As the arrival of the next generation is literally knocking on people’s front doors I find myself in a reflective mood. Some people are already expressing disappointment with what they’re seeing. I tend to think they’ve had their expectations set too high. We want the huge leap that we got when 2D became 3D, or when games stopped being 3 flickery sprites and started to resemble actual games. As the frontiers fall away people still expect new ones to be broken – without realising that there may not be that many frontiers left to break.
I don’t think HD is a new frontier, I think it’s refinement. I don’t think motion senseing is a new frontier, I think it’s a gimmick. I think consoles and online options may still hold some surpises for us all – even then, these will be more subtle than the giant technological advances of previous generations.
For a moment, rather than trying to see where that next frontier might be and what might be done to break through it, cast your mind backwards. Take stock of all the achievements that have been made – all in the name of entertainment.
Space War and Pong – without any question, these are the foundations of every single game we play today. They started a ball rolling that has gathered so much speed and pace that it’s almost out of control. History books show what happened next – Space Invaders, Asteroids, Defender and others. Breaking down barriers of thought with their crude digitial stylings. Opening up sensations of entertainment and challenge that humans had never before encountered. These are milestones of an entire race – not just mere videogames.
With that, perhaps overblown, statement another realisation rings true: the great minds of these achievements are still with us. We don’t need to wonder about their processes and thoughts as we do with Da Vinci, Einstein, Shakespeare or Lennon. Those of us with an interest in the culture, meaning and origin of games are the privileged few. We can speak to the innovators! With the exception of a very few (Dani Bunten, Gunpei Yokoi) they are still with us and being productive. Hell, we can even email these visionairies directly or, at the very least, find current interviews with them by using the internet (Thanks to Tim Berners Lee).
In twenty years time, who is to say who will still be with us? Will we wish for a few more games from the sadly departed? Will we wish to have the time to ask them a couple of questions or to learn their processes and methods to better understand them and the medium we adore?
Today’s gamers have it all – the techonology and the achievements that make our passtime more than just a series of random dots. Not only that, but those that inspire, invent, create and revolutionise are still with us. They are the Creators of our passion. We should not worship them, but we should not ignore them or dismiss them. We are in a unique position to learn from the masters – future generations will not be so fortunate as us.
So, don’t be so quick to dismiss a box of circuits. Your energy would be better invested by counting your blessings.