Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's Not Just You

So, during our vacation we were discussing the course of videogaming. Where we see it heading and if we like it or not.

It was a conversation that triggered pretty strong views or maybe it was just the smell of the ocean that riled us up. We, as a whole, are quite discontent with games and it's not just us. It's not just us that's tired of games. Games, apparently, are also tired of us. They're trying to reach a new audience, encompass the world. ore shum thinke...

View during said conversation
The point came up that being a gamer is fashionable nowadays. Not as mainstream as, say, having a Facebook account, but closer to... say... having read a book in the last year. "Why did everyone start playing WoW? Because all their friends were doing it." I'm not going to say I agree fully with this statement but it raises a valid point. Did a lot of people become gamers just because everyone else was doing it? Is it like smoking? Or complaining about the government? Or jumping off a bridge?
Another factor that might have helped gaming become more mainstream were tutorials. there was a time when you were dumped in a game with very little knowledge of the workings of the game. You'd first experiment all the buttons, finding the one that brings up the menu, tweaking any settings the game has and then reverting them to default just in case... It was a journey of discovery, it added to the mistique of the game, being uncharted territory that you had to brave and tame. It made it, for me at least, more enjoyable. There was a learning curve that began with remastering the controller and not just having your charaxcter(s) apply different skills/abilities at different times to achieve a purpose.

Nowadays you'll not only be presented with a picture of your controller with arrows and a description of what every button does but you'll probably won't get to dive in the game proper before you conquer one or three hundred tutorials. It's like you're a toddler and the game really doesn't want you to get hurt. Where were they when I first played Mario?

The point was then raised that we are, in fact, living a vicious cycle. Developers notice that other developers are lowering their standards (or broadening their sights, trying to lure in new players) so they, in turn, lower theirs to try and lure in more people by helping them every step of the way until they feel safe and confortable wrapped in the blanket of assisted playing. Players, having been dumbed down, now expect new releases to guide them through their first steps.

So where does that leave me and others like me? I don't mind dying a few times if it means you'll stop calling me dumb. I don't mind a bit of an initial challenge. Its not like we were spewed out of our mothers' bowels knowing how to walk and talk and wipe our own asses but nobody took me aside for the first months of my life to tell me what my legs were for or what this communication gig was all about. I experimented, tried and failed and, in the end, I think I did alright. It took a fucking long time and I'm not done learning yet but the ride was worth it. It was a challenge.

We didn't come to any real conclusion. It was just a state of the nation kind of thing. We can't expect the gaming industry to alienate new prospective players just because we know what an analog stick is for but it doesn't mean we like being reminded of it every single game. It makes the brain lazy and pretty soon we'll have to go back to Brain Age.

I'm going through the Phoenix Wright series again on my DS. I'm completely hooked. In fact, I'm gonna play some right now while I sigh of relief that I don't have a credit card registered in the PSN.

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