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November 2003: Paul Smith - Captivated.
My local Game store has a large digital countdown timer in the window, a sure sign that something bigger than David Blaine's ego is lurking just around the corner. I walked up to it and was immediately filled with apprehension and mistrust, simply because the law of diminishing returns is pretty clear on what my expectations ought to be. You'll never get the same psychological or physical effect twice without upping the stakes. It's true of Love, drugs, roller-coaster rides and movie concepts. Need proof? I shrieked myself stupid the first time I went on Oblivion. Now I nap on it. Highlander: Awesome. Highlander II, The Quickening: Iffy. Highlander III, The Sorcerer: Tragic. I rest my case.
In truth, our entire industry relies on the fact that something that's amazing on Christmas morning is as dull as ditchwater -or better still, broken- by New Years Eve. If people stayed happy with what they were using or playing forever we'd still be stuck with DOS (DIR *.EXE /S /P Oh how I miss you!) and having a full three-course meal, with biscuits, cheeses and port while our Spectrum loads Manic Miner. Then crashes. Given this, you might imagine that the sequels to successful games, like films, would be pale imitations of the original; The Italian Job remade. Final Fantasy XXVIII redux anyone?
However, what I heard called the 'Interactive Games' industry (I asked them to name a game that isn't interactive. The best they could come up with was raindrop racing. "Ah", I said, "but you still need to pick a raindrop") the other day has a unique advantage over other media. Designers get better at software coding; hardware gets better at displaying it and opportunities for more tracks, weapons, characters and/or other features readily present themselves. It's the very evolutionary nature of the form which powers customer demand for newer, better versions of OS's, applications and games. Mind you, I'm strange and mysterious: I still think Doom2's gameplay made it a better way to spend an evening than Quake, but most of the time I'm normal. Well, more normal, anyway. For example I remember the night I bought an N64 home to replace my aging SNES. I said to the girlfriend, "Should we have a quick go before dinner?" and we eventually sat down to eat at 4am, by which time my waffles were well past their best. What worries me is this: How on Earth can Nintendo top that experience?
The teasing red LED digits on the countdown clock in town say I have a few lingering days and several loitering hours left until I can rip a copy of Mario Kart Double Dash out of its box and post it into my 'cube. Honestly, I'm finding the wait a struggle. My name is Paul Smith. I am an addict.
Paul Smith is still 'resting'. Job offers to email@example.com please.
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