Thursday, June 9, 2011

I am Legion. We are Many.

Nothing biblical here. Move along. Title refers simply to gamers as a community.

When I was a young girl, adults would look down on consoles and gaming with a patronizing grin. Like they would a really expensive jump rope or... those things you spun around your ankle and then lept over again and again. Lemon Twist, that's it (not to be confused with Lemon Party). My point being, games were not considered, for the most part, a very grown up thing to occupy your time with. Unless, of course, we're talking about some kind of sports game. Whole different... ball park.

My boss here at the internship was asking me how I'd spend my long weekend (Friday and Monday are both holidays) and I said I'd probably stay home and play. I didn't get into any details because he wouldn't get it. He's a "have bbq with folks, play with dog, catch the game on tv" kind of guy. He looked at me and asked 'you're staying in?!' I felt a pang of embarrassment which was quickly subdued by an overwhelming sense of pride. Here I am, part of, what seems to me to be, a massive minority that occupies their time with digital interactive entertainment, AKA, videogames.

Outdated views about what grown-up life should be like are just that: outdated. It says a lot that many of the peolpe I play with are pushing 40. In the olden days, people were lucky if they lived past 25 but things change. Way back when, women couldn't vote or show their ankles but things change. You catch my drift. The things we entertain ourselves with change as well and some people seem a bit slow on the uptake.

But others caught on early and made a pretty penny by starting to mature the games as their target audience matured as well. It's my genuine hope that when I'm 80 and sporting a spiffy robotic hip I'll be playing full 3D mystery games set in nursing homes where you have to figure out who pulled the plug on your best friend down the hall. *sigh* I wish I was retired already...

Anyways. It got me thinking that the share of the active population that actually invests in videogames has grown considerably in the last few years and as those people start having babies of their own, a new generation of gamers is born and raised and the prospect of growing sales in the long run must be something very real to developpers everywhere. But in their greed, their lust for quick and fast profit, they adapt their products to fit and please a wider range of potential costumers, dumbing down games with simplified gameplay and long-winding tutorials. We don't need that. Honest.

Take Minecraft. Do you have to play a tutorial to be able to enjoy it? Do you feel like you can't handle the conrols or gameplay because you didn't play through a few test missions? No. And the game was as successful as we all know it was. Minecraft filled a void in our gaming needs. We needed the freedom and the respect the game showed us. We needed to feel that we were given a free world to do things in and that they trusted us to accomplish whatever it was we set out to do without an omni-present father figure putting up invisible walls lest we hurt ourselves.

What bugs me is that games weren't always so. You had the option of going through a tutorial or you could read the freaking manual. Manuals, they still make them, you know. Just in case you slept through the tutorials all of that useful information is still there, in written form. Games had a learning curve. Wether it was steep or a very slow crawl, they trusted you to get the hang of it on your own without flashy neon signs over most of your playing field advising you on the right order of buttons to press. Makes me feel like they think I'm an idiot. Yeah, they think I'm "special" alright.

Stop making things simple. We don't want that. If games are supposed to be a complex work of craftmanship then I wanna feel the burn. Did you see the reviews Dragon Age 2 got? This is not the way. We don't want simple. We pride ourselves in our game-forged brains. And instead of lowering gaming standards to please a wider audience of mouth-breathers how about stimulating the minds of potential gamers with flashy and addictive games that also provide some kind of challenge?

Ok now the rest of the office is reminiscing how they used to play soccer with their neighbours at 8 am on the weekend when they were kids because there were none of these new fangled computer thingies. I gotta leave now.

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