Venturing into the great unknown, we jumped over bottomless pits and fiery traps and shot down bad guys coming at us from every angle. We died. Sometimes we died more than we would have liked to. We tried again. Always, we followed the one directive we were given: Go right until you can't go any further.
Nerds from the 1980s and early 1990s have had these images scorched into their memories -- whether it be because of mustachioed plumber in overalls, a zippy blue hedgehog, cyborg bounty hunter or pink flying blob with eyes. The immense sum of video games that followed the exact same outline is forever tied to our youth. They're side-scrollers, they're simple, and they're some of the greatest games ever made.
Side-scrolling games, the type where a protagonist moved from left to right across the screen, consumed our imaginations in ways that could never be matched by 3D video games. As graphic technology continued to progress and worlds got larger and stories became more grandiose, the original hardcore gamers who spent their youth playing Atari and Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis and Neo Geo were left in the dust. On a rare occasion, new age side-scrolling games have been released into the cesspool of first-person-shooters and sports video games that dominate industry sales charts, but it's never quite been the same. Simplicity in gaming has been lost forever.
Simplicity in gaming has been lost forever. (Photo: Nintendo)
One presumable side-scrolling gaming fan, RockyPlanetesimal, has created a YouTube video Go Right that depicts the most beloved adventurers of the side-scrolling era of gaming running, leaping, flying and fighting their way across television screens. The video footage is accompanied by a panicked symphony of strings that accents the romanticized depiction of these characters battling to the end of their worlds. The video concludes in the only possible way it could have possibly ended -- with the greatest hero of the side-scrolling gaming era reaching the princess.
The video Go Right flies in the face of arguments made by Chicago legend Roger Ebert, who has prejudicially declared that video games can never be art.
No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets, says Ebert. Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form.
But that's where Ebert is wrong. Because games, whether it be video games or sports, and the style with which they're played and the stories that unfold as the games conclude can be considered an artform in itself. Art does not have to sit on a shelf or hang on a wall and collect dust. It can be animated. Art is dynamic.
Go Right speaks to me, and assumingly, those that have grown up in the side-scrolling gaming era because we spent so much time imagining ourselves as these characters or at least trying to fulfill their destiny by guiding them through life-threatening worlds.
Roger Ebert believes that video games can never be art. (Photo: REUTERS)
The 8-bit design of most of these games is to be appreciated more than ever because of the ever increasing power of GPUs and processors. In the same way that silent films have retained their artistic value since the development of CGI, 8-bit side-scrolling games have retained their value since the development of 3D gaming. They're an often forgotten form of art. Still, those that experienced the art in its heydey hold it dear to their hearts.
Go Right tells the simple story of one protagonists journey -- the side-scrolling hero -- who continues to move right until it's reach its ultimate goal. And while the storyline of any side-scrolling game may not be profound enough for Roger Ebert to appreciate, I enjoy its simple form. There's conflict, a long journey and, eventually, resolution.
The side-scrolling genre is full of artistic value, and Go Right has proven that -- at least, to me.