Video games are more than just a form of entertainment, they are a chronicling of who we are as humans. Similar to the hieroglyphs of Egypt, we express our lives and customs through the medium of gaming. When the day comes that we are dead and ancient, the games we played will have the power to piece together our identity, since they are representative of what we wanted, what we were afraid of, and what we desired. In this case, the desire in question is hidden within ourselves —they are our own memories.
As we transitioned from the 80s and dove headfirst into the 90s, there was hope for the future. The United States was a global superpower, the Cold War was officially over, and people everywhere were embracing the idea of a world free of communism. We saw western influence of the free market, positive humanitarian conditions, the spread of better of technology, and the first world nations beginning to adopt their own versions of ‘The American Dream.’ With focused efforts towards the pursuance of individual success, the future was bright and the possibilities were limitless.
When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, we began to see a boost in the economy and a decrease in the national debt. Artists were creating, engineers were innovating, and people were coming up with fresh, new ideas because more people had the means to do so. Budgets were bigger, spending was higher, and people were happier, overall.
During this time we saw numerous masterpieces come into the video game industry that would set the stage for generations. Not only were these games completely different than those previously on the market, but the experiences were memorable and players everywhere felt invested in the future of gaming. Some of these titles included The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Street Fighter II, Pokemon Red and Green, Half-Life, and so many others.
The main question is; what happened to that creativity? Just where did all of the passion go?
As Bill Clinton’s term reached a close, we were quickly introduced to the ‘world of terror’ after the events of 9/11. Americans no longer lived in a separate, imaginary eutopia as they did before, free from the dangers of the outside world. And after The Great Recession of 2008, for the first time in a long time, Americans began to feel concerned for the future.
Even now, we see major civil unrest with formations of groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement, online social justice warriors, and countless others. With Obama’s “Return of Big Government,” society has been reintroduced to the “Big Brother” concept, or better classified as the unknown party who is listening to your phone calls and corrupting the free press. Similar to the fear of “The Man” in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, people are more wary of the government than they have been in recent years.
This totalitarian government element to gameplay can be found in several recent video game titles such as Homefront: The Revolution, Mirrors Edge, Dishonored, Deus Ex, and many others. These tools of storytelling are typically representative of the current citizen psyche. Basically, stories are derivative of what gets to us the most.
As a populace, we are generally dissatisfied. If we are not in fear of our safety, we are insecure in our finances. We do not trust that the labor force will provide the necessary jobs we need to feed our families, and when we get that food to feed our loved ones, we cannot trust the quality of products of which we consume. We live in fear of carcinogenics, lack of health care, and are even wary of each other.
Regardless of where you come from, we will always have one thing to hold onto amidst the doom and gloom— our memories. With the massive reappearance of some of our favorite video games, films and musicians, it is clear that as a society, we are living in the past. We no longer want to exist in the present, so we use nostalgia to fill the void lingering inside us all. Therefore, it is no surprise that the video game industry has been directly impacted by America’s (and other parts of the world’s) crippled economy, unhappiness, and need for nostalgia.
This is something that we can find in all forms of entertainment. Just this year we were introduced to a new Ghostbusters and Goosebumps movie, a Backstreet Boys reunion tour, and of course, countless video game remasters. To be clear, this has been happening progressively over time and the video game industry is certainly evolving (or regressing) as a result. Not only is it ridiculously cheap to port a game, but it is a quick money scheme for companies such as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo (among many others) to adopt.
Let’s take 2015 for example, countless classic and semi-classic games were announced and released. We were given a Final Fantasy VII announcement, Gears of War Remaster, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Saints Row IV, Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster, God of War III, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Resident Evil: HD Remaster… the list goes on and on and on. Are people simply incapable of innovating and creating new IPs? Or do they not possess the means to do so as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s?
The end fact is certainly an unfortunate one. From a survey taken from nearly 50 gamers, 75% have claimed that they wish they could “return to happier times.” Is the gaming industry taking advantage of this fact? Or are we simply imitating the Disney “Vault” approach? Tell us what you think in the comments below.