finally emerged from the shock enough to write about it. It shouldn’t be a shock. It has always been this way and it probably always will. No it’s not the wonders of the Kinect (previously known as project Natal), nor the Move, nor the douchebag from Microsoft. It was the fact that the best display we have of the most ground breaking, state-of-the-art gaming related technology was the same as it is every year. Each year I almost fall asleep while watching the press conferences, and yet each year I remain surprised at this fact. Don’t they say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviour over and over again and expecting a different result? The dreariness of E3 may have turned my nutso up to eleven.

I’m amazed that a group of professionals whose job it is to entertain people can be so incredibly characterless, insipid and mind-numbingly boring. Why do I need the head developer to tell me about the game or the new console? Their job is to make the thing, not sell it. The intros and cinematics were great, they got me all pumped up, only to be disappointed once I saw a lacklustre human start talking. Is it too much to ask to have professional public speakers or those without massive sweat patches and trembling knees give the keynote speeches? Where is the gravitas?! I want to see someone with some idea how to captivate an audience. You’re asking me to part with a fair amount of money to buy this new gadget you’ve made, give me orators! Someone to get the people on their feet. Every single speaker representing “the big 3” (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) used the phrase “This. Will. Change. The way. We. Play. Video Games” enough abuse of the dramatic pause! In the wrong hands it looks like an awkward silence. The pause has seen too much! Can’t you just leave it alone? You cruel heartless bastards.

Microsoft unveiled a few upcoming titles, notably Gears of War 3, Halo Reach, COD: Special Ops, Fable 3, and some softer motion based titles through the Kinect such as Kinectimals and Kinect Sports. The new Xbox surprised me in terms of how little it had to offer. A bigger hard drive and built in wifi was about as exciting as it got, with a slimmer casing, and still no Bluray support (Guys what the hell… seriously…). Their focus was clearly on developing the Kinect. Lots of word stumbling. Lots of sweaty underarms. Shameless abuse of the dramatic pause.

Sony grabbed 3D by the balls and ran with it at E3 this year, with massive titles available in the new dimensional trend such as Killzone 3, Mortal Kombat, and Gran Turismo 5. They also showcased their motion based gaming peripheral, the Playstation Move, which looks like it may be a fraction cheaper than the Kinect upon release, with a single controller costing around USD$50, and a PS3/Move bundle running at about USD$399, and boasts titles such as SingStar Dance, and TV SuperStars. Still boring when a head started talking, but not actively bad, just felt more like a presentation to the board rather than one to the public. More shameless abuse of our much mistreated dramatic pause.

Nintendo won the show for me. Having had the upper hand with already having motion based devices and games in the market for over 4 years, they really had the room to completely leave the others in the dust. Logic was on their side dictating that clearly if they have had motion control for years already and the other companies are just now catching up, that they must be at least 4 years ahead of what everyone else is doing. You could be mistaken for thinking surely they must hold the key to the future of gaming. What did Nintendo show us as the future of gaming? The past. Nintendo’s big drawcard this year was revamps, and nothing gets us nostalgia-buffs panting like a good revamp. New Metroid, New Donkey Kong Country, New Zelda, New Goldeneye, and featuring everyone’s favourite mouse, Epic Mickey. They weren’t to be left out of the innovation wars however, with the Nintendo 3DS making it’s debut strapped to the torsos of a bevvy of beauties. Just to kick Sony while they were down, the 3DS doesn’t need 3D glasses, either. Ouch Nintendo! You saucy minx. Still a fairly monotonous performance in the conference, and the most painful blatant molestation of the dramatic pause in the entire expo.

As the dramatic pause packs for a well earned holiday before bracing itself for the barrage of abuse it will no doubt encounter next year, I find myself in the same position as usual. Underwhelmed with the presentation, but excited about the content. Perhaps that’s the point. To showcase the amazing work these people have done, and not let it get lost in bravado, pomp and circumstance. The more beige you make the speakers, the more vivid the videos and gameplay seem. Perhaps it’s the digital equivalent of cleansing your palate before moving on to the next tasty morsel, and it leaves me wondering what our taste-buds might be treated to next year.

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