Obviously the argument that like a lot of the recent PS1-style indie games are only working in the spirit of and not the actual limitations or material conditions of PS1 developers is fairly pointless but I think it does reveal some interesting tensions around history and style in videogame discussions. A lot of the discourse in favor of "better" or "more authentic" PS1-style graphics tend to be working from examples like Vagrant Story, I would say the actual meaningful touch-points for many people who say they're making PS1-style games is something like LSD: Dream Emulator.

And what emerges here is kind of a divide between connoisseur, who seeks the refined formal "peak" of a particular medium or style or form or whatever, and maker, who is more about bending the affordances of the format to their needs, especially in an expedient way. LSD is as much a PS1 title as Vagrant Story, but its position is very different. Vagrant Story is a sort of hermetic masterpiece; as a work it's the image of the angel with a flaming sword guarding the garden of Eden after mankind has been banished from paradise, overwhelming glamour but also absolute power and aesthetic discipline that cannot let anyone in. Of course people have been inspired by these works, but there's a reason that making a full featured JRPG, even using the derided "shortcuts" of an RPGMaker type engine and resource ecosystem, is generally considered an insane and quixotic undertaking.

These are works that are primarily introverse, inward-looking and oriented, for a variety of reasons. They don't encourage everyday participation, in fact they fend it off. They also rely on increasingly insular formal values and components; you have to cultivate an appreciation of the PS1 library and its technical affordances, the history of RPGs and a familiarity with their typical structure and style to fully appreciate it in this way. It's catnip for guys who have hyper-specialized into arguing for a highly refined "canon" of "great video games." That games studies and games criticism spends so much time arguing about or attempting to create a reception culture for these self-evidently "major" works is imo a major element of why they are so obsessed with idealist concepts like "mechanics" or "immersion" and also so often completely out of touch with videogames as made and experienced.

If I sound like I want to eradicate all work of this type from the earth I don't mean to, haha, though I could really do without ever seeing the words "Dragon" and "Age" or "Mass" and "Effect" next to each other for some god-only-knows reason again. I like a lot of standoffish masterpiece work, and there are some contexts in which I find it genuinely impressive. I just think discussion around any form in general is overly tilted in the direction of this work, when extroverse work can be just as interesting and also serves a vital function.

There's the somewhat-apocryphal story about the Sex Pistols gig that produced about as many bands as there were groups of four people in the audience, and also the saying that everyone who bought a copy of The Velvet Underground's first album started a band (It's interesting that music is almost always the example to hand for democratized production). This gets at both a silent or shadow canon of comparatively outre or minor works that nevertheless have a major influence on the creators of a field, but also a way of working and presenting your work that says, alternately, come on in! This is not a cathedral built on the bones of generations of peasants or QA workers.

This is the category I would say a work like LSD: Dream Emulator is in. It's personal and seam-ful, interspersed with actual texts from a personal dream log, bits of FMV and animation that make no attempt to gel with the densely-textured low-poly appearance of the game space. As you play it, you can get a sense of how it's put together, and the graphics are creative and compelling without descending into techy look-at-me-ism. The use of sound, texture, and player affordances are economical but able to be recombined and toyed with. In the same way that everyone who bought a Velvet Underground album started a band, I'm sure a lot of people came away from LSD not just wanting to make a game, but thinking they could do it. VNs also play a huge role in this, I think. Just look at Higurashi. (You DO play Higurashi with the original sprites, right?) I think developers are gradually getting better at mentioning these types of works in their personal "shadow canons," which I hope will also lead into criticism and academia taking a more comprehensive historical view of videogames.

But, as the discussion I cited to begin with gets at, there is still resistance to talking about this work, saying it's good and influential and worth discussing without qualification, and putting it on the same level as the more standard "masterpieces." And what I get from this attitude in contemporary production, rather than looking back at historical canon, is also a sort of "yick" reaction to the idea of "badness," aesthetic failure, or even unconventional aesthetics in general. I was surprised when working on Trashzine that so many people took the associated moniker of "Trashgames" completely seriously, like we were literally saying our own work was bad, or inviting people to treat it as bad, when we should have been straightforwardly pursuing sincerity and respectability, or something?

It seems like most other forms are able to have a space for complex identification with and reclamation of the aesthetically outre, rejected, mass-cultural, whatever, without this sort of hand-wringing. Even as we accept smaller, shorter games there is still an impetus for them to be polished, palatable, non-abrasive, and most importantly, to show no seams, especially if you want to get on the App Store. But seam-ful art and art that directly confronts or disposes of insular aesthetic values, and embraces the ephemeral and experimental, and sometimes fantastically fails, plays an enormous role in both expanding the field, and not just lowering barriers to participation, but making it inviting.