What’s old is new again: A video game renaissance? Or games of futures past?

By Paul Linfor

A Renaissance is the rediscovery and revitalisation of classical influence and its resulting incorporation into modern works. There have been many times throughout history that this has occurred from the eponymous one to the likes of the 19th century American literature renaissance, the Harlem Renaissance, and others. I’ve been playing video games since I was three years old and I’ve seen the many trends and influences that have come and gone throughout gaming in these past 20 years. Lately I’ve seen a large increase in games that have run the gamut of making use of classical elements of gaming to games that full on replicate the look and feel of the classics. Enough to make me ask: Are we currently in a Video Game Renaissance?

rise of the triad

To really answer this question, we need to look at the point from where we came from, starting around the late 2000s. By this point, video games have become a business that rivals Hollywood in terms of profit margins. AAA developers and large publishers are who make up the playing field and budgets continue to skyrocket along with development times. The FPS has secured itself as the king of the hill, with sports games, strategy, and MMORPGs not trailing far behind. However, continued success can breed complacency, which we have seen in yearly game series like Call of Duty or anything from EA Sports (but especially Madden Football). So like a Michael Bay film, these series continue to see large profits while also maintaining a sizeable base that critically pans it.

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But within this period of time, we start seeing the rise of small independent development houses more akin to what AAA developers were back in the 1980s and 1990s. These teams develop games that take influence from older games of yore like DOOM, Metroid, Metal Gear Solid, Thief, Unreal Tournament, and many others. They look at what made those games memorable and fun and apply them to new productions.

walking Dead

In addition, we also see genres that have fallen by the wayside like horror and adventure experience a revival as well, the benefit of being developed by small teams who are not beholden to large publishers who often think only of the bottom line. Telltale Games, a small company started by disenfranchised former LucasArts employees, practically rose the point-and-click adventure game from the dead with the production of a new Sam and Max Episodic series of games, the success of which lead to the development of other series like The Walking Dead series of games and Tales from the Borderlands.

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Survival Horror has also seen a revival in recent years as well. While the Resident Evil series started becoming more and more actionized starting with the fourth installment and jumping the shark (Or more appropriate for this situation: Punching the Boulder) in the fifth installment, smaller teams have brought forth games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent where your character has literally only one option when confronted by a threat: RUN. The kind of games that no large publisher would look twice at because the possible profit margins aren’t big enough for their tastes.

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The independent game development scene got kicked into overdrive with the advent of crowdfunding. Now small developers could go straight to the consumer to deliver a game that they wanted and develop games almost on par with that of the AAA developers. Often times some of these small development houses were staffed by veterans of the past with one example would be inXile Entertainment’s Brian Fargo, the former owner of Interplay Studios who developed games like Wasteland and Fallouts 1 and 2, who ended up developing the turn-based RPG Wasteland 2 which is often credited for making crowdfunding a legitimate method of funding independent games.

doom

Nowadays we can look anywhere and see the classical influence in video games. It has even gotten to the point that AAA developers have started to take notice such as id Software and DOOM. What started with indie developers looking to past at everything from great classics to forgotten gems has started to trickle upward to where even the big publishers have to see which way the wind is blowing. So in answer to my question: Yes, we are living in a video game renaissance. It’s a great time and place to be, and I’m looking forward to see what the classics will birth next….

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