Ctrl + Alt + Deleting History - P.T. & Beyond - ArticleCorey Milne , posted on 12 May 2015 / 9,452 Views
I guess I'm going to have to talk about P.T., or Playable Teaser to give it its full and illustrious title. If you're reading this here on VGChartz then I'm going to presume you have a relatively good handle on all of the latest gaming news, but indulge me a moment while I set this piece up with a brief recap.
P.T. was a neat little teaser demo for the upcoming Silent Hills by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, which got everyone terribly excited. However, publisher Konami and Hideo Kojima got into a lover's quarrel. Things escalated, and it quickly ended up with Konami flinging Kojima's clothes out of the bedroom window. Unwilling to await divorce proceedings, Konami has started burning the rest of Kojima's possessions in a fire out in the back garden, P.T. and Silent Hills among them.
P.T. has also been permanently removed from the PlayStation store. If you didn't already have it on your hard drive then you will quite likely never be able to play it. In a way I understand why it's gone - it is after all marketing material for a game that will now never happen. Its utility within Konami's corporate structure is nil. People are upset, though, because it was an interesting little horror vignette. I wanted to play it myself, moreso out of curiosity than anything else.
I mention the demo because it's a great focal point in addressing the god awful way the game industry treats its heritage. The industry's respect for history is on par with the Wikipedia entries which claim that Henry VIII formed a motorcycle gang to raid Hitler's Venusian armament factories. If they can't slap a HD sheen on it, cram it into a collection and sell it to you again, then these companies don't want to know.
Let's be honest, most of us don't take time out of our days to ponder the merits of archival. Nonetheless it's rather important. Not only in its cultural value as games continue to grow within the modern media landscape, but it's also important to know where the medium came from, both for researchers and historians, as well as the new generation of game design students who will be taking advantage of the fact that many more colleges and universities offer game design courses nowadays.
Personally I think the more tragic loss was the closure of PlayStation Home. You could argue that Home wasn't very good, and you'd be right, yet the game industry was a very different place when it was announced back in 2007. In a way it encapsulated the ambitions and hopes that gaming could be a more social and shared experience, something that's only really coming into its own now thanks to services like Twitch and YouTube integration. We had to start somewhere. Sony had no idea what it was doing with Home, but it was a building block. The moment Phil Harrison threw a Bravia television down some stairs to show off the physics engine, or all of those weirdly sexual dance parties in the plaza, will have to be kept alive through the stories of “those who were there.”
Come July, PlayStation Mobile will also be shut down. There won't be that big of an outcry because we still look down on mobile games. Undoubtedly many of those games will be preserved through piracy (mobile games are generally easier to pirate than console software). It shouldn't be the job of pirates to preserve any of this though. The Internet Archive does great work in this regard, with over 2,000 retro games available to play for free on your browser. And hey, even if you don't care about archiving, free games are pretty cool!
Yet in a move that is indicative of the state of the industry, the Entertainment Software Association - a group that represents a number of large game publishers - doesn't want organisations or museums to preserve old or abandoned games. It doesn’t want anyone to restore the functionality of older video games that are no longer supported by their publishers because, says the ESA, “this is 'hacking,' and all hacking is 'associated with piracy.'”
There's a cultural numbness here that dictates that if a product is not actively generating capital then it is rendered worthless. To compound the issue, while publishers actively seek to dismantle the past, they try to sell us on the lie that our digital-only future, as inevitable as it is, will mean that our games will live forever. At least until they unplug the servers.
In a way digital storefronts ease the burden. Remember how difficult it was to get a copy of Earthbound before Nintendo stuck it on the e-Shop? But more can be done. Online stores don't last forever. We don't even know if Steam will be around in ten or twenty years' time.
I think we can agree that games have some artistic merit to them, and we need institutions to treat them accordingly. Film researchers bemoan the loss of early films made in the 1920s. The same could happen to games and private collections just won't cut it.
A few days ago I said that even if only a couple of people come away from the P.T. situation with a new or even small interest in archival work then that will be no bad thing. I wrote this piece to specifically raise awareness of this issue. What can you do? As much or as little as you want. You could start your own little curation project, get involved in communities like Moby Games, or just be supportive. People always appreciate a smile and a nod.
If you feel angry, annoyed, or just a little bit miffed about all of this, good! We'll never get passed any of these hurdles until the game industry gives a damn about where it's come from and where it's going. Right now it's an industry that wants you to hand over your cash again and again in exchange for promises and dreams, constantly reassuring you that all of this is worthwhile, even as it's shovelling its heritage into a landfill.