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  • Retro Games As A Revivalist Movement

    - John Nelson Rose

  • Gothic Revival

    Soon, in contrast to the logic of Neoclassicism, the Gothic Revival was to serve a different purpose. Surrounded by modernization, many artists began to focus on emotion and individual experience. There was an explosion of poetry, picturesque painting, and histories of long-vanished places. The Romantic movement was thus born, and with it a longing for the heroic and spontaneous. Neoclassicism's sobriety was not up to the task, but architects did find a suitable style in medieval building.

    Gothic: Notre Dame de Paris and Glasgow Cathedral

    The term "Gothic" was originally an insulting term for the "barbaric" style that developed after the fall of Rome. Identified by its use of the pointed arch and vaulting, Gothic architecture had long represented a tumultuous past for Europe. The Romantics, longing for bygone adventure, were drawn to the castles and cathedrals of old. The Church propagandized the Gothic Revival as a tool for recruitment, and many great thinkers promoted this return to the "one true Christian architecture" to save society.

    Gothic Revival: Houses of Parliament and St Patrick's Cathedral

    Architects started with medieval stonework, but expanded the style to accommodate large and complex projects of all types. In so doing, Gothic Revival buildings became omnipresent for churches and colleges to this day. The extreme verticality of the style can still make us gaze upward and feel part of something dramatic.

    Looking Back

    What can we learn from these very different yet related movements? How does the endless cycle of artistic revival apply to game design?

    Reinvention will and should happen. Architecture and games rely heavily on technology. Both forms are reflections of an era's philosophies and the tools that make them possible. The diligent artists strives to push the boundaries within today's capabilities in every medium. And when new solutions are found, they can't help but look backward and apply these improvements to past achievements. This is revivalism at its core. New Church movements, political propaganda, and the need for new building types were practical needs, and prove that revival movements happen for concrete reasons.

    Neoclassicists used concrete, iron supports, stonecutting improvements, and more to move past the constraints of ancient Greece. Gothic Revivalists built higher and lighter walls than their medieval counterparts, using similar advancements in materials and building methods. Both revivals spawned buildings larger and more complex than their predecessors, and they also managed to retain the essence of the initial styles. With improvements in memory, processor speed, networking, etc., retro game developers are applying our advantages to classic approaches. For me this is the holy grail of retro game design: to capture the magic of early game development, while streamlining and improving the experience.


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