It's no secret that the current generation of gaming consoles will soon come to a close. This generation has witnessed more changes to our precious medium than any other, and not all of them have been for the better. Among the more heated changes, like achievements and digital-rights management, is the idea of backwards compatibility. It certainly receives less attention than those other, noisier issues, so some may be forgiven for assuming it is, perhaps, not quite so important--but that is not the case. Very often when seeing other gamers discuss the idea of backwards compatibility, I see the same thing happen. Someone will criticize how backwards compatibility is implemented (or not implemented at all). The response to this is always either tacit agreement, or simple derision. After all, they say, backwards compatibility is not really an issue. If you want to play older games, simply buy the older console they were made for--or use an emulator on a PC. And every once in a while someone will express the most shameful sentiment of all: it's not an issue because old games are not worth playing, they're all terrible and outdated and anyone who thinks otherwise is blinded by nostalgia.
And we seem to respond to these retorts either with violent bursts of profanity and ridicule... or not all.
But backwards compatibility is an important issue, now more than ever with rumors circulating regarding the next iteration of the Playstation console series, code-named ORBIS, stirring up tales of locking-out used games, forcing constant online connectivity, and not being backwards-compatible with prior Playstation consoles. The backwards compatibility naysayers seem to be growing more common and vocal with each passing day, and all there arguments stem from inattention and ignorance. As gamers, it is our duty to discuss our hobby with civility and respect, and as human beings we have a duty to speak the truth in the face of ignorance. It may accomplish nothing in the end, but at least the truth will be there. So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we: just why is it that backwards compatibility matters? And what is it about the arguments against backwards compatibility that isn't valid?
The most infuriating argument against backwards compatibility is that it doesn't matter, because older games don't matter, and our affection stems solely from nostalgia-fueled delusion. Beyond the fact that the "nostalgia-goggles" argument is inherently meaningless and exists only as a method to insult another human being's opinion without making any valid points or leaving one open to any real response, this argument fails because it relies on an incorrect assumption. Basically, it assumes that games are perishable--like fruit, or that milk you've kept in the back of the fridge for so long because your afraid of what it might smell like when you dump it out. Silly, right? Games don't go bad: that's nonsense. The root of this sentiment, were one to articulate it (and honestly I've never really seen anyone even try) is that the quality of a game is dependent on numerous outside factors, from the cultural environment of the era to the technological limitations of the time. Because these older games come from a time and technology removed from our own, we can no longer enjoy them. Furthermore, our understanding of game design has improved immensely over the past many years, so beyond the visual and narrative elements that have aged poorly, we also must deal with outdated mechanics that render those older titles near-unplayable.
Well, as many of the more vocal critics of Final Fantasy XIII will tell you, game mechanics are not dependent on anything beyond the skill and ability of the development staff, irrespective of time. The basic mechanics of Dragon Quest have remained virtually unchanged since the original title launched in May of 1986--nearly twenty-seven years--and today Dragon Quest is one of the most popular game series on the planet. Final Fantasy VI was released eighteen years ago--in 1994--and is still widely regarded as one of the greatest stories ever told in a game. And twelve years ago Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn was released, a western role-playing game that to this day remains the quintessential example of RPG storytelling, gameplay and visuals.
No, we can still appreciate Starry Night one-hundred-and-twenty-four years after it was painted (1889), in complete ignorance of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, absent the understanding of Van Goghs internment in a sanitarium. We can still appreciate Citizen Kane without knowing who William Randolph Hearst was, or how ruinous the film was to Orson Welles' career. Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no. 2 is just as likely to move us to tears with the knowledge of his relationship to Tchaikovsky as not. So, too, are we able appreciate the quality of a game regardless when it was made, or where it was made, or who made it. Such circumstances are superfluous--they have no bearing on the quality or worth of a game.
I know I've been talking for a long time now, and I apologize. You're at the half way point, so lets have an intermission. Take a break. Stretch your legs, use the bathroom, drink some juice (I'm gonna go fetch a glass of pineapple-orange myself). I think the issue of backwards compatibility matters (which is why I'm here, after all) so I'd really appreciate it if you could come back after that brief repose and read all the way to the end, if you don't mind.
Continued at http://n4g.com/blogs/detail...