Growing Up with Gaming (short essay)

It occurred to me just before I sat down to write that people in my generation are the first to grow up not knowing what life was like before gaming (as we know it) was a thing. Being born between 1984 and 1990 when the NES reigned supreme over the gaming masses, those of us born in this era grew up with names like Mario, Link and Megaman as a constant throughout our lives. Just like us from the past, those born around the 2001 will never know of an age without the name Master Chief in their gaming vernacular. Or kids the were born in the mid-90s never knowing a time before the Internet in every household, or  2007-ish without a smartphone or tablet in your household.

What’s important to remember is that while many game designers were around and developing games while we were growing up, there is a fresh generation of minds that have been exposed to a rich history of game design, good and bad. This might be an incestuous relationship because our ideas tend to be anchored to past experiences so our inspirations are “borrowed” from ideas that we’ve played in the past instead of coming up with something completely original. Regardless, our game-design parents and mentors helped to foster our experiences, our morals, our social dilemmas, our peaks and pits through our gaming experiences. Our games were growing up while we were growing up.

Every one should check out Zac Gormon at http://magicalgametime.com/ His work hits so many feels buttons, it's not even fair

Every one should check out Zac Gormon at http://magicalgametime.com/ His work hits so many feels buttons, it’s not even fair

It wasn’t just graphics that were evolving, but the way that games started becoming crafted with their own philosophies mandating these designs were evolving as well. Stories were becoming more intricate requiring the player to be more involved in the story. Mechanics requiring better dexterity, different spatial awareness, and higher mental agility. Sound design, changes in perspective, ambiance and tone all crafted to make the game become a more fluid and immersive journey. All of these things helped to create gaming and the community behind it what it is today, with the kids-now-adults that grew up following this progression.

The medium has become such a compelling avenue for creativity that passion for gaming has spread to where conventions go on almost every weekend in some part of the globe to celebrate gaming in some form. Art, News Sites, Blogs, Message Boards, Cosplay, Tournaments, Fan Games, Fiction and much more sparking creative embers to fuel more games to be created. A loop of creativity that gaming has fostered.

Just because there is no-dialogue means there isn't an emotional aesthetic being conveyed.

The end of you childhood

This is the first generation of gamers to not know of gaming without an NES and the vocabulary that the console brings us. The first generation to start creating from paradigms that were instilled and evolved since this era. A generation with their shared-imaginations fueled with characters and stories and music, all passionate to create something that brings back a glimpse of their childhood and of gaming’s childhood.

Are Current Movies and Games Going to Feel Dated Soon?

You turn on Netflix. You see the opening scenes. There’s a hustle-and-bustle going on with the crowd but not a main character to be identifiable yet. The shooting feels clunky. The music has a heavy synth sound in its tones. There’s not a black person in sight, unless it’s the main character or a homeless person in the movie. You have the suspicion that you’re watching an 80s movie or an early 90s movie.

We can pull what movies feel like a period-movie with only a few moments of watching a scene. For the current generation of young adults, it’s almost instinctual to know when many movies were created because of the tropes that these movies execute. Group of misfits learns to come together? Is it in a high school or outside of it? Is the hair outrageous? What about the Clothing? If you answer yes to all but the clothing, then the movie is probably a John Hughes movie and you’re probably watching the Breakfast Club, let’s be honest. The point is that what are the tropes that will define the movies that we watch today?

The_Breakfast_Club

It’s easy to define the tropes that out Summer Blockbuster’s embody. State the theme of the movie – Introduce a Catalyst to start the tension – Raise the Stakes – All-is-lost – Final Act. Thanks to Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! : The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need  [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1932907009/?tag=slatmaga-20] we can have the same formula for movies for most blockbusters since 2005, when the book was published. I’m not saying that good movies haven’t been produced using this formula or with other tropes from this book like: Hero getting reprimanded in the first scenes of the movie, or villain gets caught as part of his plan. Start Trek: Into Darkness, Skyfall, 21 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy – any Marvel/DC movie for that matter. But these are tropes that audiences will quickly identify this period of movies in the future which can easily date the movie making it harder to watch in the future.

The same can be said with our games, but this medium has evolved at a much different rate than movies. This is partly due to it being an interactive medium with changes to the interaction methods via Wii-mote and Oculus, but also with advances in technology and design paradigms leading to having a much broader brush to paint our game’s stories and interactive experiences with.

We date our games based more on the graphics and how limiting the interactions are instead of the tropes that movies use. This was useful, except that graphics are now hitting asymptotic-realism where the game and real-life imagery are becoming more indistinguishable which will make it harder to date a game based on the game’s graphics. And with story-driven games becoming more prevalent in the AAA spectrum, it will be hard for ideas to not be incestuous among the gaming community. It’s already incestuous amongst movie productions which is why most movies have so many plug-and-play plot points that they like to hit. It’s not a bad thing, but the story and writing need to be strong around these points for the movie to stand on its own rather than the story being a vehicle to arrive to these plot points.

Good game or not, it did have some impressive visuals.

Good game or not, Call of Duty:Ghosts did have some impressive visuals.

We can already see some gaming plot points become tropes of themselves. Zombies? Seventh gen (Xbox360, PS3, Wii) games loved to have zombie survival in their games. Looking at you, Call of Duty franchise, Borderlands add-ons, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and The Last of Us. Is running up and traversing buildings a key component in your games? Must be a 7th gen game. Right, Assassin’s Creed, Infamous, Prototype, and Mirror’s Edge? Set-pieces riddling your game and taking your agency, and sometimes your breath, away? Probably playing Uncharted, Call of Duty, God of War, or Tomb Raider (2013). What about majority of games being an FPS? Bioshock, Battlefield, Borderlands, Call of Duty, another 50% of the games in this generation. Much like how platformers dominated the NES/SNES era of gaming, shooters are dominating the current era and quickly becoming a trope for us to identify which period a game came from.

 

Is there any easy trend that you think will date the games that we’re playing now? Maybe something story based is being heavily repeated and you’re getting sick or it? What about predictions for this gaming generation? Let me know in the jiddly joo below.