Thursday, February 23, 2012

Needed: Video Game Preservation Society

Interviews with K 
Movies and video games are treated completely differently when it comes to age, kinda like men versus women. If I said, "Hey do you want to watch Spider-Man 3 tonight?" to some friends, there would be nothing special about that. But when K told his friend Shane he was finishing up Fallout 3 last week, Shane looked at him like, "Dude, that game's ancient."

The thing is, there's an artificial expiration date on games that doesn't exist on movies. For example, there's not much price drop between buying a really old or a really new movie, maybe something like $12 versus $19 (assuming the film didn't totally suck). Although you pay a premium to get the latest stuff as soon as it releases, there's not much of a pricing floor. If Ghostbusters was good in 1984, it's probably still pretty good in 2012. Old movies are in print forever and preserved in some form or fashion, but games are gone forever unless the publisher makes an HD re-release much later. Most VGs come out at $59.99, drop to $14.99 within 6 months, and then vanish from public consciousness. If you didn't get it then, you're out of luck unless you can score a used copy. Not cool and not fair.

Plus, with games, lots of great titles were released in the 80's, 90's and 2000's, but because of "technological advances" - ie, graphics – people are only interested in the latest and greatest. What does that really mean? From the PS2 on, games haven't fundamentally changed. Yes, Metal Gear Solid 4 looks better than 2, but the game play is hardly different. PS3 titles just look like higher resolution PS2 games. And nowadays, the resolution improvements are just a matter of degree, not radically different like night and day (anything past the PS1's primitive polygons tends to look pretty good).

Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and 4

Update: check out K's additional thoughts on the topic concerning Atari games and emulators

What do you think? Do games automatically expire or should they be preserved like movies? Would you still enjoy a game from 10 years ago?


AngelSan said...

DBF and I enjoy both new and old games. DBF even plays old Atari games sometimes, where there are really 3 pixels across the screen... But I don't think it's fair to ask the same price for an old game or a new one, because the technology and the investment isn't the same.

An old game could be made by a single person with a personal computer, but sophisticated new games need whole crews of people.

Old games are aready preserved onthe net, emulated. So everybody can access and try them.

Also, even if Ghosbusters is still good, it looks old, with people in old fashion clothes ;)

A Gamer's Wife said...

K's response:

No argument, very few people would pay full price for an Atari 2600 game these days! However, modern games have fully realized worlds and characters, and intricate stories and art - players spend a lot of time in those worlds (far more than with a movie, in fact). They're full-fledged entertainment products, yet they're quickly found in the bargain bin for $4.99. And in the future, games will only get more complex, more beautiful, etc.

As for emulators, they're not a common, mass-market solution; it takes a good amount of technical expertise to get an emulator running correctly. With movies, John Q. Public can get Netflix or Redbox movies playing immediately. (Not to mention, emulators don't reproduce games perfectly - sound and graphics are usually glitchy and altered.

Finally, there's the legal issue. Emulators exist in a gray area; there's technically no fully legal way to play old games. I can buy an old DVD and toss it in a modern player; it still works. Old movies are shown on television, in theaters, and can be viewed at home with ease. With games, I have to essentially break the law to experience old titles again.

It makes no sense not to preserve games like we do movies. Would Michelangelo have painted the Sistine chapel ceiling in disappearing ink? Creating art that vanishes away in a few brief years is silly. :)