Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gaming Archaeology: Specluation

What a difficult job future archaeologists are going to have with this medium. I'm only partly talking about the trade off we've made in moving so much of our culture on to hard disks. The other part I'm talking about is the vast quantity of work being generated, and the nature of the work itself -- a husk waiting to be explored, rather than a voice dictating its words to the future.

I wonder if those future data-recovery agents digging through all of the editions of Deer Hunter could only assume that this era was one of sloth. What purpose do we have in generating ten new post-apocalyptic shooters every month? We pour so much money into something that seems devoid of lasting substance -- can the experience of a game speak to future generations in the way that words have? When I consider how many lines of dialogue the average game has, and the fact that this dialogue is organized in a fashion directed partly by the player's actions, I wonder if it has the kind of personal focus to have an impact on future humans. In the event that the dialogue itself was even written with a focus.

"Class, I direct your attention to the next line. Guard Eleven states: 'Watch out, there he is!'
What can you tell me about this example? You, in the first row."
"Well, I mean, this is about Guard Eleven's suffering, isn't it? He's afraid. He has been for a long time, probably. And now his fears are being realized. And the number Eleven--"
"Yes, that's fine. Anyone else? Alright, in the next line, we have some phonetic work to do. Guard Fifteen states 'Urrrghgh!'..."

To be fair, I'm certain there will be those obsessed by the intricacies of these creations, whether or not we consider them Art today. Age just seems to lend credibility to cultural productions. The archaeology departments of the future may have divisions devoted to working out the intricacies of each genre. Or, possibly, they'll dump it all on to one professor, who got the position as the one graduate student masochistic enough to cobble together virtual simulacra of every olden gaming platform ever created to enable research. Actually, in view of these difficulties it might remain the realm of private enthusiasts who amass a collection of dust-encrusted electronics for the only purpose of inducing a nostalgia based high.

Can we really preserve this library in the long term, a library of experiences and/or play? Perhaps the one fact in favor of this medium's survival is that it begs for interaction. A museum dedicated to games could have potential as a hub for participating in simulations designed for an early kind of culture, and might tell those future people something about us and what we expected out of our made-up worlds.

But then, I'm thinking about this from the perspective of that earlier culture. Based on the progress technology is making, after several years a version of every game is available in virtualized form, and it may be that when computers are truly ubiquitous there will be no problem finding and running a recreated copy of Super Mario 30X or FutureZombie 2033 or any other construction of a bored culture.

What we will think of these artifacts after a hundred years, again, is another matter entirely. I probably shouldn't speculate -- I always loved reading that jet packs would be widespread by the year 2000 -- but I've already started so I might as well finish. Maybe all of these simulations will contribute to some cultural thesis in the same way that other forms of entertainment have. Maybe we will be able to look back and understand why so many more of us each day are playing and whether we gained anything from it. Or maybe digital optic filters will have become so ubiquitous by then that our modified view of reality will seem more game-like than the arcade screens in the Museum of 21st Century Electro-Fun.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This game is hilarious

Realm of the Mad God, which I spotted on RPS It's an in-motion and fully functional parody of multiplayer fantasy games.

The art of combat reduced to its purest digital expression: PEW PEW PEW

You can even pause it.

I have it paused right now, actually. Back to the grind...