I can't comprehend time anymore

Inspired by an incident with my wife when we were re-playing Borderlands recently - there’s a “I’m on a Boat” achievement and she was stunned to realize the Lonely Island song was older than the game - I started to realize old games just seem so old compared to other media. I started seeing it all over the place - games that seem ancient yet are somehow younger than movies, shows, or other pop culture ephemera that seem at least relatively modern. A few that I have difficulty comprehending:

  • Jurassic Park came out the same year as Myst, and three years before the original Tomb Raider.
  • Pokemon came out the same year as Tickle Me Elmo.
  • Toy Story came just two months after the original PlayStation.

Am I crazy for feeling like video games have these time-warping capabilities, where a twenty-year old game seems way older than a twenty-year old movie? Anybody else have those moments that made them think they must’ve stepped through a wormhole?

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Spider Man 3 came out a year before Iron Man, that fucks me up sometimes

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I just saw a speaker at a packed Bernie rally that was born when I was in high school.

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DID YOU KNOW: 2016 was only, like, three years ago, not thirty, which is what it feels like.

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I think that this is just a consequence of getting older? I remember my dad saying that it felt like no time had passed since Star Wars first came out when we went to see the rereleases in the late 90s, and here I was as a kid thinking that may as well have been when the dinosaurs roamed. But then that’s about the same gap of time between the prequel trilogy coming out and now, and I remember the prequels happening yesterday. Time makes fools of us all I suppose.

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I think it’s partly getting older, and partly the way the game industry fetishizes narrow technological advances in a way that’s more pronounced than most other media and often gets uncritically reproduced in the press and the broader culture. Granted, game design is iterative, but people have been trained to see fairly recent games as outmoded because the lighting effects are a little cruder than this year’s model or the mechanics aren’t as fully tutorialized, while it’s often treated as neutral when large studios, even if they make concessions to progressive social representation, avoid rethinking the ideological assumptions baked into their design choices for yet another power fantasy.

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We are in the 50th month of 2016

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Music gives me that feeling more than other media. There’s crazy things like Massive Attack’s Mezzanine or SoaD’s debut album being over 20 years old, or Radiohead’s Kid A turning 20 this year.

Or when I went to suggest some albums for the 2019 music of the year threads only to realise they were released in 2018. Did you know that this:

came out almost two years ago? the fuck?

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I think the experience that hit me the hardest was about a year ago when I was at a barber shop, and this kid did not know the song “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (or even who OutKast was for that matter). One of the barbers asked how old he was (17), and after I heard that and realized that the song came out back in 2003(!), I instantly aged like 10 years :older_man:

So bringing it back to the original question, yes, Soul Calibur II absolutely feels older than “Hey Ya!”

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I am of two minds: one, that time is too abstract to leave a good mental image, so everything is like this. I don’t want to say video games are a special case in the face of all history.

But I will say, video games produce so many artifacts. Maybe its just the number of bits, the come and go of peripherals and “generations.” Or maybe there really is so much novelty that comparing Metroid Prime and Bloodbourne is jarring no matter what. There’s nothing inherently wrong with calling every computer based piece of media a video game. But its a messy term and it makes narratives really difficult because everyone who wants to go “all the way back” explaining Danganronpa has to talk about Super Mario Bros. And the lack of narrative means we lose chronology, which is really key to understanding time.

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the 90s are still 15 years ago, you cannot convince me otherwise

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Games released in 2009 - the nadir of my adolescent drain-circling - are ancient relics best forgotten. Games released in 2004 are still contemporary works worthy of close critical analysis. Games released in 2015 came out yesterday goddamnit why is there another sequel.

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My timeline is skewed by the media I’m regarding.

Music: Oh they had a release in 2016, that’s pretty recent!

Game: Oh, that came out in 2016? Was it unearthed during an archaeological dig?

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American Pie 2 came out the same year 9/11 happened.

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This is cheating just a little, but the first episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd was recorded in 2004 (16 years ago), and it covered Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest which was released in the US in 1988 (16 years earlier). AVGN is as retro now as the games it first covered were when it covered them. (I say it’s cheating because according to Wikipedia the videos from 2004 were a joke circulated among friends and they weren’t put online until 2006.)

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The Lone Gunmen X-Files spin-off came out the same year 9/11 happened as well.

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Call Me Maybe was released the same year as the 3DS. That was nine years ago.

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these all seem reasonable to me so I can only conclude that I’m incredible at comprehending time

thank you, thank you (bows) oh you’re too kind, thank you

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Last year I took my younger brother to see a Matrix trilogy marathon. Despite everything that series is, he hadn’t ever seen it. It came out within a year of him being born.

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IMO, the sets and non-special-effects shots in Alien still look better than nearly everything released in the last 5 years. There’s an artistry to crafting the illusion of fantasy spaces that might be made easier to realize with better tech, but better tech doesn’t replace that artistry.

The problem of creating a video game ‘classic’ that stands the test of time is harder than in movies. Movies are serial art, unchanging from viewing to viewing, so every frame can be polished and related to every other. Games are dynamic spaces, and that space has to be presented by a tiny box in your home.

Consider the similar relationship between hand animated Disney movies and the extremely rough first few generation of computer animated movies. Toy Story is still a pretty good movie, but the artifacts of computer rendering make it hard to watch now in a similar way to how Xbox era games look a little wrong now. Part of it is the human ability to learn the “tricks” the computer is playing on our eyes, and the relatively cold way those patterns repeat. It might have looked good when we first saw it because we hadn’t learned the patterns yet.

There are older games that still feel pretty fresh, and they follow some similar patterns. Some use hand drawn art instead of obviously digital are, tend to have a fixed perspective, and limited control over presentation. Others I can think of use pixel art, but that’s remained timeless IMO, for the reason that cartoon art does: the power of simplification and 2d presentation to trick our brain into filling details that aren’t there. I think there’s something about 3d spaces that make our brain demand more detail, or make it harder to settle into that cartoon mode of filling in the detail ourselves.

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