Music in games is a very strange thing. Given how, over the short lifespan of the medium, sound in general has been treated, the way that music has evolved has a sort of logic to it that sort of defies conventional explanation. Being both a sadist and a pretentious prick, I am going to go ahead with that anyway.
This essay has a spoiler for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I shouldn’t need to give anyone a warning about that, but just in case, here it is. In addition, one could probably infer a spoiler or two from my description of Mass Effect 3 if you put your thinking caps on. You have been warned.
With the way that fans reacted to Mass Effect 3’s ending, you’d have thought that its developer, BioWare, implanted a virus that destroyed a console’s hard drive and replaced it with child pornography. The internet exploded into a frenzy of wrath within days of release, once the hardest of hardcore gamers got to the ending and then—armed with tar, pitchforks, and Professor Lawrence’s Home Exorcism Kit—vented their wrath upon all manner of forums, social networking sites, and petitions. Creators engaged them on the front lines before eventually issuing a retraction (of sorts). All was right with the world… or would be, once the creators released the patch.
It’s hard to put into words how titillating Duke Nukem 3D is to 13 year-old boys of all ages. I know; I speak from experience. There is an overabundance of violence, from blowing the brains out of an alien begging for mercy to gore exploding at the screen whenever a pipe bomb goes off. There were breasts – covered, pixilated, occasionally tasseled, and 2D – aplenty. The multiplayer feature was great (for its time), the weapons were fun, and the depth of the title (short enough in length so as not to be repetitious, but with enough extra features to encourage replay) made it super-appealing to those whose weekly allowances were measured in single-digits. To this day it features everything a hyper-hormonal young lad needs for a good time, save for a built-in box of Kleenex.
I was as late to the party on the Super NES as I really ever have been on a video game system. It came out in the US in 1991, and while we’d rented one several times and played a fair share of Super Mario World and F-Zero, it was not until my brother got one for his birthday in the summer of 1994 that it became ours. (For a point of reference, we got a Sega CD before we got the SNES. That was, for lack of a better word, a blunder.)
That lateness on the SNES meant that I was also late to the party on one of the greatest games ever: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of Tetris. It influenced generations of puzzle games, sold millions of copies on multiple systems, crossed traditional gender boundaries (many of which still exist in gaming today), and continues to be one of the most popular titles of any generation of anywhere in the world. By almost any definition, it is THE video game of the 20th century.
It was first proposed that we should start a website writing about video games a couple of years ago. Through various snafus and false starts (not a few of which were my fault), it has taken us this long to actually come together.
When the idea was first proposed, I worried. After all, what could I possibly say that someone with the breadth of experience and talent of my cohort would not? However, I have come to realize that this is not the point of what we are doing here. We are not reviewing anything. We are not making a list. We are not trying to reach a consensus, and I suspect that very little of what we do here will be anything like journalism.
We are writing about things we love.
We are currently engaged in the adolescence of an art form. Not in that there has been a discovery of pornography or cars, no. What I mean to say is that video games are no longer in their childhood. They gross more than Hollywood’s theatre release, develop mainstream celebrities [insert your favorite/most attractive], have developed a studio-like system (for better or worse), and have begun to return to their indie-roots with direct-to-consumer distribution. This evolution implies that games are important both economically and aesthetically to a large number of people. Games are as significant to our cultural landscape as baseball and misguided wars in the Middle East. The conversation about whether they are “art” entirely misses the point.