If you enjoy seeing me talk about video games, might I direct you to my new YouTube Channel, where I hope to do a great deal more of that in the near future? I also now have a Patreon of my own to go along with that, so should you choose to support me in any way I will be most gracious.
We’ve talked at length about the odd role the PC plays in the history of the video game medium in this project before. In brief, my argument goes something like this: Despite the fact the first widely available interactive electronic games were made as programming experiments for personal computers, they’re not, broadly speaking, “video games” in the way I personally conceive of them. There are two discrete traditions that make up what we call “video games” today, and a lot of the tension in video game culture probably stems ultimately from this: One comes from those early PC programming experiments and is largely European in origin, stemming from what is called bricolage couture in French. A branch of this took root in the United States where it syncretized with the liberalism-inspired New Age and Hippie movements and the country’s penchant for solipsistic ego-mythologizing to give rise to Silicon Valley.
The other, by stark contrast, traces its lineage to places as disparate as the cathode ray tube manufacturing industry, public houses and amusement arcades and has become most associated with (and defined by) Japan and Japanese culture. The quick and dirty rule of thumb for determining which tradition you’re dealing with when you play an electronic game is to pay attention to the basic gameplay, with the divide more or less being over whether the game privileges real-time action or text-driven interaction and logic puzzles. Or, put another way, which does your game more closely resemble at its most fundamental level, Zork or Asteroids? I’m oversimplifying things to a massive degree here, and as the years have gone on there’s naturally been a lot of overlap and syncretism between these two styles, and most modern games are pretty hard to peg as being one or the other and not both to some degree. But the divide is still there, and I submit you can’t understand the history of the video game industry without being aware of it.
(I would like to stress here that I have never desired to place a *value judgment* on either of these two basic modes of gameplay: I may have my personal preferences, but I think they both have their own situational strengths and weaknesses that deserve to be acknowledged and talked about.)
The PC then is both one possible origin point for the modern video game industry and yet also occupies a weirdly limnal place within it. There’s no disputing early PC games were developed by and for a very specific audience [straight, cis wealthy, nerdy (they tend to be the same thing anyway) WASPy men], but the old joke in games journalism was that once consoles became the norm the PC *always* got the shaft with dramatically inferior ports of console games (though ironically enough in recent years, as of this writing, the PC has become the *lead platform* for many developers due to modern consoles becoming, in essence, shitty PCs).…