Game studies author Professor James Newman believes this focus on technology over content comes from the games industry refusing to celebrate its own cultural heritage and learn from its mistakes and successes. In his upcoming book, Best Before: Videogames, Obsolescence and Cultural HeritageM, he said that the discourse used by the games press and industry marketing constantly fixes the audience's attention on forthcoming releases. "We, whether as players, academics, or members of the global industry, simply are not encouraged to place value on old games," explained Newman, who is also co-founder of the UK National Videogame Archive, which aims to preserve and catalogue the cultural heritage of games. "There is a tendency to fetishize future developments which effectively closes down the discussion of old games and relegates them to legacy systems or marginalizes them as retro curios. The best game is always the next game, and this tendency to reduce videogames and gameplay to replaceable, upgradeable technologies that are, whether 'new' or 'old,' always inevitably poor imitations of an imaginary, perfect and perfectible future, has serious consequences," he said.
The progress that games have made, including innovative milestones such as Heavy Rain, should certainly be celebrated, but the crucial thing is for the industry to continue to strive towards cultural importance. Without self-awareness and self-criticism, there is little hope that games will find their creative comfort zone. While there is undoubtedly money to be made in churning out yet another highly polished FPS with a familiar franchise title, the longevity of such a strategy is highly questionable, not to mention what it means for the cultural legacy of the medium. By looking at what has already been done and learning lessons, the industry can finally come of age and grow comfortable in its own skin.
Games can stop being gadgets and become art, regardless of what Roger Ebert might say. Gaming can leave behind exploding cars and move on to producing its masterpiece or touchstone work of art like the oft-compared Citizen Kane.
Discovering what that will be is the entertaining part. Citizen Rain perhaps?
Alice Bonasio lives in the UK and writes for games™, 360 and Edge Online. She has recently been involved in a project with the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and researched gaming trends for Professor James Newman's book Playing with Videogames.