Design by Collin Oguro
The history of electronic games, as relatively short as it may be, can already be divided into several distinct personalities. To the game developer, this body of history represents a list of successes and failures compounded by the belief that if only he or she would have had as much polygonal power in 1987 as exists today, the failures would be fewer. To the game-consuming public, the history is a dull lesson that drops off just short of the second-to-last game system actually owned. The future, to game players, is possibly more important than the past. To the collector, the electronic games history is a bible to be revered and a reference to be digested and divulged at classic game conventions. To the academic, this history is a disorganized, infantile beast--full of discrepancies and confusion--that's waiting to be collected, sorted, observed, tamed, and pushed into the realm of true innovation.
Each group, though driven by different motives, has something to offer the others. The game developer can teach the consumer what to expect in the coming months. The consumer can teach the academic about buying patterns and attention spans. The classics enthusiast can teach developers what makes a good game, regardless of era or trends. And academia can teach everyone a thing or two about what motivates a person to play games, why they are important, how we can make them better, and what we learn from them overall. Academia is also interested in collections, which benefits the developer, consumer, and classics enthusiasts fairly equally. Classic game fans archive too, but they usually do so for personal reasons and not for permanent public availability and accessibility. Furthermore, the academic archives less selectively, collecting all ideas, verbal history, written history, and digital history, which comprises a complete history quite unlike the conceptual history of electronic games currently available.
But there's a stigma attached to academia, particularly among game designers and game players. In a word, academia is "boring." GameSpot set out to challenge this notion by seeking some of the more compelling minds that are addressing game theory, which includes those who teach game studies and new media through universities, through thought-provoking games and Web sites, through art, and through community. The goal was to develop a State of the Union: Redefining Games: How Academia Is Reshaping Games of the Future. Because like it or not, electronic games are not babies anymore. They have been around long enough to stand on their own. So it's time for us to see what they're really made of so that we know what they'll become.