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Technological constraints temporarily defined a "gamer" to mean a solitary individual, in defiance of the traditional norm. In the same fashion, another unique characteristic of the videogame medium, "sequels are better", is destined to fall.

Ron Newcomb, Blogger

September 26, 2009

2 Min Read

Sequels to stories, books, and movies are generally acknowledged to be inferior to the original, while sequels to videogames tend to surpass their originals both critically and commercially. This is seen as yet another feature unique to videogames, and is sometimes used as a defense against cultural stalwarts who attack the form on grounds based in older media: videogames are different, and the old rules do not apply. 

Almost anything with software in it is better as a sequel than as an original. Buyer beware of versions 1.0. Software regularly runs over budget, under-performs in practice, is prone to catastrophic failures, and so on. Videogames fall prey to this as well, but because they are judged aesthetically and not just functionally, the effects are magnified. Polish counts, and the lack of it is generally what defines a version 1.0.

It may require more time to work out the kinks from software development than it did in, say, skyscrapers, because the possibility of death and high cost of failure is a motivating evolutionary pressure, a pressure that software rarely has. For videogames, software development can hardly settle down while the evolving hardware keeps pulling the rug out from under it every so many years. Parallel processing may be powerful, but it requires more than a toolset change. It requires re-conceiving software architecture from the bedrock up. 

I have faith that we will eventually work out the bugs that let in the bugs. When we do, the sequel will no longer shine so brightly next to its original. Much like how we once thought videogames would make "playing a game" mean a solitary activity, only to have technology finally restore the age-old norm, the sequel-favored property of videogames will revert to the same as other media: originals are better. 

In 1992, a man named Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize, an American award for achievements in journalism, literature, and music. Spiegelman's work, however, was in the form of a comic book, published in its complete form twenty years after the end of the Silver Age of comics. While we have made a lot of noise recently about fabled tiny minds preventing the consideration of videogames as art, perhaps the reason the age of relevance evades us is neither corporate nor cultural, but technical. 

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