In an earlier post, I have alluded to the onset of older generations of technology-users being distrustful of a business model and a medium that succeeds their own, perhaps advancing too fast for the pace of life that had been established for their formative years with the medium. It pains me greatly, then, to see and realise that not only has a major pastime of mine seemingly blown past me as an engaged member of a cyberculture, but it’s been exposed as a feat of sheer artifice, or at the very least, based in a culture malleable to the wills of the owners of intellectual property.
As with any other funnel of information on any interest, the model of delivering videogames and its media has shifted online, with very little in the way of bespoke options to keep boutique retailers up and running outside of retro refurbs and costly, paperweight special editions. But with it comes the slow death of the pillars of the hobby. Retrogaming has long been co-opted by IP owners hell-bent on milking merchandise and big chains like Gamestop and CEX. There are scarcely any more cowboys roaming that part of the former Wild West that was games culture. And in a sop to the consumerism on which the generic mass of “pop-culture” was both born and couldn’t possibly hope to find steady ground, said chains are indulging ever more in not only the blockbusters of the medium, but in endless shelves of unrelated toys, gifts and other bits, superfluous to the experience of playing videogames with friends.
The death of the arcades is an old and laboured point. The machines of yesteryear take up residence in private collections like stuffed animals, a snapshot of a moment that has passed. The rental spaces and the cold comfort of other weirdos looking for that odd game that the local Xtravision happened upon in distribution are gone. Gaming is too expensive a space for a local, plucky underdog to risk retail outlay on now. So it goes. A number of economic factors have been at play for quite some time in this regard. The old signifiers and understanding that came with them are also gone. Money on the dashboard, knowing nods to challengers, the reputational bolstering of the highscore sheet, the specialisation and breakdown of a business model.
Gaming is everywhere now. Twitch and YouTube have taken the gentle art of sitting a round out and watching your friends unload on each other to the level of joyless spectator sport. Television has followed as it does. Merchandise begat a merger with the other strains of pop culture to include cosplay and other such fripperies. The risk-takers of the medium are either out of the game or relegated to indie-gaming status, a two-tier economy where the worst and most base tropes of the currently prevalent cultural conservatism are soaked into the work of risk-averse corporations while everyone else begs for the sustainability of their art on platforms with patchy records. We’re being sold, piecemeal, the spectre of a once-buoyant culture.
The joy is gone, bar willingly dipping my toe into being pitched to and hoping I’m not having those few years of my life regurgitated back to me in odd, jumbled, uncanny-valley shapes.
I apparently can’t even have the joy of finding misdirected lots of aul’ games in charity shops anymore. Everyone knows a recaptured youth is a moment of escape worth its weight in speculation and trade-ins.
The lawn will always be pristine in my mind’s eye, I suppose, so long as I can keep those kids off it.
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Eurogamer.net. 2012. Crippled by Nostalgia: The Fraud of Retro Gaming • Eurogamer.net. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-09-12-crippled-by-nostalgia-the-fraud-of-retro-gaming. [Accessed 18 May 2017].
Know Your Meme. 2017. Press F to Pay Respects | Know Your Meme. [ONLINE] Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/press-f-to-pay-respects. [Accessed 18 May 2017].