You know, in their heyday, popular novels and film were thought to be of little significance and treated with zero respect. Not thought to be even cultural forms, let alone art. The BBC neglected and destroyed miles of early footage by not bothering to store it properly, footage that historians and film buffs and many others would give their eye teeth to access now. And who knows how many penny dreadfuls never made it to this century in any form. Dickens’ work did. Novel writing made it to art status, so did film. (Countless types of popular music were “horrible noisy modern garbage” in their day, let’s not forget that either.)
Video games are absolutely and completely an expression of this era, being new (as in unseen before), coincident with rising technologies, popular, and expressive of our current preoccupations and visual tastes. In a mere 50 years the games that have been trashed will be deemed part of history.
People, with some distance and the passage of time, will also see more easily that they were things of beauty and depth, artefacts created lovingly by the hands of many – and then ‘alive’ and developing through the usage of many because unlike film or novels part of this cultural activity, video gaming, is the active and direct participation of audience. It is not a passive form. Without players, there is no game – you can see where this is going! It is to be hoped that code and assets will be at least preserved in a place of safety for the future. But most likely, like that BBC footage it will not be, plus the technology will change making frozen, stored games unplayable.
The preservation of what we play now is pretty much down to the semi-legal efforts of fans, (via emulators, tributes, fan art etc) who will keep the code current. Companies, who could be doing their bit by donating information and what part of code/assets they own won’t help, because they’d just die of greed if anyone else made any money (basically). Well that’s fine, they’re doomed to be that footnote: “game was not profitable enough and XYZ Company closed it.”
So before putting on the chancellor face (Nigel Lawson did a good one) and considering VG, CoH and SWG to be good riddance to bad profit, I suggest beancounters play one of their ‘how rich I’d be if…’ games and imagine, now that the deed is done, how much money they have said goodbye to, 50, 100 , 200 years from now, when what little code and assets they bother to preserve is no longer accessible to them due to the platforms having gone dodo. Not accessible to them. But still accessible to those that salvaged what they could.
The game they thought they killed will still lurk in the corners and bywaters of the internet, alive. (It’s quite cool).
I’d not put any faith in lawsuits and copyright either. The games will in all likelihood outlast the company/person that ‘owns’ them, will be dispersed and all over the place (such is the internet) and finally copyright laws are such a mess right now it’s only a matter of time before some drastic revision and adaptation – they might not even apply. I rather think the games as a service model is rickety too and pretty sure that’s going to be challenged/modified at some point
Sleep tight now, beancounters 🙂