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FISCHER: Gaming like it’s 1998

By Travis Fischer,

The best part of waking up is traditionally morning coffee, but last week I got something even better. News that the first three games in the Resident Evil series would be getting new PC releases on GOG, a digital distribution platform that specializes in keeping older games playable on modern computers.

If I had to name my favorite games of all time, the original “Resident Evil 2” would make the shortlist. I have owned and played it on multiple platforms over the years. It has become my “zen game.” Something that I can zone out and play more out of muscle memory than active thought.

FISCHER: Gaming like it’s 1998
Travis Fischer

“Resident Evil 2” was the best selling console game of 1998. It also hasn’t been commercially available for years now.

You can’t buy it in stores, either physically or digitally, nor can it be played on any of today’s current platforms. If you aren’t keeping around a 20-year-old gaming console and a TV that can still support it, you’re out of luck unless you utilize some less-than-legal gaming practices.

It’s wild how different the gaming industry is to other forms of entertainment when it comes to maintaining the availability of older titles.

The highest grossing movie in 1998 was “Armageddon,” which you can still buy today on Blu-ray, DVD, and even VHS. You can also buy it digitally on Fandango, rent it from YouTube, Amazon, or Apple, or watch it with a subscription to AMC+.

The same goes for “ER,” the most watched television show of 1998. If you need your late 90s George Clooney fix, you can buy the show in a box set, purchase seasons digitally on Amazon, or stream them on Hulu or HBO Max.

Cher’s 1998 album “Believe,” is to this day the performer’s highest selling album. It can be listened to digitally on streaming services, bought digitally in MP3 format, or you could have a CD or even a vinyl record delivered to your door.

1998 also saw the release of the second books in both the Harry Potter series and the Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m not even going to spend any time confirming where you can find these books and just assume with reasonable certainty that they will remain in print for years to come.

Yet the best selling video game of that year (that wasn’t Pokemon) has only just now been made commercially available in 2024.

And even then, the upcoming PC re-release is only going to be a tune-up of the 1999 PC version of the game, which has substantial differences from its original PlayStation iteration.

Much like the original 1977 version of “Star Wars,” the original “Resident Evil 2” experience risks being lost to history. And if that can happen to a game that was once that wildly successful, imagine how many other games are out there that will never be playable again.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of dedicated internet archivists willing to take on the task of preserving gaming history, even if it means some less-than-legal reproduction and distribution. Still, it would be nice if the industry itself put some additional effort into keeping its classic titles playable for future generations.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and will always have every version of “Resident Evil 2” to play so long as his hard drive holds out.

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