Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 21, 2015

Why video game history matters

As long as I have been here, some might say this site has been about business models of disruption or Blue Ocean, some might say it is about the joy of classic gaming, some may say it is about being non-elitist in a message forum dominated community, but ultimately it is about trying to get the history right.

When I came on the scene, I did not consume Game Industry media. As soon as I did, I was shocked at how far off it all was. It was so bad that all the major analysts kept trying to label Generation Seven as Generation Three. Why? It is because they wanted video games to only really start when the Play Station came out. It was so ridiculous, and young people did not know any better. Anyone who knew the true history of the Atari and NES eras were not surprised in the slightest about the Wii phenomenon. Nintendo even said the Wii was designed by them going back and studying those two consoles. Wii marketing was Atari’s marketing with showing the people and not the games.

Take a read at this article. He nails it when he says the Game Industry keeps writing its own history. Historic games do not matter until only a ‘reboot’ comes along. And with the ‘reboot’, we are supposed to forget about the earlier game.

One thing he touches on is this:

This is how much the industry appreciates the “mother of gaming”, one of the most influential game designers ever and definetly the most important female developer ever. She was forgotten – ironically, at the same time when debates about women in the gaming industry began to increase. (For another example, see how many times you heard about Scorpia in those debates).

Back when this blog started, there was a 1up article written that was called ‘Women in Gaming’. They interviewed mediocrities such as some PR person here or accountant there. My reaction was “WTF!? Why not list the REAL women in gaming?” Women like the designer of King’s Quest. How about the programmer of Archon, EA’s first game, was a woman. Women were very prominent in design roles within the “game industry” back in the 1980s. Why have they been forgotten?

I had comments enabled then. A couple of weeks passed and then feminists kept hitting that blog post with comments. They accused me of being ‘white male’ and all the other stuff. I confronted them. I could not understand why they would be upset. There are many women to acknowledge in gaming especially in the 1980s. Many were programmers and designers. Pointing this out should make one the opposite of the accusations they were flinging. So what were they up to?

It doesn’t fit the narrative. Anita Sarkeesian cannot make half a million dollars (which she grossed last year) unless there is a ‘grievance’. The computer has no prejudice. Anyone can get to a computer and program a game. The computer is not controlled by an entity that denies access. Many women did use the computer back then to create something. Is gaming better off for forgetting them? No.

Follow the money. The reason why female pioneers of gaming must be purged is so talent-less hacks like Sarkeesian can make money. A true account of gaming history would blow out these parasites.

We’re all aware how the big game companies rewrite history. The article at Gamasutra focuses on it well enough. However, I don’t believe anyone pointed out that Nintendo was doing the same. And if Nintendo was intentionally altering their history, then we have a BIG problem.

Examples? Here you go:

Lie: Zelda 2 is the black sheep of the Zelda series.

Truth: Zelda 2 was a runaway hit where people would drive to other states just to get to the game. Zelda 2 gameplay was copied by other companies. Zelda 2 may not have been as popular as Zelda 1, but that is like saying Contra was not as popular as Super Mario Brothers because nothing else was.

Why: Game journalists blindly transcribed Shigeru Miyamoto saying it and so proclaimed it to be ‘fact’. We all know on gaming message forums that the gamer will ‘re-imagine’ games he doesn’t like to be ‘bad’. But Zelda 2’s good sales show that it most certainly wasn’t ‘bad’. The point is that Miyamoto and the rest are just as human as you and I. Their re-imagination should be held up to historical fact instead of just blindly transcribing what they say.

Lie: Ever since the 3d revolution, there is no interest in 2d gaming.

Truth: Console companies wanted software to show off their expensive 3d consoles. Sony actually discouraged 2d games on the Play Station so it is a wonder we got Castlevania: Symphony of Night. Nintendo wanted nothing to do with 2d and would have abandoned 2d in the 8-bit and 16-bit if the technology was there. The truth is that the lack of 2d game sales was due to lack of supply, not lack of demand. NSMB comes out and BOOM! The lie gets put to rest.

Why: Shigeru Miyamoto and others at Nintendo think 3d is the bee’s knees. Even now they sabotage 2d Mario for 3d Mario (pushing out NSMB U to die at launch, putting all the elements of 2d gaming not in the 2d games but in the 3d games such as 4 different characters [also done in Mario 64 DS]. Giant World only goes to 3d Mario, not 2d Mario. ). Super Mario Brothers is the most successful franchise in history and Miyamoto, far from being a good upholder of it, destroyed the value of the series costing Nintendo countless millions with his sick, sick pursuit of 3d ‘at all costs’.

Lie: Super Metroid was about Samus’s ‘maternal instincts’.

Truth: No one cares about Samus’s feelings. I was there. We cared about the game world and exploring it. Samus was not why we played Metroid. We played Metroid for the Metroids. Hence, that is why it is called Metroid and not ‘Samus Aran Adventures’.

Why: Sakamoto got his head in the clouds thinking he could ‘re-invent’ everything by designing a ‘movie’ since he loves watching crappy Italian films. All it takes is one game to destroy a franchise, and Sakamoto achieved it with Metroid: Other M.

My advice to Nintendo and other game companies is to be true to game history and stop telling us shit. We are as knowledgeable or more of the history of gaming and the industry than you are. You’re better off having the marketing say ‘we want to try a new direction’ as opposed to falsifying history.

A good indicator of a game being a piece of turd is if marketing is re-writing game history in order to sell it.


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