Issue #251 of The Escapist Magazine was called Uphill Both Ways and we had a collection of articles positing that the best days of gaming were somehow behind us. John Constantine wrote an article (Mega Man: A Transmission from Another World) that decried the lack of mystery around today's games, specifically the difference between the first Mega Man in 1987 and Mega Man 10 this year. Issue #252, The Way of The Future, was the counterpoint. Jason Della Rocca wrote in Gaming for Our Future that games will soon infect so much of our lives that the term "gamer" will be irrelevant.
Both John and Jason agreed to conduct a debate, of sorts, between their two viewpoints. We sat down over the interweb and took sides: Old School vs. New Wave. Nostalgia vs. Innovation. Click play to hear John Constantine and Jason Della Rocca debate it out.
But as we are writers before orators, I also collected the opinions of Constantine and Jason Della Rocca in fancy print form. Here is the debate that raged over email which inspired the debate above.
The Escapist(TE): Are the best days of videogaming behind us or ahead of us? Why?
Jason Della Rocca(JDR): Yes.
Wow, first question out the gate and you already send us into an infinite loop. This is not an answerable question. On the one hand, so much about games is focused on the idea of progress: actual progress within a given game, progress of the technology, progress of the art form, progress of the business. However, on the other hand, so much about games is the experience of play. And that experience is personal and not necessarily driven by the same notions of progress. Meaning, the tech behind games continues to improve as we look ahead, but, perhaps my personal play experiences reached their peak when I was a pre-teen playing with my neighborhood buddies.
John Constantine(JC): Jason, you're absolutely spot on. The question flat out can't be answered without games just disappearing from the world tomorrow. It's difficult to argue that the medium itself isn't better today than it was thirty or even just fifteen years ago simply because they're so much more accessible to people. The proliferation of cell phone technology alone puts games into the hands of millions and millions of people who would have had to actively seek out a platform to play them on back when. That said, it's hard not to be a little wistful for a time when there was no playbook for designing games. Thirty years ago, there weren't so many different established rule sets (this game is a platformer, that is a puzzle game, etc.), so making games was a more strenuous creative act. So games, and the art of making them, may not have been better in 1985, but it was certainly more exciting.
TE: What have we lost since the 8-bit generation? What have we gained?
JC: The newness of the creative process I just described is both a loss and a gain really. It's sad for that period of striking out into the unknown to end but, as Jason mentions, it's a good thing that there's an established language for discussing and making games. The craft can be refined once it's defined, and all that. It's also good that the ability to make and distribute games isn't as constrained as it was during the 8-bit generation. If you have a simple, quality game, you can throw it up on Kongregate instead of trying to get it into an arcade or onto a console.
The one-thing I consider a loss that I explore in my 251 article is the end of gaming's mystique, that there's no mystery surrounding their creation. It's an issue that doesn't really affect the average gamer though. Unless they're the romantic type.