Space Quest 7: Would Anybody Care?
Joe Cassara, 1 June 2004
I've been processing and pondering the fate of Space Quest lately. I'll get right to the kernel: if a commercial software house were to create a Space Quest sequel, would anyone from the core fan-base care? Consider:
- The adventure game genre as you and I know it has entered the fossil record. It's there to remind us "old timers" of what passed for digital entertainment back when names like Roberta Williams and Ron Gilbert meant something. That's not to say they're worthless relics, but what currency do the their names hold at a modern day E3 conference? Do they illicit anything more than emotional treks through the history of video games in those who care to remember? If I were to mention "Scott Murphy" to my 15 year old nephew, would he revere him as he does Gabe Newell or, to tread that line of recent history, John Carmack? No. My nephew doesn't know who the @#$% Scott Murphy is (even though we did at that age), and doesn't care.
- The market doesn't care, either. Yeah, everyone loves to blame LucasArts for the cancellation of Sam & Max II. "They're just lazy" the critics say. No, they're clever enough to understand #1 up there. We're not giggling in front of our Commodore 64's anymore. The personal computer, as a mainstream gaming platform -- the one best suited to adventuring experience we adored -- has taken a back seat. I blame Myst and DOOM more than I do the executives at LucasArts and Sierra for killing the genre. They reintroduced a level of uber-simplicity to gaming. Massholes (i.e. the general public) don't dig the "ponderous" cavalcade of puzzle solving, item manipulation, and dialogue that we worship. Hey, this isn't MY theory. Ask anyone in the industry who comprehends the current market paradigm. Or, if you prefer, compare to talk radio: Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern are successful because they appeal to the majority of a particular (albeit different) demographic that's attractive to advertisers. Look at the psychographics of the modern day, "typical" gamer with $50 in cash to burn on a title. Is he into adventure games? The focus groups and forecasts say no.
- Given #1 and #2, with what are we left? Sierra, as an example, reviving Leisure Suit Larry in a 3D "Action/Adventure", Magna Cum Laude. What is it? Action? Platform? Adventure? Arcade? It's the current generation of title that attracts the console gamer. It may not be DOOM, but it sure isn't Space Quest 6. Now I won't be pretentious and knock a game that has yet to be released, but even a quick look at the flash animation preview (http://www.leisuresuitlarry.com/) proves what passes today as quasi-adventure is not what you and I recognize as an LSL game! We're not talking about the leap from AGI to SGI here, abandoning a parser for swell icons. This is a reshaping of what constitutes the "action/adventure" experience. Period. (Look at the description! "Adventure" itself has become so meaningless, they have to prefix it with "Action" as not to scare buyers away!)
These points have been made exhaustively in the past and compile down to this conjecture: if a Space Quest game were created today, only the most fanatical Roger Wilco worshiper would shell out 60 buckazoids for it at the software shop. The medium and those who pioneered it as we remember are "dead" (1), we would not be the new game's target demo (2), and the experience would be extremely foreign (3) (kinda like wearing bikini underwear when you've been a boxers guy all your life. Yeah, it covers up the tidbits, but...).
Sierra could take out a full page ad in the New York Times tomorrow proclaiming the return of Roger Wilco in an all new Space Quest, but the message would be lost on yours truly and probably a significant chunk of the "old tyme" Space Quest consumer base as well. Consequently, the message here is "Space Quest 7 -- Who Bloody Cares?" Not them and not us.
But we'll always have the memories...
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