I remember Pong.
I remember the tabletop Pac-Man at Godfather’s Pizza, screen smeared with tomato sauce and littered with red pepper.
I remember the old Safeway had the original Mario Bros. and Joust stand-ups and I sucked at them both.
I remember having the highest score on Donkey Kong Jr. at a Mexican restaurant somewhere in Dallas, then going back later and seeing my initials replaced by YYZ. I don’t remember my score.
I remember Pack Rat at Showbiz Pizza. I remember Rampage at Dave and Buster’s. I remember Aaron Lord who had every Nintendo game ever made. I remember the shut-in kid I used to play with just because he had more Nintendo games than I did.
I remember getting Kid Niki for Christmas and leaving it paused just before the Mad Monk while I left for an eight hour family dinner – only to come home to a smoking console.
I remember Final Fantasy and all the hours spent gaining levels.
I remember finding some bizarre negative world in Rygar and crashing the game.
I remember how the arcade version of Willow was a hell of a lot better than the NES version.
I remember seeing a PC game of Batman and couldn’t understand why the graphics were so much better than anything I’d ever seen before.
I can’t remember if I had my first orgasm before or during the title sequence of ActRaiser.
I remember playing Doom on my church’s office computer – it was hidden deep in some folder.
I remember the trial version of Descent and the frustration of games costing money.
I remember getting chills watching the cutscenes of Final Fantasy 7 and Parasite Eve.
I remember the first time I saw my name on a leaderboard of an EA Sports game, or on the jersey of a player I controlled.
I remember my first house in Ultima Online, and my first Guild, The Wild Bunch. I remember getting married in game and writing reams of the Further Adventures of Griegan of Yew.
I remember Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell, and that porn star in Wing Commander 3.
I remember my first dwarf hunter, Raechoryn, my first wolf pet, Tordrumae, my first ram mount, my first raid. I remember telling a girl she was alright even though she’s Horde and her boyfriend hearing instead, “You’re alright, even though you’re a whore.”
I remember the near impossibilities of playing mages in Baldur’s Gate, and being frustrated that my character had the same picture as an NPC.
I remember the first time I was called a n00b, and it conjured tangental visions of Saibotic black ninjas. I remember being kicked from my PvP guild for being caught RPing. I remember my Squad Leader Bouncer saying “You’re the best pilot I have, but if you can’t devote more than four hours a day to this campaign, then I’ll have to boot you.”
I remember all the games that sucked, that were over-hyped, that pandered to elitist scum, that tried to please/rape everyone.
What I don’t remember is giving a shit what everyone else thinks about the video games I play, and the video games I enjoy.
I write this on the day that NHL 13 comes out. I wholeheartedly plan to purchase it, reducing its cost by trading in a handful of games I have no desire to play anymore.
But let’s stop reminiscing, and get back to reality.
Where will gaming go?
Small games irritate me. Small screens irritate me. Is it because I can’t see that well? No, it’s because I’m not that kind of gamer. Casual gaming is the reality television of the video game industry. Video games are a business just like any other – profit is priority number one. On the console/PC side, your desires for chat bubbles and the ability to sit in chairs is secondary to pleasing the PvP crowd. On the mobile side, if you put it in the app store, they will play it.
There IS a market for mindless repetitive games and micro-transactions. There IS a market for hardcore FPS and elitist-packed MMOs.
There is LESS of a market for full immersion gaming, whether multiplayer or single player, and though the masses don’t scream for chaotic evolutionary content, or player/character emote synergy, the role-playing aspect of all video games is the path to the future of gaming, not farming, not blockbreaking, not social gaming, not PvP, and definitely not linear progression.
There are people that want to be who they can’t be in reality and the gaming industry continuously ignores that section of the community in favor of stat junkies and casual gamers – even though its readily apparent that virtual reality will serve neither of those cross-sections of gamers.
There is an intersection of the sciences and the arts, that, as long as purely capitalistic desires don’t corrupt it before the inevitable merging of streams, will become the new escapist utopia.
Advanced artificial intelligence merges with scientific theory, from the quantum level to the evolutionary, to open the door to more realistic environments and settings for games. The writers and artists join forces to create vast awe-inspiring multiverses of original, evolving content. Our devices get faster, more intuitive, become part of our existence in a way that makes our current obsession with gadgetry seem like a monkey’s obsessions with his own feces. Our technology becomes an extension of the soul, not the extension of our selfish egotism – our empty narcissistic desire to accumulate followers, friends, and contacts.
We no longer play the game, we exist within it.
Gaming becomes alternate reality. Movies become interactive immersion. Art becomes the expression of every man, not the prodigious few sponsored by the directors of what’s hip. The linear storyline and gameplay become reactive and epic. The end game disappears and the leaderboards fall to dust. You no longer win games, you exist within them. You don’t gain levels, you gain wisdom and knowledge from an alternate existence where the barriers of the physical world are brought down to allow your imagination and creativity to flow freely without the barriers of society and its acceptance of your desires as worthy.
In the beginning, there was a video game but no one to play it.
The video game gods said: Let there be the score junkie. Let him separate himself from the pixels of the screen and become one with the accumulation of wealth, whether through hard work or exploitation of code.
And there was a High Score. And it was good.
Then the video game gods said: Let there be the tactician. Let him observe and record the exact mechanics of the game and use the knowledge to reach The End in the shortest amount of time, with the most lives.
And there was Hard mode. And it was good.
Then the video game gods said: Let there be the ritualists. Let them play the game until the buttons stick and the joystick breaks for nothing more than the act of playing, and let him boast of his devotion.
And there were credits and extra lives and continues. And they were good.
Then the video game gods said: This game is good.
But from the void came another type of player, on his own, and he asked the video game gods: Why is the ape throwing barrels at me? What’s my motivation for destroying the alien invaders? Are these asteroids headed for some colony? Aren’t ghosts just empty calories? Who is launching those missiles and have we tried diplomacy? If we had extra ships, why didn’t we just team-up to begin with instead of letting the bugs steal one of them? Aren’t I doing more damage to the environment than the centipede? Is it logistically sound to have such a busy road next to an alligator-infested logging conduit with nomadic frogs?
And the video game gods said: Let there be a plumber, and a princess in another castle.
And the new player responded with: Isn’t that the same guy with the ape problem, if so, why do nefarious creatures continue to kidnap his chick?
Video game gods: Look, here’s a nice warrior type guy.
The Player: Where’s his sword? He’s not trying to save a princess too is he?
Video game gods: Uh … Why not take a drive?
The Player: Where’s the clutch?
Video game gods: Pilot a jet fighter?
The Player: Can I invert the Y-axis?
Video game gods: Look you can control a cartoon!
The Player: I TOTALLY PUSHED THE SWORD BUTTON!
Video game gods: Look, what do you want from us? The other players don’t complain nearly as much as you.
The Player: I want to be something I’m not.
Video game gods: A professional football player!
The Player: Sweet! I want to play an offensive lineman!
VGG: Why the fuck?
The Player: It doesn’t matter … its not a complete experience without the option, whether I ever play a lineman or not.
VGG: Don’t you want to just try and beat the other team? Beat the Final Boss? Get the Highest Score? Find all 50 Hidden treasures? Take the warp zone to the end? Unlock the secret level?
The Player: That seems like a waste of time. What do I get out of that?
VGG: Bragging rights! A sense of accomplishment!
The Player: I want something more.
VGG: Here, build a city.
The Player: Is it really more efficient to put rails everywhere?
VGG: Fight in a tournament!
The Player: Didn’t I just “FINISH HIM!”?
VGG: Explore a world and pretend you’re a warrior, magician, thief, or cleric!
The Player: Heeeeeeey! This is pretty cool.
The Player: How come my armor doesn’t change even though I just picked up some different armor? Why can’t I go over there? Why does it seem like I’m just running errands all the time? I always need something someone else has to get something I need to get somewhere you won’t let me get to face a monster I can’t kill unless I have a certain thing to get to the end of the story? I would neither give him money nor just kill him. Why is armor so distracting to mages?
The other players: These games are awesome. Are there any cheat codes, exploits, or shortcuts?
The Player: Look, I want a game that I don’t have to play 24/7 to enjoy, but can pretend its a real world where my character matters to the overall story and can affect it, and can easily just hangout with other players who like to play the same way I do. I don’t want to be forced to play with other people, or buy stuff with real money, or get to level 50 and have absolutely nothing else to do but run around in highly populated areas flaunting my sparkle.
VGG: That’s stupid.
The other players: Sounds pretty pointless to us.
VGG: How about throwing birds at pigs?
The Player: Not interested.
VGG: Everybody’s doing it.
The Player: On that small of a screen?
VGG: Smaller is cooler.
The other players: It’s the future.
The Player: So we want the industry to spend all their time and effort to create the best they can for a screen the size of a healthy fecal deposit just because we can?
VGG: Yo, do you have Words with Friends?
The other players: What the fuck, you’re playing The Old Republic?
VGG: Dood! Stupid n00b.
The other players: /fail
– – –
The Player: I want a movie that’s epic, believable, doesn’t have a cheesy twist, isn’t marketed solely on the previously popularity of the A-list star, isn’t a thinly disguised attempt to market a political stance, cultural meme, or product, speaks to my intellectual side, but doesn’t patronize me, challenges my view of the world while simultaneously reinforcing my own spiritual and scientific beliefs, has believable action sequences to progress the plot, not stagnate it, doesn’t contain as part of its soundtrack a song by Flo Rida or Taio Cruz or Taylor Swift or Kelly Clarkson or that guitar-carrying dipshit with the long hair and grey shirt and tight jeans, isn’t a remake of a franchise that was never that good in the first place, is original, but not a mash-up of genres, that isn’t lorded over by a deranged writer who thinks annoyingly slapstick aliens will speak to a new generation of fans and continuously changes the story whenever he gets constipated and pissy about Howard the Duck, and doesn’t repeat a formula that previously worked for the sake of the safety of repeating a formula that previously worked.
Hollywood: Do you like throwing birds at pigs? Sparkly vampires? Pretentious explorations of the human condition starring Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, The Rock, or Kristen Stewart?
– – –
The Player: I want a series of novels with an epic storyline, no sudden reversal of fortune or messianic self-realization, that’s light on erotica but heavy on cleverly disguised references to philosophies I am proud to be unique in my following of, isn’t obviously just a straightforward whodunnit that’s been hastily disassembled into frantic bits and played out in reverse, doesn’t try to reinvent a genre by stagnating it through making it more acceptable to a wider audience, that doesn’t presume science fiction either involves spaceships, aliens, or robots, isn’t a rape of Tolkien or Lewis or ancient mythology, and doesn’t try to shock me with its depiction of the oral abortion.
The Literary Gods: We regret that we cannot make use of your submission at this time. Please do not resubmit and please wait two weeks before submitting additional manuscripts.
– – –
My point is, after riffing on a ridiculously inappropriate idea that really had nothing to do with anything but my own amusement with my experiences with games, film, and literature, that Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games have become stagnant in their creativity, and that due to their overwhelming popularity, they’ve attracted corporations who wish to capitalize on the success of one or two popular titles by mimicking them and hastily pasting a successful franchise over a dated structure. Like Hollywood and the literary world, there is a wealth of creative ideas being ignored for the formula, the remake, and the star-heavy summer flick.
SW:TOR had great potential, but it has been wounded by the fanatics of other titles, the greed of corporations more concerned with what has worked instead of what might work, and the naivete of a public that still doesn’t understand that George Lucas sang the words of a song that was playing in all of our heads anyway.
I loved World of Warcraft, but in the end, I didn’t enjoy it. I had more fun beta-testing Lego Universe.
Mass Effect was brilliant … but what comes next? More shooters, more dead franchises, more zombies, more irate fowl, more bastardization of the English language, more PvP-centric games featuring apes and barrels and get this freakin’ duck away from me.
– – –
I wrote a story the other day. It began with:
While living the last of his seven lives, a man felt disparaged at his lack of meaningful experience.
It ended with:
His death was neither swift nor painless. His fingers parted the seas of his own blood pooled on the floor of his demise as he convulsed in desperate lashings of his appendages. The man couldn’t remember being happy, even as his throat constricted to a pinpoint sphincter and his lungs screamed for just one last breath of air. He didn’t waste time begging for gods to save him. He didn’t waste mental energy running through his life from birth to that moment.
The man had one thought:
It could have been better.
– – –
So ask yourself, next time you save that princess, next time you walk out of a film featuring a stone-faced box-of-hair intriguing actress like Kristen Stewart, next time you leave the instance, next time you set down the book you just finished, next time you stare blankly at the credits of the TV show anticipating the next in the marathon …
Ask yourself: Could it have been better?
And then force yourself to admit why it wasn’t, regardless of what’s been tweeted or expressed by other people that aren’t you.
And then ask: Why is the ape throwing barrels at me? What’s my motivation for destroying the alien invaders? Are these asteroids headed for some colony? Aren’t ghosts just empty calories? Who is launching those missiles and have we tried diplomacy? If we had extra ships, why didn’t we just team-up to begin with instead of letting the bugs steal one of them? Aren’t I doing more damage to the environment than the centipede? Is it logistically sound to have such a busy road next to an alligator-infested logging conduit with nomadic frogs?