by Eric-Jon Rössel Tairne
A medium goes through its phases. Generally it starts off piecemeal, little snippets of ideas that stand alone, each studying the nature of the medium. What’s possible? How do things look? How do people respond? Later the ideas coalesce into short subjects, often delivered through a reservation in some passing medium. Periodicals set aside pages for short stories. Networks set aside airtime for TV episodes.
Later, as the public becomes accustomed to format and language of the medium and as its authors start to understand its implications and potential, the ideas will get more complex and demand more room to develop. That extra room in turn demands new methods and understanding of the changed space and its implications for communicating. Thus we have long-form subjects — your novel and your Sistine Chapel and feature film and television serial.
Although videogames have been around for a few decades, they have spent about half of their active life spinning their wheels. Part of the problem, I think, is in the eagerness about twenty years ago to move on to long-form subjects before anyone really mastered the short form. If we’re to look to any model for a healthy development of what we now know about game design, that model might be the golden era of television.