Look on my Works, ye Mighty
Thought to have been written somewhere around the 8th to 11th century AD, Beowulf is remembered and read to this day. Released in 1941, Citizen Kane is still lauded by critics and watched by many a film lover, with a Blu Ray release having come out only last year. Will individual games have the same lifespan?
Video gaming will certainly exist in the future (as long as there isn’t some kind of giant apocalyptic event) but how we play them will change. By their very nature, video games try to push the boundaries of what technology is capable of. When Nvidia releases a new graphics chip, the biggest games try to take advantage of it, try to create the best graphics, the best AI and the best gameplay mechanics. But it is this very reason that individual games will have trouble staying relevant after a long period of time. Graphics, AI and complex gameplay mechanics become outdated incredibly quickly, causing the very things that made the titles ‘groundbreaking’ to be ‘outmoded’. The more games rely on using the latest technology to their full potential, the more they rely on the technology being the latest for their game to be seen as a great title.
Simple games, on the other hand, are able to survive the test of time to a far greater degree. Tetris is huge right now – it sold 100 million copies on mobiles between 2005 and 2010 – despite being originally released in 1984. Equally, Pac-Man, Pong and Asteroids have managed to remain titles that people still play and still love. Admittedly, a huge part of their current success is due to nostalgia or their place in the gaming landscape, but new gamers still love the titles when they have no idea of their rich history.
Maybe some of these simple games from the late 70s, or those developed by indies at the moment, will be able to remain compelling for new audiences in the decades to come, but the biggest games will not. I can’t see myself playing Uncharted 2 in 20 years time, but I can imagine that I might end up playing Tetris while my holoplayer is buffering an AAAA game over the cloud.