Changing Landscapes; The Future of Gaming
It seems like the plight of the hardcore gamer has been getting worse as of late. It has become easier than ever to simply pick up a cheap device, or even use the phone already in your pocket, and begin gaming. Many people feel that this has deluded the gaming community, a once tight clique of geeks that would stay up at all hours trading secrets and discussing the buzz of the then small gaming industry. Early PC gamers remember the hassle of simply installing a game and getting it to run, and early console gamers have wrestled with NES cartridges and blinking screens more times than they can count. These people went through hell to play the games they loved, and now, suddenly, someone’s grandma can enjoy the same pleasures of gaming with just a click of a button.
At least, that’s what many people tell themselves. The reality of the situation is that hobbies change, and once one hits the mainstream in such a big way, they change forever. Many people compare video games to movies, but the way the industry is now I see a much more apt parallel to cars. They release new ones every year, sometimes have nostalgic throwbacks to catch people’s attentions, and are always looking for a way to get the consumer to purchase the newest model even when it’s barely an improvement over last year’s. The product doesn’t come with everything you need, and you’ll have to purchase all the add-ons if you want to maximize your purchase. Sound familiar?
It really is hard to predict where the industry is going with things like a subscription based XBox. Suddenly even hardcore gaming machines are being dolled up to look like cellphone plans. While reading Jarrett’s article on the topic, I was pleased to see someone with something positive to say about the situation. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different thing. Although unfortunately the shift from the traditional gamers to a more mainstream audience has brought with it a lot of animosity.
While speaking to a friend of mine recently, he told me he felt left behind, and abandoned. Suddenly when a video game commercial comes on TV, he isn’t the target audience. I’m sure a lot of us feel disenfranchised by this, as well as by the fact that being a “hardcore gamer” now means that you play Call of Duty on XBox Live.
But, not everything is doom and gloom.
The light at the end of the rainbow is that since the industry as a whole has grown so much, the smaller niche within the industry that traditional gamers inhabit has grown with it. Call it trickle down if you want, but either way there are more great games being made by talented artists now than ever before, the trick is finding them under all the Halo buzz. This isn’t to say I don’t like my share of mainstream gaming, or that I haven’t clocked my share of hours in Black Ops, but I also see that this mainstreaming has allowed things like Fez and Lone Survivor to float to the top.
The small-team games are still being made, and Indie studios are thriving now more than ever. This isn’t a plea for complacency, but it is an observation that as more and more people are exposed to gaming, the more they will eventually grow tired of the cycle that we are in and begin to wonder if there is something beyond Call of Duty. So don’t shun people who never owned a Super Nintendo, bring them into your circle. Show them that there is so much more out there to enjoy and play, and maybe one day the visionaries that are toiling away at the bottom of the industry will be in the seat of power.
With all this happening so close to E3, and a gaming populous waiting anxiously to see what kinds of twists the industry will take in the coming year, there is a lot of speculation. There will always being injustices and shady business practices in an industry this large, but as long as we continue to shower praise and support on the people doing the right thing, I’m of the opinion that we will always land in a good place.