Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Wii Are the Champions

Shamus Young | 27 Feb 2009 17:00
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While everyone loves to see me bludgeon inept game design with my rhetorical bat, allow me to turn around for a minute and take a few well-deserved swings at the audience. I have noticed a trend among gamers to jeer at the whole casual games market. The word "casual gamer" seems to have become a euphemism for "retard." This is an idea that needs to die screaming.

This attitude does the hobby and its surrounding culture no credit. It's sad to think that the geeks of the world overthrew the ruling douchearchy of grunting jocks and bullies in high school so they could replace it with something even more shallow and infantile. Displaying arrogance because you're a musclebound brute is rude. Displaying arrogance because you're good at a videogame where you pretend to be a musclebound brute is a form of lameness that transcends our current understanding of human stupidity.

For historical perspective, I'd like to point out that those NES games where all you had was a d-pad and four buttons are laughably simplistic by today's standards, even though they gave birth to an alarming number of still-running franchises. We started with simple games like Pac-Man or Metroid, and if they came out today I doubt they would make the cover of your average gaming magazine. They were hard, but they were also incredibly straightforward and easy to understand. As the years went on, the controllers evolved. Each generation added a new knob or stick or button for us to assimilate. Each time the controls became more complex, games added new layers of gameplay and depth to take advantage of them. Games built around a single mechanic (like platforming or shooting) gave way to genre-blending mutants where the player needed a handful of different skills just to get in the door. Eventually 3D arrived and we had to learn to ply our skills while mastering the art of camera wrangling. We learned and grew as the changes came. We went from d-pad and a button to a game controller that has a d-pad, twelve buttons, two analog joysticks, rumble feedback, motion sensing, and isn't nearly as resistant to throwing damage as I'd like it to be.

Now gamers and developers are sneering at newcomers who are daunted by all of this complexity, acting as if everyone knew how to mouse-aim and circle-strafe back in 1993. We learned to crawl before we could walk. We learned to walk before we could run. Making fun of new gamers because they can't jump right into modern games is like making fun of a baby because it sucks at pole vaulting.

We all started with casual games. We just didn't call them that.

The most common lamentation to rise from the chanting faithful is that casual games are "ruining" mainstream games. But last time I checked, Hideo Kojima wasn't working on the script for Peggle III, and John Carmack wasn't writing a new "shiny things" engine for Bejeweled VI: The Jewelening. Romantic comedies didn't "ruin" action movies, they just got a different group of people to go to the movies. Games are still evolving and inbreeding the way they always have, and I don't think we're getting less just because someone else is getting more. This is how things work when new markets open up.

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