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Nostalgia in Historical Game Articles

This is just a brief thing; I’m trying to gauge the point of this here article. I mainly skim or don’t read The Escapist anymore so I have no idea if this is basically the standard for the weekly content the site was originally built on, but well, I’m still trying to think of the point.

The point appears to be a nostalgic reminiscence with a few bits of historical information thrown in. It is a article which is fine if you want a very basic bit of knowledge about what Dragon’s Lair is but that is it. Sadly, when it comes to historical articles, I am usually disappointed. In this case it is easy to point out some reasons why. It doesn’t make it a terrible article, just one without much of a point.

Framing the Game Against Nothing

Going with any kind of press release is infuriating in history, since they are always overblown and bad. So the first bit of the article simply regurgitates horrible marketing, fair enough.

However we never get a frame against what other things were out at the time. Even some rudimentary research into the actual games, and not a vague reference, as in this case of “Conventional games of the era were sprite-based, representing movement through a series of bitmaps displayed in succession”.

Then, later we get comparisons to contemporary games as if they were inspired solely by Dragon’s Lair. It might well have influenced quick time event games in general from that point onwards, but a lot more came out after Dragon’s Lair (and plenty of games basically were QTE games before it); especially which were not animated and a lot more “typical” QTE games on consoles and PC’s. The genre itself entirely failed since they were all so really really bad. Almost all FMV games were QTE based. Sigh.

The fact these are not even mentioned is bemusing, apparently the entire QTE industry just died soon after Dragon’s Lair (even though it was soooooo good!). Very selective revisionist history!

Leaving out Important Information

For some bizarre reason when expounding the love for the game, it is glossed over just how much the game cost to play; “during a time when a quarter got you a bus ticket, two seats at a movie and a hamburg steak, if my grandpappy’s stories are to be believed” – wha? What? That’s your accuracy?

Then we go onto why the games failed; perhaps the fact laserdisc machines broke easily and were expensive to do games for (and they worked in very specific technologically-limiting ways). Doing hand animation must have exacerbated these costs massively; the amount you can make from one expensive, if novel, game is limited. Perhaps the money train had gone, and it was a fad, but where are the stats to back this up? Perhaps it was there were just actually too few of them and they were too short so even a die hard fan could only spend so much? Do home consoles not factor into their decline either? Sure you’ve got the American 1983 crash (which might well have helped Dragon’s Lair), and afterwards a larger and larger increase in power; meaning proper home ports were available of the once-50cent-per-play game.

The main company Cinematronics was also acquired in the 1980’s so isn’t a vast change in management also an issue? Is Bluth and Dyer leaving an issue or not? Who knows why they left…the author sure doesn’t, and doesn’t cite anything of course, it’s pretty much speculation.

Creators Relation to Other Games

What else did Bluth and Dyer do after Space Ace? Apparently nothing? I don’t get how you can centre so fanatically on them, especially Bluth, without a followup besides “He’s got his own animation company” and “he saw the future” (yet it wasn’t to be! sarcastic sad face here.). I mean, for goodness sakes, his artwork is also in the sequel (also unmentioned) called Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp!

It’s a shame since we also don’t know what Dyer even did before this game, which at least we got for Bluth. Space can’t be an issue (see “Questions”), especially also since I’ve seen articles much longer on The Escapist.

Platform Adaptations

“To date, Dragon’s Lair has been released 59 separate times across over 30 platforms” – please, at least qualify it properly that until major amounts of space were available, the actual gameplay in most of the 59 titles was no where near the original thus are name-tie-ins only, almost akin to “Videogames of the Film” – being platfomers, adventure games and, haha, not even having quick time events in them as such! That’s just lazy.

It is also odd since no connection is made even here between the availability of the game in it’s original form more-or-less and the rise of FMV games at the same time. It’s even funny to see him mention BluRay and DVD releases too.

Questions!

Who doesn’t like questions? Do you not like unanswered questions? Do you think questions are a cheap cop-out for actually putting some worthwhile words on paper? Do we agree that I’m using too many sentences to make this point?

Well, perhaps not:

“are games defined by form, or by content? Do you turn to games for stories or beautiful graphics? Or are you content with the bare bones of gaming – the stuff Bluth would contemptuously describe in Digital Leisure’s interviews as “little sticks and dots”? What ultimately do we desire from our videogames – control, or the illusion of control? Put simply – how much game do you want in your game?”

Gee, thanks for naming all that stuff, but not actually bothering to do anything with it. Most are pretty rubbish polarising questions with no answer (“Do you turn to games for stories or beautiful graphics?” doesn’t have to be one or the other!), the others are rhetorical at best such as “how much game do you want in your game?”.

Finally…Nostalgia!

Even after this deluge of questions Brendan basically carries on the nostalgia – even after hinting it is a “mongrel movie rather than game proper” nothing is questioned as to why it even was made this way. Nostalgia rules over the fact that even if these were the best looking games at the time the amount of effort to make them was astronomical and economically unfeasible (after all; the market is there for new or long lasting things, not playing Dragon’s Lair repeatedly especially at the cost it was – it simply wasn’t really a full game).

Perspective is everything and the article basically has none. It tries to make it up as a precursor to Metal Gear Solid 4 or Heavy Rain, yet makes no actual attempt to describe why such techniques are still used since they plainly didn’t work for Dragon’s Lair even after saying how often it fell flat on its face! He actually comments a little more in the comments about how the game was basically a way to get a short film out to people in Bluth’s own words – this is an area that could have used better examination, and contrast it versus todays games (or even the later FMV titles).

It is, admittedly, at least showed how a “game” which so little input obviously wasn’t long lasting. It perhaps is a testimonial to how you can make short term profit over anything else by making something look so ridiculously pretty. Perhaps too it led to the long deluge of bad QTE based games, or inspired ones that use QTE’s to never use them like Dragon’s Lair. It is worth a better, fairer article then it got here, since it had some influence at least in the art department, something that isn’t actually raised at all how the traditional artwork still isn’t used today much. There are many other points I could bring out but these ones apply well to many other historical articles I’ve seen. I’ll be on the lookout…and really should write some of my own or research games more.