Unfortunate Obsolescence

It occurs to me that we – or more specifically, I – have well and truly crossed the barrier beyond which old, amazing games go to die, unplayed and forgotten.

For example, today you can buy Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II on Steam for $1.24. I have heard many, many great things about this game over the years (and it indeed has a 91 Metacritic score), but I never got around to experiencing it. And so when I saw it up for 75% off, I decided to take a look at the game’s page. What I saw was this:

This probably looked amazing to my 14-year old self.

I just couldn’t do it. Whatever it was that this game could have added to my life experience is gone forever.

Of course, this is not just Dark Force II’s problem. Have you tried booting up Planescape: Torment lately? I wrote an awful, awful review of the game back during the height of my JRPG fandom phase a decade ago, and have always wanted to return to give the game its proper dues. But that is unlikely to ever happen. I tried, I seriously tried. Planescape always had a super zoomed-in camera compared to the Baldur’s Gate titles, and combined with the 640×480 max resolution was simply too much. I could not bring myself to get out of the morgue, the technical/compatibility issues notwithstanding.

To bastardize a phrase: the flesh is willing, but the spirit is weak.

Who though, in all honesty, is going to go back and play Fallout 1 & 2 after being introduced to the franchise via 3 or New Vegas? There are hundreds of classic games like this. Certain ones, like Chrono Trigger and the like, can survive rerelease after rerelease without changes. But these others? Not going to happen. I talked about the haunting legacy of Deus Ex in regards to its modern-day prequel, but who is going to play the original if they have not already? I understand there are mods that do amazing things to the visuals, but that presupposes a desire to go through the trouble to begin with.

Indeed, I feel the entire gaming industry is entering a bizarre new landscape with the advent of the App/Indie/F2P Age. I wrote over 60 RPG reviews back in the day, and every single one of them had a Replayability score. Now? Who cares about replayability? Story choice is fantastic, but the typical likelihood of my actually going back through New Game+ or its equivalent is somewhere between zero and no way in hell. I’m not looking for something to kill my time anymore – time is the one precious thing I ain’t got anymore. Any game that wants another roll in the hay is competing against an entire library of unplayed Steam titles, indie or no.

And that, sadly, also goes for older titles regardless of their presumed timelessness. So when I see people complain about, say, Syndicate looking like this instead of this, well… that latter game is dead and gone. I just went through an Eeyore routine with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, sure, but I would rather some remnant exist in a modern form than nothing at all.

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Posted on December 28, 2011, in Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I had a similar experience watching Terminator a couple of weeks ago. I could not believe how lame the special effects were. In my mind it was so much cooler.

  2. Planescape actually has mods available that allow you to play it in high resolution. I watched my boyfriend play it like that and it looks surprisingly gorgeous even now!

  3. The one game I can always go back to and have a play is Nethack. Funnily enough, the graphics in that game were never meant to be an attractive part of the gameplay.

  4. Generally what makes games hard to play for me graphically is switching from having played a high quality game like Skyrim to jumping down and playing say Runescape or even Oblivion for that matter. For whatever reason my mind has to readjust to the clunkyness of the graphics and the way the game moves.

    The only game I can continuously go back and replay without ever caring about the graphics is Final Fantasy on my old Nintendo system.

    I guess when I’m not looking for detailed movements in a game the age of it no longer matters. I suppose this is also why when I go and play 2d chess after playing 3d chess on my computer I don’t really care either.

    • Indeed. It’s why I mentioned Chrono Trigger in the post – maybe it has something specific to do with sprite-based 2D games?

      With the rise of indie gaming, I can’t help but wonder if the copyright holders to these old games wouldn’t be willing to allow small studios remake them in more timeless graphics. Then again, it may be that there isn’t a big enough market for such things, even if you keep the same music (etc) assets.

  5. That games suffer from obsolescence at a faster rate than other entertainment media is one of the reasons I think games aren’t ever going to get into the ‘high art’ category. Because even if the narrative is fantastic and deep and gameplay challenging, if the player is going, “AHHHH! MY EYES!”, they aren’t going to engage with the title.

    • Beth Grant Posted on Hey, I think this is really cool. I love the posts you make on difefrent things you blame Lupus for. It is a funny side of blaming stray things on Lupus. Thanks for sharing.

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