The Specter of the Great Crash of 1983

One reason I am often hard on geekdom is because at times, it’s almost like a religion. Specifically, geeks often seem to have superstitions they follow, and boogeymen they adamantly believe in despite all logic, reason, or even evidence that show these rituals need not be followed or that the specter they fear might not even exist.

Case in point, many times I’ve cited directions the Gaming industry could take that would (ideally) result in better games, only to have the fans tell me “that kind of thing is what caused the Great Video Game Crash of 1983.” Indeed, it seems like just about anytime some gamer wants to call something a bad idea, or a bad direction, or whatnot, they invariably bring up the Great Crash and hold it over our heads like a scythe that will come down the minute we tempt the gods of fate.

But like most boogeymen, this one has no merit, and such becomes clear when you recall three important details about the Crash:

1. The Crash happened in 1983. Let’s be frank, the Crash itself was nothing more than a bunch of companies losing money on bad investments. This kind of thing is, in fact, fairly routine in the corporate world, and the only reason it seemed like such a huge deal to Video Games was because gaming was in its infancy. Today, gaming is bigger, stronger, and has a far more solid foundation. Even if Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft were somehow wiped off the map, we would still have video games. The circumstances that allowed the Crash to happen simply do not exist anymore.

2. The effects of the so-called “Crash” are actually far more limited than what most so-called “Gaming Historians” would lead you to believe. All that really happened was Atari pulled out of the console-making business, and all the other developers switched to computer systems like the Commodore 64 and IBM PC, as well as arcades. Gaming “History,” such as it is, is very console-centric and often ignores these aspects, which causes it to be skewered somewhat.

3. The “Crash” was a localized phenomenon–it only really happened in America. In other countries–especially Japan–gaming kept going. So again, the supposed “Crash” sounds worse than it really was, and again, there is no way it could happen today, because for gaming to “crash” they would all have to be such financial failures that they bring down all the big name countries from all over the world, and barring the intervention of Christ himself that’s just not gonna happen.

In summary: the Great Crash of 1983 is, as Penn would say, “Bullsh**!” We should stop being afraid of it, stop fearing that it could ever happen again, and we should definitely stop using it as some sort of holy sacred reason that the way things work is the way they should always be. Gaming is in a very bad place right now–not financially, but creatively–and what it would take is for someone to do something truly radical and new to shake it up a bit. Throw away old boogeymen and invite the future with open arms, I say!


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