The Bridges This Generation Will Cross
Just like every other form of entertainment, electronic or otherwise, videogaming is constantly changing and redefining itself with the passage of time. Newer technology makes these changes possible, as the canvas for the development of videogames becomes more and more detailed and complex. Videogames have undergone a transformation that fails to dawn on many gamers. This great industry has gone from the earliest days of primitive Pong and classic arcadia to, eventually, the world of 3D that we know so well today. The period in between has spanned everything from the day of the Intellivision, to Nintendo's dominance of the 8-bit era. We've seen the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis clash in the 16-bit period, and then we watched as the days of 2D melted away into the third dimension, featured on the Sony PlayStation, the Sega Saturn, and the Nintendo 64. But now, videogaming is ready to take another leap. As the industry prepares to make the transition into the 128-bit generation, we're all bracing ourselves for the changes this jump in technology will bring with it. There's no doubt videogaming will be altered by this group of technical behemoths. The question we must now ask is how our videogames will be changed by the generation of 'computer entertainment.'
The most obvious change gaming goes through with the passage of time is cosmetic. The aesthetics of our videogames grow more pleasing to the eye and ear with each passing generation, and this in itself is a huge alteration to gaming. As shallow as this may be in reality, the improvement of aesthetics in videogaming has a direct correlation with the growth of the industry itself. The industry grows because the eye-candy in titles creates interest, and this is a key reason that videogaming is now a seven-billion-dollar-a-year industry. However, technological advancement is not merely economic. The progression of videogame consoles is what makes new gaming experiences possible. Gaming has gone from touting 'marvelous 8-bit color' as the crème de la crème of visual presentation, to forcing these titles into obscurity as the hardware inevitably progressed. The classics of the industry did indeed have the purest gameplay ever developed, but the experiences that developers could incorporate into their videogames were lacking because of the canvas on which they painted. As technology progressed, developers were able to come closer to realizing their visions, and presenting them onscreen. For example, the adventure genre exploded after videogame consoles reached 32-bits, as this development made possible games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider. So can we expect this to happen in the next few years as well? It's difficult to say. Technology has ways of surprising us, but the changes that are being brought by this year's consoles are not nearly as monumental as the introduction of 3D was by the previous group of consoles. However, technology's impact is different for every genre of videogaming. The genre that will most likely undergo the most drastic change will be that of fighting. Even though the genre's gameplay in its most basic sense may not be everlastingly changed, the way we look at them may very well be altered significantly. Gamers should be on vigil for more brawlers to hit the markets in full 3D. Also, don't be surprised by fighters that feature a much deeper level of strategy than what we're used to. Titles like Kengo: Master of Bushido may become commonplace as developers quest to ring the last drop of water out of this generation's technical sponge.
However, technology can have a much broader impact on videogaming as well, as technology can certainly prove to be a savior of the industry. After the great videogame crash of 1984, it was Nintendo's relatively advanced technology that pulled videogaming out of its grave. However, the industry certainly needs no savior now (in terms of sales, that is), as the industry's economics are skyrocketing past any projections made years ago. So what can we expect to change in gaming because of the new consoles? Well, the technology of the 128-bit systems has undeniable potential. It has the potential to use newfound polygons and processing power to fill this industry with games exhibiting quality beyond anything we've ever seen. However, my fear is that the technology will not be used correctly, and the current trend may very well continue. It's certainly possible for developers to continue to go after the money by using the visuals in their titles as a crutch; in turn abandoning the facets of a quality videogame that are truly important. That's what seems to be happening to games today, and I fear that this new generation will merely continue on the precedent set by the previous group of systems by once again paying no mind to gameplay, replay value, and premise; in turn relying on the graphic development team to conjure public interest in the game. It would certainly be a shame to see this kind of gift wasted, but gaming no longer has a conscience. The almighty dollar reigns supreme over the industry now, and quality seems to be fading like chivalry in modern society.
11/24/2000 Bryan Keers