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eisley's blog

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eisley avatar 4:26 PM on 05.11.2011  (server time)
Using Movie History to Ponder the Future of Gaming, Sort of

Aside from games I've always had a love for films. I'm anticipating my third film class, fourth if you count the one I took in high school, and I think I actually might be getting tired of watching movies. But never mind that, I've noticed several similarities over the years between the history of the film industry and the comparatively young history of the video game industry. This shouldn't be surprising, most major mediums (music, TV, comics) have had a similar history of early acceptance with the younger generation and harsh judgement from the older generation. This is something referred to as the legacy of fear, and it seems to be inescapable. There's also the fight to be recognized as art, and while looking over the chapter about when film was officially considered an art form in one of my textbooks I can't help but wonder if the very recent legal consideration of games as art (in the U.S.) will be something marked upon years in the future.

Those aren't the similarities that drew me here though, and this isn't really a history similarity but kind of. Each and every film class I have attended has been plagued with slackers. The kids who come to watch current movies, hopefully catch a small nap if the movie's not up to their standards, and do no classwork whatsoever. I must sound pretentious, but as someone who genuinely loves films I get irritated when a whole group of students feels the need to talk during the whole movie and then proceed to blatantly cheat on the quizzes. They have their opinions, I understand, but I also understand that there is a sad threshold that the majority of people will not cross when it comes to movie watching. I think most people won't go far beyond 1965 or so, probably not into the era of black and white films. And definitely not further into the era of silent films. I realized that I'm actually not too big on silent films but most of them are pretty short, 5 - 30 minutes, so no harm done. I'm not ashamed about that, but due to an epiphany one day in class I did feel shame when I thought about this in relation to my much bigger love for video games.

I have to admit that I cannot play anything that predates the SNES. I've tried, oh I've tried. As a young teen I tracked down a NES Legend of Zelda cartridge and received a working NES system from an older cousin after I put my family on a hunt for one. See, I started gaming on a SEGA Genesis, after my older brother had given our NES away and sold the SNES, and was desperate to "educate" myself on what I had missed out on. I was sorely disappointed, not that I don't respect the game, but that after conquering two dungeons I had no interest in returning to it. This was mainly because its difficulty was kicking me in the ass. I tried others to no avail. I feel bad about this still, but I think it helps me understand those classmates I previously spoke (not so kindly) of.

I am horrible at this game. Like, really bad.

I love the SNES and everything after it, but I can't bring myself to pass that threshold. I thought that forcing myself to do something I didn't enjoy would mean I loved games more, but that was a stupid thought. I wondered about the younger members of my family, who all play games of some sort (90% Wii and DS, and I think I can safely say they're not playing Super Mario Galaxy or The World Ends With You) and if they'd be interested in something like Final Fantasy V, a childhood favorite of mine. The massive popularity of casual games and online FPSs is not unlike that of the popularity of the blockbuster disaster movie or teen comedies, which appeared in the late 70s and early 80s and have stuck around to today. It's simple, business, whatever business, will replicate whatever makes money.

A game that I actually bought for my niece

There are several obstacles they would face comparable to my earlier comparison to film. There's the obvious aspect of graphics that will always be there since people want something that is pleasing to look at. Most games now are completely voiced, even handheld games are getting there. I know I benefited at least a little from being forced to read to figure out how to proceed in games but that might be a turn off for some in the future, it could be a turn off for people now I guess. My biggest concern is the evolution of control systems. All of this motion control hubbub very well could just be a phase or it could be the first step toward virtual reality, who knows. The point is, if motion control does become the norm people in the future may be shocked to hear that games were once played with controllers. I can imagine that that would be quite a big hurdle to leap for anyone interested in retro gaming.

In the future this won't look stupid.

Where does that hypothetically leave the threshold for video games then? Where's the threshold now? Are people reluctant to play anything before this current generation aside from nostalgic motivations, even? Will people rely on remakes of classics on newer systems to experience them? Sure, video game remakes are usually far better than remakes of classic movies, and sure it's harder and more expensive to experience classic games than it is to watch classic films (though with the classic game libraries on all the current systems it's not that hard) but I think it's still comparable. Am I terribly interested in what games the majority of current gamers consider to be too old for them? Well, no, people will like what they like and vice versa and I'm really not an elitist trying to shove the supposed "golden era of gaming" down people's throats. I just look forward to seeing it all play out and I am confident there will be a large number of people, like me, who are at least interested enough in this certain medium to check out its history for themselves.

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