There seems to have developed a major snobbery in the gaming world – if a game isn’t hardcore then it’s undeserving of any real consideration and you’re an “imbecile” (not my word) if you happen to be a housewife who enjoys casual games. Where did this all come from? Games are meant to be fun entertainment, so why have people become so vitriolic about them?
Scratch that. Why have certain hardcore gamers become so vitriolic about the non-hardcore?
As a game creator who loves playing games, I find that many hardcore games are simply too hardcore. Why, for instance, when I play a game on “easy”, do I still die so many times that I’m forced to give up part way through? Bioshock was guilty of this and I have no interest in returning to it because I know it will only wind me up again. Many people regard it as a great game, but any game that I can’t finish because I don’t enjoy the experience is not great in my book.
Okay, I know that my reactions may be slowing down as I get older, but isn’t that a part of why the developer creates an easy mode? It’s supposed to allow those without ninja button skills to play and enjoy the game, too. I paid good money for this game, why shouldn’t I enjoy it as much as anyone else?
It’s because of this that I find myself buying fewer and fewer hardcore games, which is a shame because some of them look fabulous and could be great fun. But it’s that word “could” that puts me off. How would I ever know without buying?
Yes, I could play a demo, but it seems to me these days that game demos are becoming rarer all the time. Besides, the demo is not the issue but the fact that some games seem to squeezing out all but the hardcore gamer.
There are games that give me hope, however. I’m currently playing – and thoroughly enjoying – Tomb Raider: Underworld. Okay, I’m playing it on the “easy” setting, but it’s still a great game to me. I don’t feel that I’m being excluded or that I’m missing out on anything because of this, so to me this is a great game. So far it is tons better than Bioshock. Well done Crystal Dynamics (the developer)!
So, really, I don’t want hardcore gaming to get lost, but just to be less hardcore.
The games themselves aside, the attitudes of the hardcore gaming “press” are much worse.
This piece has its origins in my reaction to two things that appeared on the net. The first was Randy Sluganski’s article about PC Gamer’s condemnation of the Nancy Drew games. The second was Yahtzee’s latest gaming rant in which he refers to the huge non-hardcore audience as “imbeciles”.
Okay, the Nancy Drew games don’t appeal to me, but I recognise that to a large section of the general gaming audience they are an enjoyable form of gaming and Randy was right to voice his opinion on the matter; something which I think he did in a very professional manner. He could easily have been much more vitriolic in return.
His main point, that a magazine about PC gaming which isn’t actually being representative of the whole range of players who play games on a PC, is a very valid one. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why PC gaming appears to be dying – at least if you think of PC gaming as traditional retail only.
Okay, there may be many fewer people buying hard copies of PC games from the shops or even online, but the number of people playing games on their PC must be huge when you take into account the number of downloadable games available through the many portals. “Casual” if you like.
Actually, I dislike the term “casual” more and more. When you look at the games portals, they’re offering a larger selection of games all the time and many do not really sit well within the “casual” umbrella. Perhaps we should term them “general” or, even better, “non-hardcore”.
Getting back to the point, it was Yahtzee’s derogatory remarks about the non-hardcore audience than annoyed me the most. How can everyone who doesn’t play hardcore games be an imbecile?
Yes, I know that he does his “reviews” in a manner that’s supposed to be controversial (and often it works really well), but sometimes it’s just nastiness for its own sake and in this instance indicates a weird kind of snobbery that seems to be pervading hardcore gaming.
I suppose I found it particularly offensive because I’m a developer who happens to be working on games aimed at this non-hardcore audience, so does that make me an imbecile, too? Perhaps even a double imbecile? I enjoy making games for a more general audience and would never see that audience as other than valuable.
There are times that some of these games can come across as patronising or even childish, but that’s mostly because the creators have erred on the side of caution in order to make them easily understandable and accessible. However, the success of recent games like Women’s Murder Club, Emerald City Confidential and Return to Ravenhearst show that many of these general gamers enjoy games with more depth to them, too.
These last three games, although they have lots of adventure style gameplay, have also come under some criticism from the adventure gaming community. Instead of embracing these games as a broadening of the genre, some criticise them because of the way they “casualise” the gameplay. Considering that the adventure genre has itself has had a lot of unfair criticism from the hardcore press, I find this an unusual viewpoint.
What, then, of the people who like both hardcore and non-hardcore games, myself included? How are we catered for in all of this? In many respects, not very well at all.
Ivinia, one of the posters on the Just Adventure + forums, wrote this: “There is, however, the other side of the coin with portals focusing mostly to the older female crowd… it would be nice if gaming genders/age groups/genres as whole were represented and someone would cover the full spectrum of gaming in an even-handed way.”
Really, that’s the heart of the problem – the market is being seen as two very different things when it comes to gaming press sites or publications and we’re desperately in need of something to bridge the divide.
Or are they simply too separate for such a site to draw in the users? Are those who do play games in both camps too small a number to justify such an investment?
Whatever the answer, the journalists working in the gaming press should be able to understand and appreciate audience tastes that don’t always fit with their own mind set.