The Bridges This Generation Will Cross
Despite the validity of the mentioned changes that the generation of 128 could bring to videogaming, the previous points fail to touch on how this group of systems will impact future generations, and the directions this group of systems will force gaming to take in the future. For example, parts of gaming as basic as the genres we classify them by will be perpetually altered by the new technology. It's happened before more times than many gamers realize. The adventure genre was revolutionized by the revelation of 3D, as were RPGs. Nearly every genre you can think of has been significantly changed by technology in the past. This will assuredly happen once again as we stand on the brink of a new era, judging by the incredible ability of developers to adapt genres to the technology. As mentioned, gamers should keep a solid vigil for several genres to change in the coming generation. As stated, fighting games will undergo positive changes because of the technology. One of the loudest complaints of those who denounce fighting games is that they're overly simplistic. With the extraordinary power of this new set of super-systems, developers have the power to rectify this problem. They have the power in their hands to incorporate more strategy into their fighting games with the additions of gameplay devices and broader 3D environments. Many genres will change in this way. RPGs will feature more complex battle systems; adventure titles will boast larger and more in-depth environments to survive; and next generation racers will feature longer tracks and more sophisticated control over the vehicle. The change of the very fabric of videogaming genres is a huge responsibility that has historically been assigned to technology.
The next huge responsibility that this technology thrusts upon the shoulders of major third parties is that these systems must teach the right lessons to the industry itself. I believe the infamous 'PlayStation 9' advertisement said it best when it broadcast those two tantalizing words, "The Beginning." This is quite prophetic, as it perfectly illustrates that these systems are the genesis of what electronic entertainment will become in the future. As such, the games developed for these technological monsters must use the available power for the proper purposes. Visuals are nothing more than pretty pictures, and third parties need to realize that the available hardware power must be used to create new experiences and challenges for the gamer to enjoy. Because of the immense power of these systems, the visuals will induce drool without a terrible amount of strain. This generation has the taxing responsibility of teaching developers that quality, and not solely visuals, can sell a title and propel it to respectable sales. In this sense, the current group of systems holds the future of the entire industry in its hands. The outcome and overall quality of the titles produced for these consoles will mold future generations for quite some time. Whether videogaming takes a turn towards art or a slide towards big business is to be decided by the developers, but perhaps even more by the consumers. What we buy as gamers determines what developers produce, so the players of videogames have as much a role in determining the future of gaming as anybody. If we purchase games of quality and innovation, then that's what developers will be forced to make. However, if we continue to throw dollars down the drain for mindless titles with nothing to keep them afloat save their visuals, then third parties will adapt to that and smile about it. After all, it's easier to produce tedious games than masterpieces.
Amidst all the talk of changes to the industry, it's easy to lose sight of what's truly important. That question that must be asked is this: will gameplay really change in this generation? There will be those who disagree, but I really don't think so. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway. The upcoming group of systems will not shatter a dimensional barrier as the previous trio did, and we all still use controllers to manipulate the action. Despite the improved aesthetic quality of the games that are developed for these platforms, gameplay won't change all that much. Granted, games will grow more developed and complex, but the nature of gaming will stay the same. This may seem like picking nits, but we've seen a gaming revolution in the last generation. PlayStation and company turned videogaming upside down with the introduction of 3D; a claim that the current group of systems can't make. However, this certainly doesn't mean that these changes won't be there. These alterations will simply be less evident, because of the similar nature of the technology. As much as the industry and certain aspects of videogames may change because of this generation, gameplay will not be revolutionized as it was by the 32-bit systems. Now that videogames have long since attained the third dimension, it would appear that console gaming has no land left to conquer (although Sony, Sega and Nintendo are without a doubt working around the clock to prove me wrong). Until videogames take a drastic turn in format (i.e. virtual reality), gameplay will not be significantly altered. I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Videogaming will take a very sharp turn in the handful of years that 128-bit systems rule the market. These beasts of technology will have a significant impact on the industry in the future. Videogaming is standing on the crossroads, and pondering which direction to take. One will take this form of art to a previously unattained plateau of quality, and another will take videogaming into the realm of big business where developers are motivated by dollar signs alone. The bottom line is this: this generation will dictate whether videogaming will forge a renaissance or be forced into the doldrums. The genie has been released from the bottle, ladies and gentlemen; there's no looking back now. This technology is like fire. Fire can heat our homes and inspire fantastic curiosity, but if it's not properly controlled and harvested, the damage is often irreversible. This technology is a gift from the gaming gods, and while it shouldn't be feared, it also needs to be treated with respect.
11/24/2000 Bryan Keers