Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Save the Colossi: Same Name, New Meaning

Wow! I almost forgot I had this thing lying around. Look at all the dust that's collected!

When I started this blog oh so many years ago, I chose the name "Save the Colossi" for a couple a reasons. Primarily, I wanted to pay tribute to the Playstation 2 game "Shadow of the Colossus", which was not only a landmark and influential title for the system, but easily one of the best videogames I'd played for any platform. Perhaps more importantly though, the name was catchy and available. At the time, I was inspired by writers like Jeremy Parish, Leigh Alexander, and Michael Abbott over at The Brainy Gamer, and I hoped to contribute to their always insightful conversations.

But as you can see from my archive, I never quite lived up to those grand ambitions.

The last few years have seen me playing far fewer games than I did in my high school years and even on into my early 20s. With the exception of the Wii, I basically sat out of this generation of videogame consoles, spending more time on iPhone games or classics on the Wii's Virtual Console than anything else. And here we are on the brink of a new generation of systems - and one short week after E3, the biggest gaming event of the year - and yet I remain relatively ambivalent about the whole prospect. I'll probably purchase Nintendo's latest console and handheld at some point in the next six months, but even they have failed to inspire me in the last couple years.

Which brings us back to names and their meaning. At this point in time, the "Big 3" videogame console makers  - Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony - all feel like they're becoming the lumbering colossi of the Playstation 2 game. They're institutions, almost too big to fail, but a little upstart could easily take any one of them down (or, life forbid, all three!) which tenacity and a few precisely targeted attacks. What's more, these threats are already banging on the gates. Any day, Apple could unveil some Trojan horse living room device and swiftly conquer the console space with a legion of iOS games and rabid fans. Similarly, Android-based consoles like the OUYA or the Gamestick could have similar success, thanks to cheaper games and a far more affordable console; you could buy five OUYAs for the price of an XBOX One. And let's not forget that Valve, who created the PC game platform of choice among gamers, are planning to release "Steam Boxes" in the not to distant future.

And the game makers aren't helping matters either. Budgets for gamers during the PS3/XBOX 360 generation skyrocketed, and the coming generation only looks to exacerbate this issue. Game studios are spending the same kind of money movie studios throw around to create Summer blockbusters like the Avengers, and the budgets just aren't sustainable. The stakes are just getting too high. Every "AAA" videogame has to be a success, and those that aren't risk bankrupting even the largest developers. The "hardcore" videogame market is already diminishing, and this upward budgetary trend threatens to topple the entire house of cards.

Videogame journalist Ben Kuchera wrote a few months ago "people asking if ... we're going to have another crash ... [is] like standing in the wreckage and wondering if the plane will be okay." As a fan of videogames, I really hope this is not the case, and that we aren't headed for another 80s-style crash, but I have to admit that the signs may be around us. Maybe it won't be a drastic implosion, a la the Atari era, but I can definitely see the market steadily decreasing in significance. Perhaps this is the start of a new Renaissance, or it could be that the worst happens and the industry never quite recovers.  Whatever happens, my heart is back in the game, so to speak, and my goal moving forward is to observe and to write.

I am but one person, but I also know that I am not alone. Together, perhaps we can stop our favored past time from stepping over the precipice.

Perhaps we can save the Colossi... from themselves.

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