Adventures of Old
I'm sure that anybody more than slightly beyond my own twenty-three years of age will laugh heartily when I say that I am growing old. This is because they are ancient and jaded, and their favorite thing to do is to make fun of younger people and dismiss what they say. I'm not quite to that point yet, but I can feel the metamorphosis occurring. Oh, sure, the teenage store-clerks still check my ID whenever I buy liquor, but little do those vexatious whelps know that whereas I could once quaff more shots of the hard stuff than they had seen birthdays, and wake up the next day starving for breakfast, I can now only manage about half that amount, and I wake up desperate for more sleep.
Vexatious whelps, did I say? Oh no. I have reached that point. I guess my tired brain was simply too addled to realize it before now. The time, it does fly.
The signs of my impending decrepitude are various and plentiful. For one, I am terribly insecure about the supposed problems that I face, even though those problems may not exist at all; and I tend to use dramatic words like "impending," "various," and "plentiful" to describe them. And I should probably see an optometrist, since although distant traffic signs used to be perfectly legible to me, these days I catch myself squinting at far-away, blurred-out smears in a desperate effort to resolve their form, even though my conscience tells me that I should be paying attention to things like stop signs and pedestrians. My left ear is partially broken, ever since I made the mistake of flying across the country with a head full of mucus, which prevented my controlling the pressure within my skull while the pilot traced his cruel parabola through the sky. I also can't stay awake for more than sixteen hours without yawning--and, if someone else is within earshot, complaining. I sometimes stare at my hairline in the mirror, as I consider certain of my relatives who either went bald or grey at a young age. Heck, I can't even eat like I used to. The golden days of my gorging on mounds of cooked animals while boasting of my similarities to Thor have sadly slipped away.
But I do not lament the (presumably) long future that awaits me, so much as I do the briefer past that escapes me. That is the real torment of time's passage, as anyone who has lived through a few decades of it will tell you; and I find that I am even more sensitive to the passing of time than most. Whenever I think about the people, places, and other kinds of nouns that meant a lot to me in the past, but which I know will never again affect the course of my life, I'm apt to get all weepy. I can handle goodbyes, but usually not goodbyes-forever.
If the universe were a truly just place, we would all be able to revisit our pasts, much like Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim was not a happy man, I admit, but that's because he didn't get to select which moments of his life to revisit; he experienced his whole life at once. He lived by different rules than we do, but he was no more free. I guess that means Kurt Vonnegut is only slightly more just than the universe at large.
This terrible feeling, of being constrained by the Fates to a life without the bliss of time travel, only intensifies for me when I consider the games industry. Unlike some people, I'm not prepared to issue a blanket condemnation of the direction the industry has recently taken. Even during what I view as a relative downturn in the industry's creative health, I have no trouble picking out the gems, which seem to shine even brighter on account of their rarity. But today these gems form only a small pile, and are mostly of a similar cut and hue.
I could have used somebody like Billy Pilgrim, back when I was busy choosing my favorite types of games, to tell me that most of those types would soon vanish from the market. If he were particularly kindhearted, he might also have informed me of whether these genres were gone for good, or if they would eventually see a resurgence. Because frankly, it's been more than seven years now since adventure games, space sims, military sims, and mech sims took their collective leave, and the suspense of waiting for their return is killing me even more rapidly than the onset of age. Will these former behemoths of the PC-gaming landscape ever fully awaken, or should I reach for the Kleenex and say goodbye forever?
I believe that the answer to that question lies largely with Funcom's Dreamfall, sequel to The Longest Journey, and, therefore, to one of the greatest adventure games ever made. Dreamfall, as it happens, has just gone gold, and will soon ship to stores. Its release constitutes the most significant event in the adventure genre in at least five years, and its success or failure, both in the eyes of critics and at the retail market, will determine what the next five will be like. It deserves your rapt attention. After all, it is potentially a fountain of youth; and if it fails in that capacity, then perhaps it will yet succeed as a brief trip back to a better time, the value of which I cannot overstate.