Steam revitalised PC gaming after a rough period of the mid-2000s, putting to rest those premature prognostications that gaming on home computers was “dead”. It gave big publishers a way to secure their games against piracy, it gave indie developers a place to sell their wares, and it gave players a convenient platform to manage their libraries. But in revolutionising the way we play PC games, it made one thing certain: physical media has effectively been dead to PC players for over a decade.
Digital distribution is convenient, sure, but what if it wasn’t the only way to get your PC games? Might we finally return to the glory days of big box gaming, where home computer entertainment came packed with a treasure chest’s worth of maps, manuals, and goodies? Would we be able to sell our old games once again? Would we actually have to install disc drives in our PCs? Would disc drives be the way to go anyway? We’ll get to the financial realities that make this all an unlikely dream in a bit, but for now, let’s imagine the possibilities.
For those of you who weren’t gaming before the turn of the century, PC games used to come in giant boxes. Sometimes that box would have nothing more than a game disc and a small installation guide, but often there would be much more. Maxis’s classic simulations of cities, earths, and ants included textbook-sized manuals, featuring hundreds of pages dedicated not just to information on how to play the game, but the real-world science that informed how those games were made. Cities: Skylines already serves as an illustrative tool for modern city planning discussions – it could easily provide a variety of supplemental materials on that topic, too.
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