Monday, March 07, 2005

Death Of an Industry

SEE! Spine-tingling drama as game companies crumble to dust!

HEAR! The lamentations of the game-craving zombies as their sustenance disappears!

REALIZE! That the game industry isn't going anywhere. No, really.

Of late I've read a lot of online essays/diatribes/articles that all share a common theme: whether due to an overwhelming oversight, a host of minutiae or reasons A, B and C, the game industry is doomed.

Maybe it's Chicken Little syndrome. Or just a bunch of Eschaton fetishists.

I'm sure this cycle is one that endlessly repeats throughout time concerning all mankind's creative endeavors. After all, how many drama-queen fashionistas have declared 'the death of fashion' time and time again only to find out that, y'know what, people want fashion no matter what the pundits say.

Those who wish to draw comparisons to the first crash would do well to take note of the extremely different economic and social factors in place at the time. That being said, the 1983 crash could have merely been a call to re-inject creativity and innovation into the game industry.

What I will allow is that the game industry may be headed for a crossover point.

As I pointed out about the 1983 crash, the game industry did not completely disappear. It re-grouped, re-established its priorities and came back with a whole bunch of new games and systems.

In fact, 1985 saw the birth of Tetris, Gauntlet and Super Mario Bros.!

So the current industry may be exhausting itself in the faster-better-more technology and eye-candy race. Does this mean that everyone is simply going to get fed up and discard the millions of console systems (not to mention PCs) like so many hula-hoops or pet rocks?


We could be heading toward another seeming Extinction-Level-Event that is really just the precursor to a fabulous new age of wonderful evolutionary changes - Or maybe we'll just chug along, with the industry churning out lots of crap, to be sure, but also making compelling, interesting and life-influencing games like The Sims 2, Half-Life 2 and World of Warcraft.

Why won't video games go away?

I know that, for me, video games are more than diversions. That would be like saying books are diversions (Walden had convinced me to live in the woods, or at least think about it, A LOT; Fight Club gave me the idea to make soap - and I did).

Video games help to make up my cultural existence. They are part of the basis for the way I encode the world, what is sometimes called the logogram. And when I talk to other gamers, our logograms create a compelling socializing experience. It isn't necessary in any way for me to know that 'wizard needs food!' But in a setting with other gamers, this could almost be like a code-word, a way of immediately knocking down personal barriers.

We see these experiences given top billing as concerns, let's say, sports.

Sports are physical negotiations, really nothing more than that - but in the context of a University game, they become a battle of wills, a clash of epic forces, reasons to laugh and cry and drink beer. Speaking the language can become either a way to belong (the various superfans) or a way to seem to belong (the way I note the Super Bowl score the day after, just in case I'm asked about it at work).

What I'd like is for game-players to stop calling our own death.

We have enough non-game-playing assholes doing that.

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