Paul Virilio Revisited: Who Is Hurt by the Speed of Technological Advancement?

It is not the luddite who is most concerned about the speed of technology’s progress, but the devoted technogeek who hates shelfware. It’s enough to bring me to tears: I can’t play Fallout3 anymore. I played it all the way through in the first half of 2012. Eight months later, I wanted to go through it again (making some different choices this time), and it would no longer start up. I had made no changes to the computer’s hardware, nor had I changed the operating system. The disk had not been damaged. The only changes I can identify are the various (semi-involuntary) updates and patches issued by Microsoft since I had last played.

Yes, there are work-arounds. There always are, because there have to be. I’m not interested in work-arounds. I’m interested in enjoying our culture and art in our own time, rather than being done with a game before it is released.

Maybe it’s fair to treat movies with such passing speed; they only take 2 or 3 hours. Like games, some reward a second go-through more than others. A good video game may well be intricate and interesting enough to easily demand 20 or 30 hours of gameplay. (One game on my steam library indicates over 200 hours of gameplay; at least 5 others show over 24 hours of gameplay.)

Those of us who enjoy videogames face a problem of a growing library of games with increasingly amazing graphics, great stories, interesting characters, and beautiful worlds to explore. Yet our hours to explore this have not increased. Point in fact, as I’ve progressed from elementary school to law school, I have far fewer hours to enjoy videogames each year.

Each new generation of games means the death of the previous generation. I miss Warcraft 2. I’d like to be able to play it on my current computer- and I mean play it without Googling how to play it, downloading some emulator or application or patch (that may or may not be full of malware or spyware), and maybe getting it to work. The march of progress is dubious when each forward step erases the previous one. I can’t even play the original Bioshock demo on my computer. I have to think awfully hard about buying new games, because there is a very real chance that I won’t be able to play them anymore when the next O/S version comes out. And I don’t think the new operating systems and game consoles are sufficiently significant improvements to make the updates (which are foisted upon us, since companies phase out support for older systems) worth the candle.

As quaint as it seems for Riot Games to release a weekly patch for their game, they have a better chance of keeping their customers long-term because of it. I’ve heard it said that the Beatles were able to stay popular for so long because they grew and adapted their sound as the world around them changed (compare album “Hard Day’s Night” to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). Perhaps the same strategy of continual adaptation and evolution is crucial in the videogame industry.


One response to “Paul Virilio Revisited: Who Is Hurt by the Speed of Technological Advancement?

  1. For me, part of the fun of playing old games is getting the emulator working. But, I am probably in the minority on that. Eye of the Beholder 4eva!!!!

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