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The end of Video Games...?


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Yeah, from here, same author as the manifesto, so preapare for similar points:


Life After the Video Game Crash

or Why Nintendo Won't Seem So Crazy in 2005


by David Wong


If there's one thing I learned from my embarrassing experience with my end-of-the world cult, it's that you've really got to do your research before putting forth a public lamentation of doom.






I did. This time. And this is no joke; this is not flame bait or Luddite wishful thinking. Beginning with the 2005 wave of consoles, the video game market is going to crash.


I'll begin taking questions now.


1. Why does the industry have to crash at all? The movie industry is still around over a century later, dumbass.


Quick, go get your old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.


What? You donated it to a homeless shelter ten years ago? And even they don't play it, some guy using it as a little sandwich-holder? I mean, great games continued to come out for the NES right up until it went out of style. Developers could be making games for it today. So why is it extinct?


Remember the first Roy-Orbison-wrapped-in-shrinkwrap erotic fiction story you read? Of course. Do you remember the 207th one? Only vaguely.


It's the same reason. The novelty wore off.


You see, there was a video game industry apocalypse once before, in the early 80's. The market was flushed down the toilet by a putrid swirl of bad Atari games, players realizing that Hot Dog Maze was just Pac-Man with different colors. They didn't abandon the Atari 2600 in favor of something better. They abandoned it in favor of not playing video games.


The same went for the Next Big Thing, the aforementioned NES. Even with the enormous number of games (Metroid delayed my discovering girls for a for a good 18 months), the gaming experience itself couldn't keep our interest for more than a few years. Interest in gaming only picked up again when new, fancier systems arrived, offering a new and novel experience thanks to prettier graphics and character animation. And yet those systems (the Sega Genesis and later the SNES), as great as they were, eventually were retired to closets and attics and the sandy carpets of the Pakistani black market.


Legend has it that a meeting was held, sometime in the 80's, where the gaming industry first realized that gamers simply would not continue their hobby without a constantly-changing game format. Tears were shed, Japanese curses called down, ceremonial suicide swords drawn.


A plan was hatched to just roll out a new machine every five years, spending half a billion dollars in development each time, moving from colored blocks to 2D figures to cartoonish 3D to realistic 3D.


Which brings us to today. We've now advanced from realistic 3D to slightly prettier 3D and... even slightlier prettier 3D with slightly better reflection effects and slightly better animated water ripples and - oh, look! This game has the most realistic fog yet!


See the problem?


What does an art form that relies on novelty do when it can no longer offer up anything novel? Think I'm crazy? Would you call Nintendo's Hiroshi Yamauchi crazy?


Okay, you would, but in between strapping kleenex boxes to his feet and wearing a giant raw squid as a hat, the 114 year-old console gaming guru speaks wisdom. And he believes gaming has hit the wall as far as graphics go.


You don't have to be a tech geek to get this. Check out the rather startling difference between the Atari 2600 title Jet Goblins Attack from 1980 and The Legend of Zelda just seven years later:




The yellow block in the first screen is Batman.


Now compare Goldeneye (1997) to Red Faction 2 (2004). Same seven-year span:




Some prettier flame effects, but...


We're on a technological plateau. The next real leap, the next real difference in how we play games via sensory suits or neural inputs or whatever, is still too far away and too expensive. We once thought it would be VR headsets, but that technology turned out to be a headache-inducing fad, people's desire for tech novelty outweighed by their fear of being caught in an enormous electrical dorkhat.


Compare Madden NFL 2001 to Madden 2004. You have to squint to tell the difference. Do you think innovations for Madden 2007 will be startling by comparison? I'll never forget the IGN Madden 2002 screenshot with a caption pointing out that it would be the first Madden to depict players' arm hair.


Gaming simply can't survive that way. There's a reason why you can still see a motion picture a century after they hit the scene, but Vaudeville shows are extinct. There's a reason why people still go to operas while live gladiator contests and public witch burnings are both rare and poorly-attended. In the entertainment world there are wives and then there are mistresses, long-term relationships and drunken one-night stands.


Our culture is married to the cinema. Gaming is a series of flings with continually younger, prettier partners.


2. Look, moron, as long as there are fun games, the industry will be just fine.


Let's look at this supposed "fun" thing for a moment. As far as I can see, there are two kinds of video game enjoyment:


Soothing Hand-eye coordination - you get this from fast-twitch jumping games like Mario and puzzlers like Tetris. See the block, tap a button, repeat. These quick repetition tasks provide the same kind of Zen stress relief that you can get shuffling a deck of cards or making pornographic doodles on a scrap of paper.


Imaginative Immersion - this is from games that let you pretend you are somewhere else and living as someone else, preferably someone who doesn't spend all day in a cubicle. These are your role playing games, adventure games, the same escapist pleasure that we get from films and page-turner novels and schizophrenia.


First-person shooting games, fighting games and sports games incorporate some of both. That's why they're popular at the moment.


Now, you've probably noticed that new versions of Mario and Tetris do not spark midnight riots in Japan these days. That first kind of games, once the entire point of having a console, are a dying breed on the new systems. The reason is obvious; we're now knee-deep in handheld game machines that do those simple button-tapping games better. Nintendo's little 100 million-selling Gameboy and GBA are almost as common as walkmen and even cell phones will play games these days. I know because I saw a guy in a theater playing a Nokia version of Burger Time during The Passion of the Christ.


Those simpler games now seem like a waste of consoles' power, and why play them tethered to your TV when you can take a GBA with you to be played in your bedroom or on the toilet or the bus or in the waiting room of the nipple-piercing parlor?


So consoles are left to butter their bread with the latter, with the immersion-type games, with the Final Fantasies and Grand Theft Autos and FPS's, games that put you in a movie. The competition here, then, is Hollywood. When teens are in the mood for a mobster story, the game industry hopes you'll be in the mood to play one rather than watch one.


3. Big deal. Video games will become the new Hollywood, then. Stop wasting my time, you talking red baboon ass.


Luke's X-Wing approaches the surface of the Death Star.


"Red Five, begin your attack run."


Luke swoops down into the trench. "It'll be just like Beggar's Canyon back ho-"


Turret laser bolts tear his X-Wing apart.




Luke's X-Wing approaches the surface of the Death Star.


"Red Five, begin your attack run."


Luke swoops down into the trench. "It'll be just like Beggar's Canyon back home!"


Turret laser bolts miss by inches. He skims along the trench.


A Tie Fighter drops in behind him and blows his ship to ten thousand flaming pieces.




Luke's X-Wing approaches the surface of the Death Star.


"Red Five, begin your attack run."


Luke swoops down into the trench. "It'll be just like Beggar's Canyon back home!"


Turret laser bolts miss by inches. He skims along the trench.


A Tie Fighter drops in behind him, shoots and misses. Luke approaches the exhaust shaft... fires a photon torpedo...


...and misses. The Death Star destroys the rebel base.




Luke's X-Wing approaches the surface of the Death Star.


"Red Five, begin your attack run."


Luke swoops down into the trench. "It'll be just like Beggar's Canyon ba-"


Turret laser bolts tear his X-Wing apart.




Ah, Rogue Squadron. How pretty are your graphics, how immersive the feeling of fantastic space battles. And how infuriatingly repetitive the experience. "It's just like living a movie! A plotless ten-hour movie edited by Michael Bay's retarded brother and running on a skipping DVD player!"


Video games are not the new Hollywood. Hollywood is the new Hollywood. Films (well, good films) present their tales with masterful pacing and suspense and actors we love. Films are relying on an art form (drama) with a thousand years of popularity under its belt.


Games try to trump that with interactivity, letting you control the outcome. But the more control the gamer has, the more the pacing is ruined by brainless repetition (leaving the task to the gamer presents the possibility the gamer will fail 30 times in a row).


If they make the game tasks easier (as not to bring the game to a screeching halt), the gaming experience becomes much too short to justify the $50.00 pricetag. And the more interactivity is taken away in favor of pacing and pre-rendered cinemas, the more they stop being video games.


Again, the novelty of getting to be Luke Skywalker attracted gamers in droves. We were never really able to do that before. The experience of being able to stride down a hallway blowing up monsters with a rail gun was also new to a lot of you. But it comes to the same, doesn't it? The first time you play a level, the monster around the first corner is a surprise. After that, it's homework. It's memorizing, via pure repetition, bad guy placement and ammunition deposits and card keys. "Okay, kill the mutant behind the crate. Duck behind the dual doors. Wait for guard to walk out. Kill him, take his key. There's two Hellgoats in this next hall. Pick up the rockets..."


Is it any wonder that once we see the new, glossier FPS games that so few of us go back and play the old ones? What do the old ones have to offer once the experience has been memorized? And what do the new ones have to offer but new arrangements of hallways and glossier monsters and new stiffly-acted cut scenes that we'll watch exactly once before skipping past them?

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Titled "Part 2: haha, you're old!"


4. But the gaming industry is still growing, you foppish wide-brimmed asshat. Didn't I just see an article that said so?


Yes, this report projects rampant growth for the next group of game systems.


And why not? For the last few years home gaming has spread like wildfire in a forest of Brazillian methane trees. Expanding sales always means finding new customers and the 21st Century was the first time everyone got in on the gaming act. How many non-Amish friends do you have under age 30 who don't have a game console in the house?


That's both the good news and the bad news, though. Where is the industry going to expand to now? The middle-aged don't play games (more on that in a moment). Who's left? The elderly? The unborn? Microsoft and Nintendo both released new machines in 2001 and both failed. The new machines were not quite new (or novel) enough to catch anybody's attention.


In desperation, Nintendo dropped their price to $99 and marketed it as an ideal second gaming console, having to convince existing gamers to double up for lack of new customers. Wildfires don't rage on forever; they burn out when they run out of trees and flammable animals to consume.


But wait, it gets worse.


The original video game generation is growing up. I know, because I'm one of them, an Original Gamer. I owned Pong as a toddler, an Atari 2600 in grade school and an NES in 1987. I've logged hours on the Sega Genesis, the Atari Jaguar, the NEC Turbographx 16, the SNES, a Sega Saturn, a 3D0, a Sony Playstation, a Casio Fungiver 5000, a 4-bit Toyota Gamemobile... you get the idea.


But I'm almost 30 now, worried with mortgages and job stress and coffin shopping. My peers all have their own children, the household toy budget spent on the offspring, not the adults.


A few of us can still play games at 30, I suppose. You cannot play games at 35 or 40 and seem like anything but an intellectually-stunted manchild, there in your sweater vest, the control pad tangled in your long, gray, drool-soaked beard.


We Original Gamers, the hard core, bought every machine that came on the market for two decades. But for most of us OG's, the game consoles we own now will be the last we'll ever buy. There are millions of us, and it's just a matter of time.


Literally. I'll pop in a DVD because a movie only requires two hours from my busy schedule of work and home repairs and chasing kids off my lawn. Getting to the end of a video game, however, requires hours upon hours of play. Not because the story is hours long, mind you, but because getting through each scene requires practice and repetition and repetition and repetition, all in the hopes of seeing that exploding Death Star cutscene at the end.


A 10 year-old can come home from school in the afternoon and devote the rest of the day to the task of memorizing the exact sequence of finger twitches that will get him past the dark forces of the Empire. A college kid can do the same, often while high. Most employed and married adults cannot.


If I'm right about this, the gaming industry is about to face its first real exodus of existing customers, a hard-core group they've relied upon for decades to snap up every new box on the shelf. And if the young kids don't see anything new and novel in this next round of machines...


5. Oh, yeah? Just wait for the PS3, Captain Anus. It's got a special IBM super processor that's gonna RULE, dick holster.


Sony has bragged about the mini-supercomputer at the heart of its next machine for a couple of years now, a custom chip designed by IBM. It'll truly be a one-of-a-kind, unique gaming experience.


Unless you own an X-Box 2.0. IBM, it turns out, is making a similar chip for Microsoft's next machine. Oh, did I mention that IBM is also doing the chip for Nintendo's next?


The three companies hired to do the graphics processors for the machines are, in order, ATI, ATI and ATI.


Read that, and think about what Hiroshi Yamauchi said about the technology getting stagnant. Then read Sony's and Microsoft's intentions for their next machines, and how hard they're taking the attention off of gaming, saying things like "The next generation of machines will take a leap into the world of convergence and offer gamers a home media centre rather than just a gaming machine." These machines will be a TiVo, a DVD player, a CD player, an internet box, an MP3 machine, a coaster, a carpet warmer.


Just imagine it; an expensive box that will magically do the job of several machines you already own. Only not as well, because by definition a TiVo will do TiVo'ing better than an all-purpose box that TiVos on top of also trying to do twelve other things, all for the price of a TiVo.


6. Who cares about all those add-ons, you lice-ridden skank. Don't you know the future is in online play over broadband, you dung-hoarding Turd Baron?


How many people do you personally know who play games online? I'm not talking about the people you met online. I'm asking how many of your actual game-having friends actually go online with their little headset thing like in the commercials.


I know they're out there. After all, researchers gushingly announce that "Online gaming from video-game consoles will reach almost 28 million regular users by 2008."


Wow. If game makers continue to focus on multiplayer they'll have a whopping 28 million customers to sell to by 2008.


That's a big number... until you realize it's a shocking drop from the more than

90 million PS2's, GC's and X-Boxes that were sold.


I'm going to share a secret with you; the average video gamer isn't big on

fist-pumping competition with strangers. That's the territory of the jocks and the scholarship-clutching Future Businessmen of America members. Among gamers, the Unreal Tournament champions and Warcraft III prodigies and SoCom Seal wannabes are a small, hard-core faction.


Online gaming is not the same experience as video gaming. Video gaming is (was) about fun and button-mashing and imagination, not ladder climbing and hack writing and memorizing exactly how many little zombie horsement I have to crank out before I can assault my opponent's base and insult their sexuality via a mistyped text message.


If they're going to bank on online play to keep their systems new and interesting, they're accepting a future with a shrunken, flacid little bunch of customers.


7. But you'll be able to shop online and download games right into your console, or rent them or try demos or download new levels. It'll be a whole new business model, you rancid sentient ham statue.


I admit, I actually am looking forward to being able to download free, pirated games over my PS3 connection. I'm not sure Sony is, though.


What I am not looking forward do is an era when it will be presumed that all gamers have broadband connections, thus giving the video game industry the same "we can always release a patch later" quality control that has crippled the PC gaming industry. If I wanted a job as a game debugger, I would have paid more attention in math class.




If this is all the game industry has to offer as the Next Big Thing, it's in trouble. If the only thing new and novel they've got up their sleeve is online play and non-gaming add-ons, the mainstream gamers will get bored.


It's the Atari 2600 all over again. We didn't buy Sky Worm Attack once we realized it was just Missile Command in a different box. Will we line up for Grand Theft Auto 5 if it's the exact same thing, only with prettier texture-mapped bruises on the whores? What's the difference? Would the NES have taken off if it turned out to be just an Atari, only with eight colors of square blocks instead of four?


All it will take is some other fad, some toy, some other hobby to come along, and interest will fade. It's out there, on somebody's drawing board. Something truly new and different and novel, dammit. The market is ripe for it.


Mark my words.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Has some points but draws the wrong conclusions from them. His arguement that movies are masterfully crafted while games are just slapped together is pretty retarded. Sure things'll change when companies can't have us buy a spiffy new system every few years but it doesn't mean society as a whole will completely discard videogames. Hell, toys have been pretty obsolete for years but toy's R us is still stocked to the brim with plain old action figures.

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Toys aren't obsolete, you just grew past their target audience. My twin cousins are happiest when they forget about their playstation and get their hands on some Spiderman figures.


I think the comparisons to Hollywood are apt, but I don't feel like it spells doom for the industry. Look at Hollywood now - yes, 90% of it is brainless crap, but there's still a good 10% that's amazing. The good movies haven't disappeared, we've just had the crap movies multiply exponentially and make it seem as if they've disappeared. Whenever you say "they don't make movies like they used to" I guarantee you that someone, somewhere is. And not only are they still making good movies, but they're doing so with the technology, opportunity and even inspiration brought on by the mindless movie-making machine that Hollywood has become. I mean, Tarantino is a prime example, for instance. If Hollywood were not like it is, Tarantino would never have the opportunity or even the desire to make movies. The same goes for Spielberg, DePalma, Scorcese, Fincher, Eastwood, etc. Just like in Hollywood, I think the gaming industry is growing and with that growth comes the need for cheaper, safer products, but also with it comes the opportunity for those few game designers who want to do something truly extraordinary. The days of being great just because you've done something first are over, gaming has now entered the era where those that are considered great are the true exceptionals of the industry.

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That was long... And I was tired enough at the beginning. I've been saying the very same thing for a while now(albeit less articulate). Gaming can really only come so far before it hits that wall. When that happens, well, I dunno. Actually, a point he missed was AI. I haven't played it, but apparently Half-life 2 has a learning engine in it that evolves with your style of game-play, adapting to whatever you try twice. That and as far as I can tell the reason the GTA series has sold so well is because it's the only series in recent memory that has so consistently(& surprisingly) outdone itself. His same arguement can also be applied to popular culture & the death of Society(but that's for another thread).

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