Off the Grid: Why Older Titles Are Important

By Chad Awkerman

December 24, 2009

I’m going to break with standard procedure this week to talk about a few things relating to video games in general – what games define us, how they inspire us and why we should never lose site of the games that got us where we are today, as gamers. First, though, a little back story.

I’ve been writing this weekly column for about two months now, give or take. It isn’t the first of its kind nor will it be the last. Regardless of the fact that I may cover games that other sites have used in similar columns, what it boils down to is that these are my thoughts on these particular games, no one else’s. While the point of this column is to discuss under-appreciated titles of years past, every single one of these games had an impact on me in some shape or form. Twice now, some random and ignorant N4G Nazi has reported this column for discussing “old games”, even reporting my Grandia III piece because the game isn’t old enough to be vintage and not new enough for anyone to care about. While this wasn’t what made me write this article, it does lend itself well to this discussion.

The impetus of this column, as mentioned, is to discuss any and all games that may be under-appreciated because of some circumstance or another. I don’t care if the game was released 20 years ago, five years ago or last week, people need to understand this is obviously not about popularity or what people care about – this is what I care about (or, if it so happens in the future that another one of our writers take up this article for a week, what they care about). Labeling it “bad” or reporting it on a news aggregation site because it isn’t what they personally care to see in game journalism is ignorant, selfish and borderline moronic. Oh, but wait, this is the Internet. I forgot.

Gaming is just as much about where we were and what has come before as it is about the here and now, because, contrary to what some of you believe, the industry would not be where it is now without older titles, whether they be popular, or forgotten in the stream of time. That being the case, it is in all our best interests – and by “our” I mean anyone who cares about the game industry – to understand what has come before, to see how it affects, not just our own gaming history, but that of others out there, as well. Everything works together to define the industry as a whole and the people out there who support it.

Do you think Modern Warfare 2 just dropped in your lap one day? Do you think the only thing that went into creating it was the couple years spent on that title alone? If you do, you’re highly mistaken. Years and probably decades of gaming history went into creating that game that you enjoy so much now. Think of the developers and their past, what games influenced them? What games did they enjoy in their earlier days? How has all that influenced the game you regard so highly now? The same can be said for any current “must have” game – Final Fantasy XIII, God of War 3, Uncharted 2 and the list goes on.

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It’s highly ignorant to ignore the fact that what goes into game development today isn’t limited to the time spent on a current project, no, it involves possibly decades of experiences playing games – which may or may not be of the same genre as the final product. So, to understand games today it’s important to look at the success or failure of games that have come before, as well as the context of that success or failure.  (For example, some games fail financially because of some reason but are a success critically.)

Now, moving on to a bit of a different topic is the fact that we all have games that define us, that figure prominently in our gaming history and, really, made us into the gamers we are now, molding what games we enjoy and the platforms we prefer. Part of writing about games is connecting with the audience, and it’s usually hard to do that if you don’t shed some light on what makes you the person you are and what makes you qualified to talk about current events in the industry. To a lesser extent, this “Off the Grid” column is used to do that, at least for me, because, just like I mentioned earlier, every single game I talk about is my own words talking about a game that has had a significant impact on me personally. By making those expressions, it’s a way to connect with the audience, with other gamers who might feel a similar way. And, for the most part, that is the response I get from my articles whether on this site itself or on N4G, Digg or wherever else we submit our original works.

Those who don’t care for the topic, the game, the genre or my writing need to realize they don’t have to read it and their time would be better spent perhaps playing a game or reading an article about something they do care about, instead of sitting around with the sole purpose of causing trouble where there should be none and trying to force people think a certain way.

This time of year people talk about the “holiday spirit” and “good cheer”, but Internet trolls must not have received the memo, because, just like horrible drivers tend to come out in droves during the holidays, these lowest of the low denizens of the Internet seem to multiply this time of year, as well. Sure, they’re around all the time, but lately it seems to have gotten rather bad – it’s pitiful, really.

In an industry that seems to thrive on expression and artistic choice, there sure are a lot of people trying to put a damper on it. Let people enjoy what they want, let people write about what they feel needs written about – whether or not you agree with it. Believe it or not, opinions are also part of this industry and everyone has one. We should respect what came before, not endlessly praddle on about how it isn’t relevant, dismissing an expression of praise for a game that others may like, even though it apparently doesn’t live up to some arbitrary high and mighty standards certain people place on it. Every game that has been released has shaped the way the industry is now to some degree or another, therefore it is all important to talk about and reflect on, especially when it touches us personally.

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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