August 9, 2010, 7:49 pm
Filed under: Retrospectives | Tags: ,

THERE’S A reason why nostalgia and videogames are so inextricably linked. For those of us of a certain age, playing video games is in part an attempt to reconnect with our youths. As we grow older, we search to replicate the endorphin rush of discovery brought about by our formative game experiences. But they can never be recreated.

Our brains are now too developed, we’re too cynical, too analytical. We know too much. Where once games were things of mysterious beauty arriving from exotic lands, they are now the product of mere mortals in California and, er, Guildford. We know how they were made and what market they are aimed at. We know the individuals that create them and the sordid legal squabbles that surround them. We know everything about them, before they even reach our homes. Child-like wonderment and veneration are not made of these things.

So we remember those days when it was different. When a new game wasn’t gained as the result of endeavor and played at the expense of responsibility. For us as children, a new game was acquired through the sheer weight of our desire, a desire fed by a glimpse of beautiful box art on a shop shelf, an appealing title or a fuzzy screenshot in a cherished magazine.

This is why we love the games of our youth. This is why I love Phantasy Star.

(Read more at Resolution Magazine)


June 28, 2010, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Retrospectives | Tags: ,

INDULGE ME a couple of paragraphs about art history.

The effect of the rise of photography on art was profound. Suddenly, the painters of the 19th Century could not compete in an area where “realism” was the standard of excellence. Slowly, the medium splintered into a thousand different strands.

Rather than strive to objectively recreate reality, new forms of expression emerged. From Impressionism to Expressionism, Cubism and beyond – these methods attempted to reveal the truth, while simultaneously rejecting objective representation. Put simply, there was no point in attempting to compete with the realism of photography, so more symbolic, subjective and surreal techniques flourished.

Videogames have taken the opposite route. Early on, the technology simply didn’t exist to design a precise, mirror-image vision of the world, so surreal and/or expressionistic representations were the standard. Mushroom kingdoms populated by lizard men, haunted corridors roamed by giant mouths, bizarre alien lifeforms – all were created with just a few chunky pixels. Where realism was impossible, suggestion took its place.

(Read more at Resolution…)

May 15, 2010, 1:28 am
Filed under: Retrospectives | Tags: , , ,

1986, Surrey, England. Peter Molyneux, failed games designer and founder of Taurus Impact Systems, sits before a Commodore executive. It has just occurred to him that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding.

Commodore, keen to foster industry support for their new Amiga system, have reached out for networking solution specialists TORUS. They haven’t realised it yet, but in Molyneux and his fledgling database firm Taurus they’ve got the wrong man. It leaves Molyneux in an impossible situation. Should he deceive them to secure the eight free Amigas he desperately needs, or confess and risk walking away with nothing?

He can’t afford to fail this time. Just two years earlier, Molyneux invested everything he had into developing a videogame, Entrepreneur. It was a disaster, selling just two copies. Scolded, Molyneux turned to database design where he now finds himself. He can’t screw this up too. Those Amigas could be the difference between success and failure.

As he sees it, he doesn’t really have a choice. So Molyneux chooses his words wisely, shakes hands with the exec and flees the office. The Amigas are his.

Molyneux’s measured deception would inadvertently lead to a videogame revolution. With the TORUS confusion cleared up the database was released to modest success. Molyneux used the the profits to co-found the legendary Bullfrog Productions. Their first game would change the landscape of games forever. It was called Populous.

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