The Exigent Duality
Fourth Era Upon Us? - 10:33 CST, 3/09/24 (Sniper)
I was really sad to hear about Akira Toriyama's death, I just mentioned him in a post too! He's probably my favorite artist, along with Rieko Kodama-- and now both of them have moved on. God bless their souls! Now they are up in heaven, making beautiful art.

Speaking of artistic legends, here is Nobuo Uematsu-- a top-five-of-all-time video game composer, easily-- echoing exactly what I've been saying for years. I'll let his words speak for themselves, bold emphasis is mine:

"Uematsu goes on to muse as to why recent game music has become less interesting in his opinion. He suggests that the problem might be that directors and producers are 'satisfied with movie soundtrack-like music in games,' adding, 'I think people need to have more freedom when creating (game music).' Uematsu thinks that if games keep using Hollywood movie-style scores, then the genre of 'game music cannot develop further.' On the other hand, he comments that 'game music will become more interesting if composers consider 'what is something only I can do?' and use their own knowledge and experience to be truly creative.'"

Back in the 80s and 90s, game composers were precocious, classically-trained pianists from young ages. Today when I look up contemporary video game musicians, they "make music for television commercials", which says a lot about the precipitous drop in talent-- and which thus explains a lot about why the music isn't that interesting anymore: these new people simply don't have the music theory "chops" that the old guard did.

But, I'm feeling increasingly silly complaining about modern games. To elaborate: I've been writing about the concept of multiple "eras" in the industry since at least 2007, however my thoughts have evolved since then. Here is my current take:

  • Era 1: 1960s to late 1980s. Single-screen arcade games; example, "Pac-Man". Technological limitations enforced a reliance on minimalism and evocatism.

  • Era 2: Late 1980s to late 1990s. Point-A-to-point-B games; example, "Super Mario Bros". Sweet spot between gameplay-centric focus and added complexity. Best visual art and music in history of the medium.

  • Era 3: Late 1990s to present day. Corporatized cinematic games; example, "Uncharted". Shift from gameplay and towards Hollywood-style story telling. Eventually, shift towards Cultural Marxist establishment messaging as well.

I liked "Era 1", loved "Era 2", and more-or-less loathed "Era 3". But in 2024, we are finally progressing to what might be a new era.

  • Era 4: Mid 2020s to present. Democratized experimentation; example, "Palword". Games assembled by smaller teams making full use of off-the-shelf software such as "Unreal Engine 5", combined with cool custom programming. Implicit, reactionary, anti-establishment-driven experimentation.

The Cultural Marxist values seem to, finally, be on their way out: like how the makers of videos re-posted by "Libs of TikTok" don't want people to see their nuttiness; corporations are now trying to hide their "wokeness"; one would think activist organizations such as "Sweet Baby" would want publicity, alas they are trying to shut down anyone who publishes lists of projects in which they are involved. This is a far cry from just a year ago, much less in 2020, when the multi-billion dollar corporations were tripping over themselves competing to see who could donate more Molotov cocktails to domestic terrorists during the Fentenyl Floyd riots.

In addition to the aforementioned "Palworld", take a look at the preview video for an incoming game called "Kingmakers". I suspect the latter is going to be yet another phenomenon, which will surely lead to more and more such releases.

There is such a deluge of interesting-to-me games coming out over the next nine-odd years, that my thinking regarding the state of the medium is rapidly evolving after almost two decades of creative stagnation, with my static musings reflecting the dormant creativity on display.