Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Zynga and the Rise of the New Gamer

Shamus Young | 2 Apr 2010 17:00
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Try shopping for skiing equipment, model trains, classic car parts, fishing gear, musical instruments, or painting supplies and you will discover an important truth: Taking on a new hobby can get crazy expensive. Beyond that, they require a certain investment of time before the activity can begin to pay off. You'll spend more than a few hours falling over before you get that hang of skiing, and you'll hit a lot of sour notes before you can perform "Stairway to Heaven" for giddy onlookers.

Our hobby is no different. A console system will run you a couple hundred dollars at least, and then once you start buying games the expense can really pile up. On the PC side, most non-gaming computers aren't equipped with the right hardware to play a majority of the titles on the shelves. Sure, they're usually cheaper than consoles, but installing them can be a little daunting for someone who just treats their computer like any other appliance and doesn't know anything about how they work. In fact, just buying a decent graphics card is probably more complex a task than you can reasonably expect from a newcomer. Either way, you're going to be putting down some serious time and money before you can have a fun machine of your very own.

And once you do have the fun machine, then what? You still need to learn to play games. Aside from Wii titles, most games just assume you're a gamer from the outset. Shoulder buttons? Quicktime events? D-pad? Games assume that you're already fluent in their language and can recognize and react to these terms and symbols. Putting a game on easy (assuming there is an easy mode) doesn't begin to solve the problem of simply teaching someone how to play. (A fun experiment: Sit a newbie down in front of a modern console game and watch when the tutorial prompts them to hit "R3". Depressing the thumbstick is not an obvious move and doing so will generally not occur to new people no matter what icons you show them.)

In any case, if you want to be a gamer you're going to need to spend some serious money and invest some time before you can enjoy the fun of shooting zombies, raiding tombs, and defeating insidious alien invasions. With our hobby, like many others, there are going to be a lot of people out there who would enjoy it if the entry fee wasn't so high. Zynga has proven this to be true.

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