Virtual Archeology

To exist without history.

Have you ever thought about the legacy of media? Pop culture is built on legacies, references people will understand by sheer osmosis of existing in society. It’s why studios keep exhuming the remains of dormant movies. You can still get Spielberg to advise on the new Indiana Jones.

On the other hand, games are built on nostalgia and forgotten developers, with most people looking at games as if they haven’t surpassed the arcade days and quippy references shown in Ready Player One.

The first console I owned was a PS1, and in the eyes of my mother, every console I’ve owned since has been a PlayStation too. I could ask her anything about films or music and she would have an answer. Meanwhile, I just say I work as a journalist because ‘playing games isn’t a job’.

When you think of movies, music, books or really any other medium, so many people come to mind. Elvis, Prince, Cameron, Lynch, Le Guin. And most people will have at least heard of them too! Despite being a younger industry, if you ask the average person their favourite game developer and I can guarantee you’ll get a studio name, if you even get an answer at all.

Which is what makes seeing video game references in the wild so surreal. I watched a cooking video on YouTube and they put in Metal Gear Solid’s famous “Why are we still here? Just to suffer?” line from The Phantom Pain. The whiplash from that was intense because it was so disconnected from the game itself. They’d just dropped a cake, not engaged in war crimes.

In games, it’s hard to find icons with institutional knowledge and the history that comes with it. You have to dig so deep to find the root of any standard in games because, most of the time, the original developers aren’t there anymore, but their influences and ideas remain to this day. We can still ask our favourite authors and directors about their intent and ideas. Your favourite game developer probably just got laid off.

By Hilton Webster

Hilton Webster loves ranting about Zelda and gay stuff, and spends the rest of their time taking silly in-game photography. They write sometimes, too. You can find them on Twitter @hilton_Webster

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