The Golden Age

The first Age is always the Golden one. Where things are new. Where the impossible seems possible. Where mistakes are made and accepted as part of growth. Where hindsight after many years makes you really question the sanity of that time as the time context is gone.

 

Bhagpuss has a summary series on EQ through the ages. It starts, as they all start, with a Golden Age, a pinnacle, a decline, a resurgence and then… meh. It’s always meh for the current age.

 

You can apply the model to pretty much anything. Sci-fi. Cinema. Music. Food. And when you apply today’s paradigms, you can pull out all sorts of nonsensical items. Fahrenheit 451 has nothing to do with books – it’s a social commentary on technology making people into zombies. But since we’re all zombies beholden to technology, we don’t get that.

 

UO, EQ, WoW at launch were a gift from the higher heavens. Each of them was pure and focused and perfect. Time made them less so. Design decisions brought them to earth. The magic was lost. They are broken today. Hyperbole clearly, yet people still want to defend the idea because they find solace in it.

 

We were all 15-20 years younger. All our lives were simpler. We all had more time. It was new and different. It had other people! People like us! It was a level of social acceptance that really didn’t exist elsewhere. It was geeky before geeky was sexy. It provided shelter to people with different social skills and holy crap did that resonate.

 

Mechanically the games were ok. They were best guesses. UO was a skinner box, where PvP greifing was discovered (and exploited). EQ in particular was a glorified chat tool with the insane downtime in the game. WoW made the meta (resistances and raid checks) more challenging than the gameplay. Without each of those steps, the market would not be what it is today. And in the aggregate, there is no way that geek would be cool without them. Each built on the success of others and pervaded our larger social fabrics. Not everyone knows EQ, but everyone knows WoW – gamer or not.

 

The Silver Age is what follows the Gold. It is a time of trials and tribulations. Of experimentation to see what sticks and what doesn’t. It’s an age of refinement, not of creativity. What down the road will often be seen as catastrophic failures, but those are needed in order to stage a rebirth. And everyone loves a rebirth story. 

We’re in a time where ages are measured in shorter and shorter spans.  The Dark Ages lasted 1000 years!  Renaissance was 300.  Golden Age of sci-fi was less than 10.  Gold + Silver + everything else is just a tad over 20 for MMOs.  2 years for Gold EQ (which I’ll let others debate).

Time is a fickle thing.  Einstein had it right, our concepts change depending on the context.  A game is perfect when it fits your needs perfectly, and is horrible when it doesn’t.  That’s not the game, that’s you.  Viewing it through the Age lens, is just applying the larger social needs vs the game.  UO thought non-stop PvP was what people wanted, it wasn’t.  SWG thought people wanted a combat revamp – woo did they not.  EQ thought doubling down on challenge would keep people around – nope.  Blizz thought people wanted to play Cataclysm and hit walls of difficulty, people didn’t.  There isn’t a single dev that had instructions to follow.  They did what they thought was best… and here we are looking back with so much hindsight it’s like judging a baby that can’t do a backflip.

Games have grown.  We have grown.  It’s a veritable buffet of choice today.  I’m certainly appreciative of it.  Thankful for the people that came before to lay the foundation.  Time to enjoy today.

One thought on “The Golden Age

  1. To me, all the term “Golden Age” really means is the period when something was at its most successful or popular – it doesn’t tell you anything much about the quality. I’m not sure I’d say that Golden Age Hollywood was the peak of American cinema artistically, for example, and the Golden Ages of Science Fiction and comics and television are of historical and sociological interest rather than periods of any great aesthetic value, I’d have thought.

    An interesting thought experiment is to ask not whether you prefer the current version of a game over its Golden Age iteration but which of them the “you” who’d been about to play the original would have chosen if they’d have had the choice. I suspect many of us would go for the modern version.

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