ThirdMan wrote: ↑
October 8th, 2019, 5:23 am
The best thing that has happened to me in gaming terms over the past 3 or 4 years has been shaking off all my preconceptions of what a game must offer to be a 'real game'. I find that type of language very reductive. It's also quite self-serving as I suspect many of those same people would consider videogames as works of art. They (rightly) want the definition of art to be extended to include their favourite interactive, goal-oriented games, yet don't seem willing to similarly extend the concept of 'game' to include those other
types of experiences - those indie creations that are to videogames what videogames are to traditional art. People seem forever destined to plant their little flag in what they think is the 'real thing'.
I'll admit to being deeply conflicted when it comes to this sort of thing.
On one hand, I love the creative diversity that video games provide. I love the broad varieties of experiences they can offer and I love just how creatively liberated they can be in comparison to more traditionally codified mediums like cinema and literature. Games can be long or short, goal-oriented or experience-oriented, cheap indies or massively expensive AAA, verbose or mute, complex or streamlined, narrative-based or mechanics-based, arcade or simulation, hand-crafted or procedurally generated, and much more and everything in-between. This lack of preemptive delineation of what a game can be goes well beyond the traditional concept of "genres". A game can be whatever its creators want it to be, in theory at least, and I think that's an inherent strength of this medium and something that should be celebrated. I like to step outside of my area of expertise every one in a while and experiment with different genres and design philosophies. I like to read the thoughts and opinions of people with completely different tastes and preferences from myself. I love the sense of discovering something which I didn't initially think would be my thing and yet it turns out to be exactly that.
I never join in the talk of "X is not a real
game". If it's an interactive computer program designed for entertainment, it's a video game. Space Invaders
, League of Legends
, Farming Simulator 19
, Papers, Please
& Devil May Cry 5
are all video games. Period.
But on the other hand, I think our culture and discourse is plagued by toxic truisms and dynamics that mostly serve to discard things I care about. Most of my all-time favorite video games are on the demanding side of things. They're not easy-to-pick-up, codified, one-and-done experiences. They require a bit of effort in order to reveal their strength and beauty. And in this age of over-saturation and short attention spans, that's effort that the vast majority of players simply aren't willing to put in. Which wouldn't be an issue (horses for courses, after all) if it didn't have a direct effect on the industry itself. And unfortunately, it has. There is a vicious cycle at play here and I don't think it would be intellectually honest of me to put it all on the mean studio executives.
Put it this way: I would never dream of going to the Dear Esther
subreddit and telling people that it needs to incorporate all sorts of mechanics and elements in order to pander to my tastes and preferences. That'd be absurd. To each their own and I want these people to have fun as well with a product that focuses on what is important to them. Basically, I try to be cognizant of all the different lanes and to be respectful whenever I venture onto somebody else's. But unfortunately, that doesn't always seem to work both ways.
Whenever somebody cares and knows a lot about a particular subject, it becomes very clear whether others do or not. I have no problem with somebody disagreeing with me, even strongly, as long as they know what they're talking about and are arguing in good faith. What I do have a problem with are uninformed takes that are coming from a place of laziness and entitlement. That's when my elitist tendencies come out.
Plus the rampant recency bias that dominates so much of the "conversation". Which is just completely toxic nonsense that does a lot more harm than good and yet nobody ever bothers to question it. We talked about it recently so I won't expand on it any further, but let's just say the problem doesn't seem to be going away.
The fact remains the vast majority of my favorite game series have become dumbed down and devalued over time in order to pander to the lowest common denominator. Often to the sound of thunderous applause coming from the least invested portion of the consumer base. And honestly, it's really hard not to become bitter about that. Especially when paid professionals are seemingly just swimming with the current and actively reinforcing a lot of these attitudes. When the God of War
reboot came out last year you could barely find any reviewers that didn't go out of their way to badmouth old-school GoW in order to prop up the new one, for example. Some commenters were pointing out the reduction in strategic depth that came from the removal of the Jump mechanic only to be met with "Thank god they removed that useless feature. Keep that gamey shit in the past." Yeah, stuff like that is hard for me to swallow. Especially since we had to wait six months for the hype cycle to die down and the first comprehensive critical analyses to come out.
I don't like gatekeeping and I never advocate for it in practice (mostly because of all the social nastiness that usually derives from it, sexism, etc...). I'm no stranger to the internet and I've visited a number of forums in my day so I understand how toxic people can get about this sort of thing, but I'd also be lying if I said I didn't understand the urge to protect the things I care about sometimes.
So yeah. Bit of cognitive dissonance on my end. Our medium is beautiful in all its diversity. But I wish people were more respectful and less complacent in general and that the system wasn't completely set up so as to make everybody buy the latest and shiniest at the expense of everything else.