I've been playing "Bioshock" for the last few days now since I picked it up as part of that big sale Microsoft
was running on Xbox Live Arcade. But what was worse was, by the time I was neck deep in Little Wonders trying to figure out how to smell like a Big Daddy, an article emerged on Gamasutra that rang a chord for me: what do we do about old Games?
It's a strange topic to think of, especially when you're blasting Splicers with a tricked-out 12 gauge that's got a steampunk motif, but it's no less valid a question for the outlandish conditions which spawned it. The article in question out at Gamasutra had something of a strange spawning point of its own, namely, the death of Kenji Eno
, creator of games like D, its Dreamcast-only sequel D2, and Enemy Zero. But it came down to the same question: what do we do, as a gaming society, about our old games?
This is an extremely sticky issue. The issues of copyright and trademark get involved, the issues of rights and ownership...all those things that can make a well-meaning project turn into a disaster area for anyone who's not willing to play ball--metaphorically speaking--and take apart a beautiful idea.
Anyone who's been gaming over at least two systems--even PC games--is familiar with the idea of "abandonware", games that are largely lost to time. Older games, games that the company who spawned them is no longer operational, in which the exact copyright holder is largely an unknown figure. Some websites have spawned up toward the provision of "abandonware", and while these websites technically aren't always legal--the law around abandonware is a thicket of contradictory indicators--it's hard to tell just who could even file suit against them in the first place.
But leaving aside the idea of abandonware, there are still a huge amount of games whose copyright owners are still quite active and around, but simply not doing anything with the material. This is where a slice of modern technology can offer a new life to these old titles--the cloud.
We're already seeing some of this on a certain level. After all, it's not hard to find a copy of "Jet Set Radio
" on Xbox Live Arcade, for example, but this is really only just a start. There are a huge number of games out there simply unavailable on new consoles or even on PCs, and that's a wide variety of gamers who are simply being ignored. This leads back to the title of the piece, that old games are simply deserving of being preserved. Not only as historical memorabilia--a chance to not only show the new crop of gamers where we came from--but also as a way for the gamers who remember when these titles were the big new thing to get a chance to relive those old experiences once more.
Of course, it's the right of the copyright holders to do nothing with the properties they own. It's also right to expect them to want to make some profit in the bargain; converting to new systems isn't cheap. But there are certainly possibilities to be had, and a definite value in bringing the games of the past into the present.