Game talkOld guard?

 Posted by (Visited 5356 times)  Game talk
Jun 132007
 

One of the few advantages to getting old is that you get to see history repeat itself. Today a couple of folks pointed me to this Red Herring article about how user created content sucks.

“There’s a reason some of us are employed and paid to make games, and there’s a reason why most people are not. It’s because they’re really bad at it,” added Starr Long, game director of NCsoft.

Well, of course, I just talked about this (that whole “quit being snobby” thing). But today it strikes me from a slightly different angle. See, I remember a time when there was this whole online gaming industry that made millions and millins, and had all the answers. Their titles were acknowledged as the kings of the hill, and they were quite proud of the fact that outsiders didn’t seem to know how to crack the market.

Then one day a strange confluence happened. A few companies that had money, from outside this cozy online industry, hired a bunch of amateurs. Within a few years, the amateurs had taken that old guard online ggaming industry and dismantled it. A few survivors limped along — some made the shift and changed over. The big money folks, who remained clueless about the way the online world worked, mostly went and acquired and dismantled them.

I am speaking, of course, about the mid-90s, when the moneyed game corps got into online. The old guard were victims like Kesmai, and the new guard was, well, people like me & Kristen, and Damion Schubert, and Daniel James, and Steve Nichols, and Rick Delashmit, and tons of others whose names you haven’t even heard. We came out of amateur, hobbyist muds, and now we’re the old guard. Edit: in case the irony wasn’t clear — Starr is actually one of the guys who hired several of us. 🙂

I vividly recall Jessica Mulligan complaining that the higher budgets that the game companies brought were a tragedy for the industry. I also recall that it took a while for the new guard to be accepted by the old guard. Now, of course, we’re all friends and hang out together at conferences.

So on the panel referenced in the article, who was the new guard? MTV. 🙂

  5 Responses to “Old guard?”

  1. Veddy intewestink.

    I think we are sort of seeing history repeat, with all the social/casual/UCC worlds on their way, but at the same time I also have to wonder if we’re going to have a “pure games” backlash at some point where they come back to the fore.

    Thus far what’s been happening on the graphical side of things has mirrored what happened on the text side of things. Graphically speaking, I think the same thing is going on that happened in the mid-90s to the text worlds. The problem is though, there’s not a new paradigm out there right now. So we’re going to see a lot more iterations of revolution in the graphical world before we ever start the cycle over. VR as envisioned in the 80s would be the next logical metamorphasis of the “online game” genre, but it hasn’t come to pass and probably won’t really be there for many years yet due to the costs involved.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens in a few years when the “new new guard” has been absorbed into the fold and we’re back at this point yet again.

  2. Dan actually started in the commercial side of the industry in 1989 if I recall correctly.

    –matt

  3. On Avalon, I think it was — which was actually much like your stuff.

  4. Raph, since you’re technically old guard for MMOs, I’m sure it’s kind of nice to get to play “new guard” in the web 2.0 circles.

  5. Everything is fracturing. There’s more a link between MUDs and MMORPGs than there is between, well, anything and collaberative virtual spaces. Maybe there’s some links back to the club scene or something, not sure. I was never that cool 🙂

    I think the ‘old guard’ will be just that for one facet of virtual spaces going forward. But I think the other facets that truly broaden things will do so into groups that don’t really track history that way.

    Where’s the New Horizon Interactive rednames out there talking to the players? How many Sulake guys mix it up with the playerbase at coffee houses? When was the last time anyone had a drink with the Ganz folks?

    Nah. With the big money and the ancillary industries comes the typical secrecy and closed-door ivory tower decisions we see when anything becomes mature. What’s really lost here isn’t the connection to a new or old guard. It’s the loss of potential history and meta-environment community as the money comes on board, cribs the tech but box 1s the execution.

    And that, to me, is the saddest thing of all.

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