"We'll Always Have Paris..."
The Köln Concert, by Keith Jarrett. Ok Computer, by Radiohead. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Casablanca. That's just a little cross-section of things in my memory which surface when someone mentions the word "classic". That list doesn't stop, however, with a conflicted and steely-eyed Humphrey Bogart sending Ingrid Bergman away to safety with Victor Lazlo. It goes on, to the story of an amnesiac criminal fleeing an enigmatic assassin as he uncovers a plot going all the way to the White House, a nanotechnologically augmented man attempting to find the truth amongst a thorny bed of lies and deception, and a rag-tag band of adventurers off to find fame and fortune in a world of gods, demons, orcs, and elves. I can only imagine what that would all look like if they'd all met; the child of the God of Murder, rubbing elbows with Bogart, with Jarrett on the piano and Thom Yorke crooning away about Fake Plastic Trees. "Here's looking at you, kid..."
"...you never get anything for nothing. Even when you pay, you get cheated!"
Amidst the high production values and big budgets of contemporary mainstream video gaming, it's worth the effort to spare a thought for the games which brought video gaming to where it is today: a powerful medium for story telling and entertainment that delivers experiences in ways we are still trying to understand and harness. Mac gamers have of course enjoyed their share of entries to the gloried halls of classic gaming; Bungie's Marathon Trilogy, and their later two games in the Myth series, both revolutionized their respective genres. Lucas Arts' X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Rebel Assault series still bring smiles in the people who remember them, and some people would hold up games like Fallout, Deus Ex, or Baldur's Gate II as being some of the greatest games ever made. There are still many truly classic games, however, that Mac users have sadly missed out on, games that continue to provide compelling gameplay experiences that in some cases haven't been seen since. On top of that is the sad reality that the inevitable march of technological progress has left many great games behind, left to be enjoyed on aging PowerPC G4 or G3 machines running OS 9. For our friends on the Windows side, this has been a blight they've dealt with in equal measure. While Steve Jobs dragged Mac users kicking and screaming into the modern era with the transition to OS X (and later to Intel), Windows users were doled out similar treatments, as 100 Mhz Pentiums chugging along with Windows XP gave way to multicore systems and Windows Vista (and later Seven). Many games were left behind as their coding utterly broke on new hardware and software. As game development studios and their publishers merged, got bought out, or failed, some truly beloved titles lapsed into a limbo of unknown ownership rights, or simply faded away as they went unsupported and out of print. For people wanting a return to the halcyon days of their gaming youth, there were few alternatives to maintaining separate computers running ancient operating systems and hardware better suited for museum collections. Others endlessly patched their games and systems, with enough unstable hacks to make a modern journalism department blush.
One company arose in 2008 that decided to change that. At first owned and operated by a small Polish video game firm called CDProject, the company was called GOG - originally short for "GoodOldGames" - and their business model was simple: offer old, obscure, classic Windows games at low prices, with an abundance of downloadable extras like manuals, concept art, desktops, forum avatars and soundtracks, all patched and fixed to work on modern hardware and operating systems. All DRM-free. Many rejoiced. Some wondered if it was too good to be true. In the coming months and years after GOG emerged from its initially obscure private beta phase, it would indeed turn out to be a dream come true, a veritable moveable feast of gaming for all to enjoy. If you ran Windows. For Mac users, sadly, it seemed like they would be left outside in the cold, with their faces pressed to the window, gazing longingly at the wonderous bounty within.