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Our community’s mythic reverence of yesteryear makes new gods out of pop culture. We pay tribute to the quarter machine, pray to the pixel, worship the retro. These gods, though made mighty by our collective belief, are powerless to the old deities of crossover appeal and financial stability.
A small cabal of us, even in the face of this utter dominion, dared to craft monument and scripture to venerate our neon idols. To resist the wrath of solvency and social spaces to crystalize our tenets into terrestrial displays of our extraplanar connection. The most pious of us, the Finnish game-church Housemarque, can no longer suffer for the faith.
From Super Stardust, to Dead Nation, to Resogun, to Nex Machina, Housemarque’s gospel was uplifting and reminiscent. They didn’t just make games that were like the ones we played in the past, but they made experiences like the ones we had in the past. This is an important distinction, because arcade games from the past are not as good as we remember them being. Instead of reminding us of this, games like Matterfall replicate familiar functions without exposing us to the ugly truth. Bless them.
Great displays of prowess and commitment to the glory of our history isn’t a fast track to sustainability, though. The faith is strong in Housemarque, but unlike actual churches, overhead expenses are the real devil.
Every arcade revival release is the last straining Sisyphusian step up a tall hill, where the return on investment is the boulder crashing down to the lower world. Yet, on the walk back down, where it would be easy to reason themselves out of beginning the climb anew, they bolster their resolve, and begin to push once more. This is what true piety looks like.
Though it may be more than conviction to the doctrine of history that keeps anyone pushing against inevitability. At some point — when you open your arms, press you face against the unforgiving stone, dig your heels into the soil below, and heave with all of your might — you find some sort of rebellious glee in willingly stepping into a toil and torment to which you will never know the end of.
It’s this proletarian masochism that makes the effort so endearing. After every trip down following every dense thud of every failed summiting, they gnash their teeth and press again. The journey is the dirty, callous crucible that creates something wonderful out of grit. Being able to create beauty out of something so hopelessly ugly, even for a second, is worth it if it even only slightly turns the screws of oppressors.
Until the resounding crash of the boulder at the bottom of the mountain called Nex Machina, a critically acclaimed obeisance to Eugene Jarvis’s Robotron 2084. On the way back down the hill, Housemarque had the same procedure of self-assurance. Except this time, the idea of pushing the boulder up that hill again was heavier than the rock itself.
The most painful thing for us, the humble reveler, when the deacons and pastors lose the faith is when you can completely understand how they got to this place. No one can blame them for not wanting to push anymore. To suffer for a god who, though not false, isn’t practical. At the end of the day, the old gods still sit atop Olympus because the world is crafted in their image. Being too good for this world doesn’t exclude you from the fact that, ultimately, you must play by its rules or no longer live in it.
Editor’s Note: Corrected “Danish game-church” to “Finnish game-church”