In my previous entry, I made reference to how the videogame industry, as well as the entertainment industry in general, has evolved. I also said that the use of the word was subject to certain understandings, if only in different language. I promised that I would explain this, and then seriously forgot to do so for the rest of the entry in question. Well, unlike certain people that I will not mention this time around, I like to keep my promises. I make them with the intent of keeping them, no matter how much it ends up putting me out. So now is a good time to explain what I mean when I say that the videogame industry has evolved over the past thirty or so years.
This means that I need to explain a few things about evolution as I understand them. If you are a scientist, particularly one that deals frequently in evolutionary theory, I beg your indulgence. It is for a good reason.
One of my favourite musical acts is a “new wave” band called Devo. Devo have a concept based on an idea that founding members, brothers with the family names Mothersbaugh and Casale, discussed. This idea was that, to put it simply, Humanity was “devolving”. This betrays the fact that no member of either sets of brothers were actually studying evolutionary science. You see, when I say that videogames as an industry have evolved, I do not mean this to be a good thing. Evolution in the true sense of the word as proposed in Charles Darwin‘s theory is neither forward nor backward. It is simply change for change’s sake. This is an important point to understand. You see, if a Human grows and breeds in an environment where the sun shines so bright that the temperature is frequently forty degrees and above, it naturally follows that either this Human will die out or change to better suit their environment. But if that Human is brought to the exact opposite kind of environment, the characteristics that they have evolved in order to cope with the first environment may become a liability. Indeed, this is exactly one of the reasons why Australia is known to have the highest rate of skin cancer amongst its total population.
Evolution is neither forward nor backward. It is around and around in circles, much like social services in Queensland or the roads in Melbourne. Sometimes, the car turns off one road and goes into a different circle, but the important thing to keep in mind here is that evolution is not a progressive or regressive thing. Rather, it is a change in response to conditions on the road. When the driver notices that the road is wet, they slow their speed as much as is necessary to maintain traction. If the driver encounters especially thick rain or low lighting conditions, they turn on the lights that their car has been equipped with. The same is true of how species change. If an animal finds that being bigger than his peers is advantageous in the competition to mate, his sons will grow to be larger (this is why Polar and Kodiak bears are a minimum of eight feet tall when standing on their hinds). If an animal finds that being able to sense the movement of others so well that they cannot twitch without him knowing about it, his children will be able to see at hundreds of frames per second (hence, dogs and wolves respond more to moving Humans than stationary ones). And on and on it goes…
Like the operating system and application markets, the videogame industry has matured in an environment where there is so little regulation as to make no odds. And whilst Humans have evolved somewhat for the better in an environment of greater regulation, the extent to which certain parts of the species are evolving for the worse in a world of non-regulation is quite discernable to those who know what they are looking for. I will not go into the reasons why I feel that Apple’s OS X operating system shits on Linux and especially Windows from a great height here, but I will use different aspects of software and entertainment to explain how these markets are evolving in a fashion that is contrary to forward progress.
Let us take for example the recent talk from Hollywood’s power elite about how film is supposed to be “obsolete”. Whilst the chemical and emulsion processes by which film negatives are developed are unquestionably obsolete, experts generally agree that in order to have the same resolution as can be obtained from a film negative, a digital image needs to have a vertical resolution of 4000 pixels. Yes, you read that right. 4000 pixels. Now, assume for a second that you have a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the ratio of 35mm film. That is a total of 21,332,000 pixels. Now go and read what these punks from Sony et al are telling us about how digital is the future and film is obsolete. I could be wrong, but when last I heard, digital “film” was still based around a 1920 by 1080 resolution. That is not even a quarter of what 35mm film is capable of. So try to tell me that a system that can render moving pictures at either 24 or 48 frames a second at 21 and change megapixels is obsolete when all you have to offer in its place is a bit less than 2.1 megapixels at either framerate, and I can tell you our world can do without you.
As I have hinted in previous writings, videogames made thirty years ago did not have slick graphics or clever audio to fall back on. Whilst the Commodore Amiga did have this to a degree that turned a lot of heads at the time it was first released, it did not possess these things to such a degree that poor gameplay could be excused for them. In fact, as the many limitations of the Amiga platform were reached or sidestepped, a situation similar to the heady days of the Atari 2600 occurred. Games had to compete on the basis of the gameplay that they offered. In a sense, they still do, but the difference nowadays is that the market has collapsed to a point where an entity can release games that feel aggravating, even rigged, and do so consistently for over a decade, without fear of commercial consequences. In the Commodore Amiga days, if a game’s gameplay made the player want to stop playing rather than be dragged away from the computer as was usually the case when I played Moonstone, it reduced the chances that the company that made the game would exist next year. And sometimes, even companies that made good games but bad decisions, such as Cinemaware, went out of business.
Nor can the directions that the music industry has evolved in be called forward. In one speech I listened to and got sick at at university, the guest lecturer in question told us how the music industry has suffered because it did not embrace MP3 from the word go. No offence, lady, but between path dependency and disimprovement, the music industry never has had, and never will have, a reason to actually embrace MP3 as a music distribution format. No matter what way you slice it, there is not a compressed audio format in existence that can reduce the size of the file by a ratio of 12:1, 6:1, or even 4:1, and keep the same quality. And if there is one thing that anyone who has worked with graphics, audio, or even text in electronic format for the same lengths of time as I have can tell you, it is that not keeping the same quality means a reduction in quality. There is considerable debate about whether the compact disc was an improvement or reduction in quality over the previous mass distribution system, but one thing that cannot be disputed is that both of the new-generation optical music disc formats, DVD-Audio and SACD, were a major improvement upon both. Also indisputable is the fact that compared to DVD-Audio, a format where three times as many channels, more than twice the sampling rate, and 1.5 times the bits, with lossless compression at that, MP3 is a fukking loser.
Yet we are still stuck with MP3. Why? Well, path dependency aside, there is no credible reason for this. Yet those responsible will tell you it is all just evolution. And they are right, when you use the truest meaning of the word. The problem is that these things are not evolving in a positive sense of the word. Like the moth that has changed colour in order to better hide in a polluted environment, this evolution is a severe negative, not a positive.
If you have read this far, then hopefully you have come to understand another of my great complexities. Once again, if this information helps you understand certain people better, then thank you for reading.
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