1. I simultaneously think this is an interesting question, and agree with the ultimate conclusion — that the youth of the medium shouldn’t be used as an excuse for anything — but vehemently disagree with the evidence.

    For instance: comparing the time span of video games as a commercial medium (which he cites as 1971, giving us 41 years to the present) and the LP, which was issued in 1948.

    The addition of 41 years from 1948 takes the LP album up to 1989. During this time, the album had seen works as diverse as Pet Sounds, Abbey Road, Ziggy Stardust, and Thriller. Not only does this represent a majority of the significant developments in album history, it also almost takes us through to the period where CDs and digital distribution began to reshape the album into a media form with different strategies and needs.

    Which is fine. Except that to say that the LP is a distinct medium from the CD, and then to say that “video games have been extant since 1971” is comparing apples to enraged camels. You could say as well that console games have gone through many different formats in that span, far more so than music has:

    Just looking at some of Nintendo’s consoles:

    Family Computer (Famicom) (1983)
    Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)(1985)
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) (1991)
    Nintendo 64 (1996)
    Nintendo GameCube (2001)
    Wii (2006)
    Wii U (2012 expected)

    There’s some backwards compatibility in there, certainly (the Wii can play GameCube games, for example), but most of those marked significant changes in the technical capabilities of the medium. We go from 8bit to 16bit two-dimensional animation to low-poly 3D models to high-definition ones. People most definitely designed different games for different systems, just as people recorded different arrangements for the LP than they would for a single-song wax cylinder. If we conflate all of that as “video games” and say we’ve had “41 years as a medium,” can’t we also say that “recorded music” has been around since the late 19th century? That’s more than 120 years — more than three times 41 years. And that’s only home consoles! If we consider arcades in there, should we consider the player piano? It feels like the author is using a double standard as to what constitutes a ‘medium’ in order to exaggerate the age of video games.

    …and I think that’s a problem because I think he’s correct in saying that:

    Yes, perhaps there are some factors of quality that link in with questions of time and development. Artists often get better with practice, and critical-creative languages do take time to develop. Equally, the economic, social, and creative frameworks that shape the cultures surrounding media forms do shift and change over time…If other media forms have improved with age, it is because individuals, cultures and systemic frameworks have made it possible to do so. [emphasis mine]

    I personally think that we are, right now, in the middle of a gigantic shift in what games mean as a medium: widespread internet access has made downloadable games viable as a commercial prospect, which enables individuals and small teams to release games without going through ‘normal’ distribution methods (ie, printing a CD, shipping it to retailers). Look at Dear Esther, which was originally released as a free mod (in 2008) but was re-worked and released commercially (in 2012). That is a game which would never have been sold in an arcade in 1971, or sold in a store in 1981, or in 1991, or in 2001.

    See also: any recent news articles about “Indie Games,” and people who are actively trying to buck the trends of mainstream gaming.

    …that’s already far too long of a comment, so I’m going to cut myself off there.

  2. And as soon as I hit post I think of a better way of summarizing my feelings on this:

    I think his point is valid in that “games are young” is a bad defense, because the immaturity of a medium shouldn’t stop us from critically examining — and more basically, enjoying — the works of that medium. I have an immense fondness for 1920s silent movies; that was also a period when movies as a medium were in their infancy. I can still enjoy them and think about them regardless. I can also reasonably think that a specific movie made in 1920 was terrible because it was terrible, without the youth of films-as-medium being a concern. Just as I can think that a movie last week was terrible, despite the maturity of films-as-medium being a concern. “Man, they’ve been making movies for a long time! They don’t have any excuse for making bad ones now.”

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