Growth of Computer Games and the Players

Jul 15 10:15 2016 Manav Mathur Print This Article

If there’s one thing I’m being made constantly aware of from news and personal experience, is that while games have grown and matured at a substantial rate and continue to do so today, but same cannot be said for the players.

About a decade back the major burning question within gaming was whether or not the medium was a form of art. Major releases were rated either E or T as opposed to the now more prominent M rating and the most common source of debate was Shadow of the Colossus. A title well regarded for the emotional and manipulative impact it had on the players,Guest Posting often making them feel more villain than hero thanks to its mechanics and enemy design. Titles like Majora’s Mask and Final Fantasy VII had been emotional journeys, but not like Colossus did and it started to make people see games as something more than previously before. And as the years went on and games like Journey, Bioshock and The Last of Us came out, the teens and young adults who found themselves indulging in games then were are now adults in positions able to change public perception and as a result, the question disappeared. It was clear, if only to the community, games were bonafide art. Titles like this continue to find themselves tackling more mature subjects and putting on larger spectacles. They’ve won music awards, entered halls of fame, and even the eSports scene is now being hosted on ESPN with more to come. Games are handling issues they would’ve once been criticized for trying to tackle because they were games, but the same thing can not be said for the people playing them.

As far as the medium has progressed the typical gamers that indulge in them, be them kids, teens, brothers, or just the general public, have regressed and become unwilling to cope with or accept what a more mature form of entertainment entails. And because everyone who is already ahead of the curve is so quiet about all this, with the vocal minority being given center stage, it paints the wrong image for developers and publishers. How do games relate to and reflect the real world, what do we pull and learn from them, how do they affect us, and how can they be used to convey messages to the player? It isn’t an argument exclusive to just games. The film, novels, and comics have all come under similar critiques before, but now find themselves free to explore deeper concepts because those that supported them allowed them to evolve, and as society advances to become more socially aware of racial and gender issues so does the scrutiny each form of entertainment comes under. For some reason, gamers can’t accept this reality for their interest. Just as they don’t want to be looked down upon for their hobby, they don’t want it to become inclusive or handle serious issues out of fear for what it means for future projects. It’s an elitist group for the sake of being elitist, where everyone is at each other’s throat for the smallest issues, be it demanding to console exclusive mods for Fallout 4, reporting video game delays, or a little difference in opinion when it comes to games. The world where a playtester for Uncharted 4 had to be kicked off the team after becoming belligerent when he discovered Drake’s child at the end of the game was a girl. These ideas were a major issue in 2013 with the lead developers of both BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us giving way to it in media.

Where Ken Levine was too afraid to put Elizabeth on the cover of Infinite so as not to alienate players and lose sales, while Neil Druckmann put Ellie on the cover of the far more successful Last of Us, but had to lie and state she wasn’t playable for the same reasons. It’s pitiful to see devs cower in fear over the mass market, but it’s even worse to see publisher’s reject titles like Life is Strange simply for having a female in the lead, which only helps perpetuate the mold that shapes the logic of consumers. People want to live in an echo chamber, an affirmation that their method of thinking is a just one, thriving off confirmation bias to shape their perception of the world. And to those of us online engaging in this discussion we want to see ourselves as something more, but just as with any group, it’s the counter-productive ones who make up the face of gaming to the general public and developers.

Games aren’t perfect, Gamers aren’t perfect, they’re better than this, at least they’re supposed to be, and it’s a shame because this mentality is something I’ve seen carry over into players in their 30s where it’s cemented into their default thought process. I’ve witnessed this multiple times in video comments, forums, and social media posts where people give way to pettiness over a logical discussion. There's no room for criticism and any given disregarded for the benefit of the individual against it. For those of who go against this mentality, those who work towards seeing a better future for our passion, the unjust reality of the situation is we’re always forced to play second fiddle. So while indie developers are making strides to take the genre forward with moderate success, AAA studios wishing for the same results are being caused to stagnate. It is due to consumers and business practices that have the game design down to such a tried and a true formula to guarantee as many sales as possible that higher ups choose to forego such decisions so as to avoid the possibility of lower sales.

There’s a reason why titles like Watch Dogs and Call of Duty sell so well to players. They provide bombastic gameplay experiences and thrills promised by manipulative marketing, while breaking free from the proper discussion and offering a false sense of security, due to their shallow narratives coated in paint that proclaims it’s to be taken seriously, without ever being so. When it tries to be, it's quickly ridiculed. To the immature, it’s a sign of their adulthood and by criticizing it, they interpret it as an attack on their mentality.

These games offer the illusion of maturity without ever really exploring what that entails. When games like Six Days in Fallujah try to deal with those problems and correctly, represent their impact, gamers, and the media bash it for treading ground many would prefer to be left untouched, leaving a potentially great title without a publisher for seven years and running. It’s this unwillingness to see games as reaching beyond anything higher than they currently are that damages the medium. Gamers do mature, perhaps not all in the same way or time, but as others are excited to see the genre pushing forward, it seems this resistance to change has become more prevalent in recent years than ever before. I understand the desire to have games remain fun and entertaining, and it’s something Nintendo exceeds at and what makes their games so pure in essence. But I cannot say the same for The Last of Us or Nier, games that are trying to make a statement about how we perceive not just the world, but each other. Titles making strides to advance and deserve to be analyzed and critiqued, to give them the value and meaning they deserve. Set aside the developer, personal attachment, and accept this is what gaming needs if it wants to reach its full potential. Films and comics crossed it, but it hasn’t stopped them from remaining enjoyable experiences despite also being capable of handling more mature and serious topics. Just as a child knows not what’s best for it, the same can apply to most gamers with gaming. Critiques need to happen to learn, adapt, and evolve, and perhaps those shifts will be more apparent 50 years from now. You don’t need to participate in it, but it has to happen, and it will be one way or the other. Unfortunately, this childish mentality will continue to persist; it can never truly fade away, but as long as the majority is on the side of progress then there’s hope not just for the future of games, but the community supporting it, or else it will only ever be a child’s plaything.

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Manav Mathur
Manav Mathur

A gamer by profession, multi niche blogger and owner of Virteract - Fun Games For When Your Bored.

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