My great concern is really this: Is are children learning. Or more to the point, are young gamers learning gaming history, playing classic games, and respecting the influences previous games have on the games of today. I was recently disturbed to learn that a few gamers I know who are younger then me (I’m 24, 25 on Feb. 23, hint, hint) had not played Super Mario World and had no desire too and yet they thought they could fully discuss video games as a whole. My concern really lies with the future of gaming discussion. I feel that this coming generation will have a gap in its gaming education since they weren’t raised with the classic games and they’re fine not finding out where their games came from.
Right now the people writing, discussing and making games either were part of that original videogame generation or grew up playing those games. We’re the 20-40 somethings and we only had an NES or Genesis to play with. The next generation of 20-40 somethings won’t have that background in gaming history and it doesn’t seem to me like anyone is giving it to them. While retro gaming is strongly popular it doesn’t seem to be as prevalent with younger crowds who didn’t grow up with it and unlike other mediums where knowing the classics in depth is pretty much required in order to discuss modern works there doesn’t seem to be anyone touting this line to the gaming community.
The question is what happens when a gamer weaned on PS1 and N64 decides he wants to talk about games? Will this generation lack the background it needs to understand where platforming comes from or how Doom influenced every FPS after it? Probably not entirely, there will always be gamers who know their stuff and take their gaming education into their own hands and they’ll be the best writers and the ones who make real steps forward in gaming discussion, but for the general (educated) public I fear there will be an entire generation who has no clue where ideas, game design and influences come from. Most educated people can give you a general background in film or literature or art. We all learned some basic stuff in high school and more likely got a more in depth education in college but no one is teaching games except the hardcore gamers and we don’t always get listened to. Someone forced us (for the better) to read Shakespeare, to watch or know of Citizen Kane, to at least glance at the Mona Lisa. No one is forcing us to play Mario, understand the mechanics of a puzzle game or demonstrate the influences Sonic had on a generation of games and they won’t be for a good long time.
Of course this sounds like fun to most of us, playing any game is our hobby, but a good chunk of people have no desire to play those games with the crappy graphics and no blood. Call these people ignorant or stupid but they are, in my belief, the general public and since no one is even giving them a cursory education in gaming this upcoming generation is missing out (not to mention earlier generations not learning) on an education that is going to be incredibly important as gaming becomes a larger and larger part of society. I guess, my great, and probably mostly unwarranted fear, is that the classic games will be missed by this generation that is coming up and it is the generation that will be carrying gaming into its heyday but all they will be able to remember is Halo or Bioshock or Galaxy and forget why these games exist.
That, of course, is a worst case scenario, the outcome won’t be that drastic as there will always be those interested in classic gaming and they will spread the word. But for most the time needed to go back and educate themselves in classic games is time they don’t have. Time is set aside to learn where writing, film and art comes from but not where gaming comes from. It is a scary thought to think that in the next 20 years the number of people who have never played Super Mario Brothers or the original Metroid will be decreasing quickly as new gamers only play new games. Maybe these people aren’t true gamers then but it doesn’t really matter as they do play games and they will spur game companies with sales and all they’ll know of gaming history is the current glut of FPS and that games like Zak and Wiki don’t sell well and no one is educating them otherwise…yet.
If you have lots of free time read my other walls of texts (since this seems to be a kind of ongoing theme that I pick up on eveyr few months):
How to Discuss Games as Art
Thoughts on Gaming Journalsim
Music in Gaming