Welp, Jim Ryan's conversation about retrocompatibility seems to have resurrected once again, and not without its logical flaws. Thing is, I don't get why many users in social networks go "old game is old", especially when a lot of them probably watch 80's movies or listen to 80's music, or at the very least 80's inspired music (Weeknd for example).
This is the important thing about the history of mediums. There's a reason why we preserve Hitchcock's movies for example. By tech standards, these films have aged horribly, especially Birds. True, you can make a case for the fact that it's live-action, so the "graphical fidelity" thing doesn't apply, but there is plenty of stuff to complain about: editing that is no longer practiced because there's no need to see the character arrive in a car, then walk all the way to the door (moments like these get cut all the time), SFX that is no longer up to par, clearly hand-painted scenarios inside studios… you name it. But there are things that can still be appreciated: the writing, the pacing, the plot and at times the acting. And this is in Birds. If you venture beyond the stuff that hit the mainstream, you'll discover pearls like Rebecca, which aged much better due to a lighter reliance on SFX, being more of an intense drama rather than a horror movie based on animals. And this is a case for one single director, many more examples exist.
Why doesn't this happen with videogames? I think there are obviously legitimate arguments to answer this, which I will present further down, but what bothers me is the attitude of dismissing the old when the old has so much to offer that the new just doesn't have. Just like there are movies and books worth being preserved for study and inspiration, as well as just good ol' plain culture consumption, so do games: obviously not all of them, no way in hell do we need to play the horrible Snow Queen Quest game (PS2) for instance, but several games of old can still be played perfectly well, adding a patch here and there to fix some annoyances; the core is still there and it's gorgeous! Think serious stuff like Deus Ex, Thief or more lighthearted stuff like Ape Escape, which is so freaking weird it ends up being very damn fun and satisfying. Just like a good old movie that is limited by certain aspects, yet preserves its core and genius.
This is a double-standard that, to put it bluntly, pisses me off to no end. Still, there are a few arguments, most of them technical and summed up into one single-point:
- Although still a difficult process, it's easier to remaster an album or turn an old movie into HD than it is to build (and update) an emulation system for older games, namely in the case of consoles; on PC, the games depend on patches, most of them made by the community. This to some degree is possible by less legal means and with a dedicated community, but it's sad to see there are no legal alternatives to this and to then see the creators complain when people try to find a way. It's also another double standard: if you pirate music or movies, rarely will someone bat an eye, especially when it's old. For videogames? All hell breaks loose, no matter how old the game is, even though second-hand copies may run at a thousand euros/dollars and the company won't see a single cent of this profit. In short: contrary to other mediums, gamers face a lot of difficulties if they want to "jump back in time";
- the "retrocompatibility was made available, but few people used it" argument: it's a solid argument, but poorly interpreted. The problem isn't that people aren't using it: the problem is that the current state of retrocompatibility (on consoles) isn't satisfactory enough for these consumers to make use of them: given how inconsistent those tools can be, or how strict the game selection is, most possible consumers end up keeping their old hardware because they know the new will probably not run their games despite dev efforts. On PC this is much easier to circumvent obviously;
- The focus of the market: unfortunately, the big money comes from what's the latest thing, just like cinema and music. Except… publishers can afford an editing team to remaster a movie or album. With videogames the process becomes much more expensive and with a community that is so fixated in the new stuff, it's highly unlikely that we'll see any progress in the development of a solution that cuts expenses when bringing in retrocompatibility.
It's a constant debate, but I believe we would all benefit if the attitude shifted from "let's forget about past games lolz, old game izz old" to "I don't really like old games, but I think some things can be learned and enjoyed from them so why not have the means to do so". Especially if this attitude came from the companies themselves first. Hell, GOG is a huge step in the right direction, selling both old and new and with proper pricing!
What are your thoughts on this?
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