To all the players, developers, games journalists (and whoever else I'm missing) that make up the gaming community, it's time to face it -- we're all a little OCD. We keep circling around to the same obsessions over and over again, and while some of these subjects, like say videogame themed birthday cakes, never get old, some of them are not only completely tired, but were never worth anyone's time in the first place…
Hey, remember that Wii Fit girl video? If you don't go enter "Wii Fit girl" into YouTube and you'll be treated to the original video along with approximately 500 imitations. While you're at it, check out how many views that original video got. Almost 10 million. With the incredible variety and depth of depravity available on the Internet, how could so many people get excited about a quaint minute-long clip of a skinny girl in relatively conservative underwear wiggling her bum? Because she's doing it in front of a videogame, that's why.
Message boards overflow with people asking how to find a girl that plays games, gaming websites regularly run "How to Trick Your Girlfriend Into Playing Games!" or "10 Hottest Girls Who Know What an Xbox Is!" features, and now you can even pay women to play videogames with you. No, we didn't create that site as elaborate joke -- our sense of humor isn't that twisted.
Here's the thing though -- tons of women play games. Study after study tells us they do. The days of videogames being solely for boys are long gone (if they ever truly existed in the first place). Continuing to act as if girls who game are rare mythological creatures to be captured and kept in a gilded cage just makes you come off as somebody not exactly burning it up with the ladies to begin with.
Want girls to play games with you? Stop acting like a girl jumping Mario over a hole is some sort of ultimate masturbatory fantasy. Girls have advanced radar for picking up that creepy shit, and they're not going to sit down to play a game with you if they think you'll need a pillow on your lap the entire time. Stop treating girls like lab rats who can be tricked or trained into liking videogames. Just be honest, tell her this is an important part of your life that you'd like to share with her, and you may soon have his and her ass divots in the couch in front of your Xbox.
The Console Wars
Imagine for a minute if people were as insanely attached to any other consumer product as some gamers are to their consoles…
"You've got a Sunbeam toaster? You know Sunbeams totally make toast 10% too dark on average? I mean if that's cool with you, who am I to question why you like shitty toast?"
"You cooked this dinner in a Kenmore? I think I'm going to be sick."
"Maytag? More like Maygag…get a real washing machine dude."
The "console wars" didn't really exist until the 16-bit era when plucky up-and-comer Sega struck on the idea to disguise a competition between two big electronics corporations marketing two similar machines that played mostly the same games as the ultimate battle of honour. Gamers were soldiers and if your console lost it was your pride what was on the line, and guess what? It worked. Sega put themselves on the map (then blew their success faster than a trailer park lottery winner, but that's another story) and every console since has been marketed the same way.
Console wars are about manipulating gamers into shouting corporate slogans at each other for free. If someone asked you to walk down Main Street wearing a sandwich board extolling the cool refreshing taste of Diet Coke with Lime for nothing in return, would you? Of course not -- and yet we're all too eager to do Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's marketing for them.
into online screaming matches about which console is the raddest is
particularly ridiculous now that the price of all three consoles has dropped
significantly. If you're old enough to describe in graphic detail what you did
to somebody's mother because you're upset he said Halo 3 is better than
Killzone 2, you're old enough to get a job at Arby's, save 200 bucks and buy an
Xbox to see what you're missing.
Are Videogames Art?
The problem with most "Are Games Art?" debates is that people enter them hoping to arrive at some sort of concrete conclusion, and that's just never going to happen. In order to determine definitively whether videogames qualify as art, you have to answer the more general question of what art is in the first place and frankly I don't think that age old conundrum will be resolved in a forum thread started by "MasterTeabagg666".
The sneeze that set off the latest plague of "Are Games Art?" editorials infecting every videogame site on the web was a piece by Roger Ebert, which is a bit perplexing considering he's a film critic who's never played videogames and confidently asserts he never will. Aside from the fact that he's a better writer, Ebert has about as much authority to discuss videogames, as a teenager who cooks Double Downs at KFC has to review a four-star French restaurant.
I think Ebert recognizes this too, as he posted the piece on his personal blog rather than on his main website. His little screed is merely one man's opinion, and even if everything Ebert said on his blog was provably wrong, wrong, WRONG, he still punches the gaming community square in the sack in his final few paragraphs…
"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, 'I'm studying a great form of art?'"
Well folks? Do you require validation? I don't think I do, and if you've found yourself genuinely moved by games in the past, neither should you. Games are art to you, and trying to explain why they are to someone who hasn't been moved is like trying to pick up a girl while speaking Mongolian -- you're only going to end up frustrated (well, unless you happen to be in Mongolia, but watch out, those Mongolian girls are tough to crack).
I don't want to pick on the naysayers exclusively though, as the pro-art side often arrives to the debate with ulterior motives. There are a lot of ugly, clunky indie games out there hoping you'll excuse their faults because they claim to be art, and far too many games journalists shouting the same old arguments down the "Are Games Art?" well because they like sounding clever and really want to put off writing that preview of the next Dragon Ball Z game.
So here's my proposal -- how about we all just agree to skip forward a step, forget all the arguing and hand wringing, and come to the conclusion pretty much every other form of expression eventually arrives at -- that this medium can be used to create art, but that the vast majority of stuff produced is shit. Instead of creating obtuse self-conscious "art games", how about simply focusing on making games that aren't shit and letting art happen of it's own accord? Finally, let's all stop shouting at a sick old man and agree to agree with Ebert on things that are actually important, like how cars are pretty cool, and making out is totally awesome.
Videogame Sales Figures
Nothing brings out the Monday night quarterback in gamers more than monthly sales figures. If a game's first month NPD numbers come back low, that's it, it's a failure, and everyone's eager to tell you exactly why…
"Well, everyone knows M-rated games don't sell on the Wii."
"The game was released on the night before a blue moon while Saturn was in opposition to Jupiter…cosmic energy was just all wrong man."
"Not enough ninjas in it. Seriously, who buys a game without ninjas?"
Problem is, the NPD Group's sales charts don't tell the whole story. They don't tell half the story. Hell, half of a half. The NPD only collects data from the United States, with Europe, Japan, Australia, and even America's little buddy Canada all excluded. Hell, even within America, major retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon aren't tracked. Wal-Mart and Amazon. A videogame sales chart without Wal-Mart and Amazon included is like a meal at a Mexican restaurant without a side of beans and E.coli.
Even if NPD sales figures weren't just a dart tossed in the dark, why should the average gamer give a damn about them? Does a game become more fun the more it's sold?
It's not like sales necessarily determine which games get sequels. Games that were deemed "disappointments" in terms of sales like No More Heroes, The Conduit and Okami have had or will have sequels, and yet we still have no news on a follow-up to a megahit like Nintendogs. Point is, most of us have no idea how publishers/developers make their decisions or what constitutes a "success" for them, and clearly sales figures aren't always the be-all, end-all.
Maybe if there were a ton of examples of gamers rallying to support good yet underperforming games this fascination with sales would be justified, but there isn't. Nobody wants to climb aboard a sinking ship. If nobody else is buying a game, why should I? So just play what you want and don't worry about how well it sells -- if you're the only person on the planet who bought a game pat yourself on the back for being a gamer of such discriminating tastes.
Casual vs. Hardcore Gamers
Have you heard the news? You better lock the doors and board the windows, because casual gaming is coming to destroy everything you -- the studly hardcore gamer -- holds dear!
Just check the release lists for the next couple months (May and June) for proof -- Lost Planet 2, Skate 3, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, Blur, Alpha Protocol, UFC Undisputed 2010. Hmmm, actually that's a pretty damn good line-up. Even that Judas Nintendo is bringing the goods this year with Mario Galaxy 2, Sin and Punishment 2, Metroid Other M and a new Zelda game. Hell, Nintendo's big holiday game last year was New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a sometimes difficult as hell 2D platformer. It took some balls to release something like that in 2009, and it paid off -- that bitch sold like penicillin after fleet week. Nintendo isn't killing traditional gaming, it's making it cool again.
The fact is there's room for all types of games and all types of gamers. Wii Sports being successful doesn't mean death for traditional gaming any more than two Nicholas Sparks movies coming out recently means we're doomed to a dystopian future in which every single new movie has to be based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.
The only thing you're going to lose as the videogame industry embraces casual gamers is the sound of your grandma nagging you over your shoulder about wasting your life in front of those damn videotron games -- she'll be too busy playing Farmville.