Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Assignment 2: Homebrew Video Games


Steinberg, S. (2011, February 14). Retro Gaming Looks Big in 2011. CNN Tech. Retrieved from

A number of older video games have been resurrected from obscurity thanks to gamers and web technology. As mentioned in the article, personal computer games such as Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, along with Atari classics such as Yar’s Revenge have recently reappeared on the web to much fanfare.

Video game production companies have predominantly focused on new games, with new features for modern gaming systems. The revitalization of older games has not been lead by these large companies. Instead, it has been an online fan community that has re-created the classics.

Gamers have begun producing what are considered “homebrew games” recently. Homebrew video games are “produced by consumers to target proprietary hardware platforms not typically user-programmable or that use proprietary storage methods” (Wikipedia, 2011). Fans are able to not only re-create older games, but also create mash-ups of older games. Sites such as Newgrounds have collected numerous user-created games for people to play.

They create new storylines using previously generated content. But they have also forced companies to change the storylines of past games. For example, the Mortal Kombat series will now need updated storylines to explain its new release.

The web serves as an enabler of participatory culture, which Jenkins (2006) defines as “a culture in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content” (Jenkins, p. 290). Message boards, blogs and wikis serve as spaces to collaborate with other like-minded fans. Sharing ideas, information and experiences allows for the creation of new content using older games.

As video game consumers begin creating content, they become what Bruns (2008) defines as “produsers”. Bruns describes produsage as “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement”. Instead of simply bringing back an older game, fans can make their own modifications to it and allow others to play their new creation. The opportunity to contribute to a communal process is what motivates individuals, according to Bruns (2008).

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Homebrew (video games) (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 28, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homebrew_(video_games)

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Ostrow, A. (2011, January 26). “Oregon Trail” & “Carmen Sandiego” Games Coming to Facebook. Mashable. Retrieved http://mashable.com/2011/01/26/oregon-trail-carmen-sandiego-facebook

Wilson, J.L. (2011, February 23). Yars' Revenge: Hands On with Atari's Updated Shooter. PC Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380812,00.asp#

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