On Sturgeon’s Law and the Retro movement

Sturgeon’s law (called by Theodore Sturgeon himself “Sturgeon’s Observation”) is that “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

This implies that, given that overall quality levels have remained the same, as much “good” material has been produced in the last ten years as has been produced overall in the last year; and as much “good” material in the last fifty years as overall material in the last fifty years.

Humans tend to remember the high points (the “good” material, or in rare cases the exceptionally bad material) much more easily than they remember the mediocre.

Thus we have the belief that all modern games are bad, because they are compared with the best games of the last thirty years; that all modern movies are bad, because they are compared with the high points of movie making since WW2. That all books are bad, because modern bodice-rippers are compared with To Kill a Nightingale and Catch-22.

It’s not really true. We overlook the crap and think the great games are representative of their periods. We overlook the modern classics-in-the-making and elevate the titles that have been proven by time.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a “retro” view, because the older titles really are as good or better than the new ones, but we shouldn’t overlook excellent new material when it comes along – particularly when the best of it learns lessons from the “retro” titles, giving a richer and more nuanced view overall.