Old School vs. New Wave

The Escapist Staff | 4 May 2010 14:00
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This is a continuation of the videogame debate Old School vs. New Wave. Click play to listen to the debate or read on for more insight.

JDR: Oh man, another monster question! I'm not even going to attempt to catalog all that has changed over the years ... Hmm, hard to say what's been lost? Certain genres perhaps have met a Darwinian extinction at the hands of time? I'd say simplicity of play mechanics, but that's back again with casual/mobile games.

From the plus column, I'm mostly interested in questions of "language". The language of game design and the language of play. Simply put we have a far greater vocabulary for the creation of games. Sure, there's still a lot of voodoo magic to finding the fun, but overall, the process of creating a game is understood, is formalized, can be taught, and so on. Of course, movies followed a very similar trajectory ...

And, the same is true for greater swaths of the population being game literate. Greater levels of literacy allow for more sophisticated explorations of the art form. To some extent, you have more faith that the audience can follow you.

TE: Both of you mentioned the genres that may have fallen by the wayside as technology advanced in the videogame industry. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What types of games that were made in the past should be made now?

JC: Sometimes it's a good thing. No one misses FMV games, right? But it's tragic that certain gaming experiences disappear completely thanks to changes in the way we physically play games. New tech like the Wii Remote brought lightgun-style shooters back into people's lives, but the experience of sitting in a specialized arcade cabinet for a driving or spaceflight game has gone extinct, and it's unlikely it'll ever return. New gamers can play a graphically amazing new After Burner in the comfort of their home, but they'll most likely never get to climb in a custom cockpit built for the game. Genres can be reborn provided a creator revisits and revitalizes them, but experiences like those found in the arcades of the early 90s are almost gone for good. That, put simply, blows.

TE: How do the experiences of kids playing Modern Warfare 2 for the first time differ from a kid playing Mega Man 2 when it was released?

JDR: This is a literacy issue. Those who started playing games at the start of the industry, were able to learn gaming with training wheels on, and then graduate accordingly. None of us had to dive right into CoD.
One game led to the next. One input more or interface gave me confidence to understand the next. 2D lead to isometric view to 2.5D, which held my hand into the world of 3D, and so on.

There isn't much thought given to this idea of literacy and graduating players across increasing complexity of gameplay. We normally think more so about content: cute and cuddly for the kids, big guns for the grownups.

Those earlier games are still around, of course. As well as similarly "simpler" fare versus CoD, but there's usually peer pressure to be playing the latest and greatest that new gamers are hesitant to play a bit of games types that have training wheels.

TE: Jason, you talked about the literacy of games. Are so-called kids games adequately preparing the younglings to appreciate more adult games? Mirroring how a child is taught to read, should there be a better progression from primer games, to young adult games, to more adult-themed games? Are enough parent's "reading to their kids every night" by playing the right games with them when they are young? What are the "right games"?

JDR: On the question of language/literacy, no one is doing this in any deliberate manner in the industry. It comes down to parents taking the time to introduce their kids to the "classics".

All of the kids games are either "edutainment" style math/etc games, or cartoon licenses. There is no early "language of game" learning series. It's kinda sad.

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