Gaming Uber Alles

Gaming Uber Alles
The Mainstream is Coming!

Tycho Brahe | 12 Jul 2005 08:01
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Normal people are leaping over the barrier and swarming over the precious electronic games which were once our sole domain. It may be that they are a friendly, benevolent force, but it would be foolish to assume it. In fact, I think it's best that you wait here with me in this impervious, well-stocked bunker while we try to figure out how things went so terribly wrong.

We already know that videogames make a person healthier physically while they refine the intellect. Well, we don't know know it, but that is our desperate hope, and there is a kind of purity in that. Outside of these beneficial (and quite probably, imaginary) properties, we are aware that playing these games is completely awesome. That's pretty much incontrovertible; I don't have to make up a study to prove it. It was really only a matter of time before the vast majority of human beings realized this fact and began living the meaningful, digital lives that we all take for granted.

Games, though, until the last few years, weren't ready to be the default pastime of sentient creatures. If you're the sort of person who would read a magazine solely distributed in Adobe's PDF format, chances are you know what I'm talking about. Graphics have been at a level attractive to people in general for a couple generations. But what the hardcore is willing to tolerate (and in a sick way, appreciate) in terms of punitive gameplay mechanisms and technological hiccoughs is well above the threshold the majority of living creatures are willing to put up with from their amusement medium. Outside of the sports titles which have always enjoyed mainstream attention, there is a vast geography of game experiences that rarely break the surface of the wider culture. That isn't to say there haven't been moves to push it to the forefront, perhaps even before it was entirely ripe for the purpose.

Let me tell you what I saw on MTV. I won't admit to watching that channel on purpose. Let me instead suggest that while switching between two other channels - each one dedicated to the higher pursuits of the mind - I happened to stumble upon your Music Television and see something that struck me as odd. I guess I should say that it strikes me as odd now. In 1997, when it actually occurred, I think I just thought it was neat to see a commercial for a game on television. I didn't pick up at the time that they weren't talking to me. They already had me, see, since I was three and discerned that the device I was holding held some undefinable power over the television. No, they were after the sort of people who watched MTV because watching MTV was actually what they wanted to do.

Nestled between commercials for products I would be ashamed to purchase, let alone use, I saw Final Fantasy VII's Cloud Strife engaged in various acts of pre-rendered, post-apocalyptic heroism. Of course, I knew who he was, Cloud Strife as an entity was only slightly less anticipated than our Lord Jesus H. Christ. The ability of the Compact Disc medium to store data, coupled with Squaresoft's unrivaled artistry and intimidating financial power, had created something that looked - at times - like a blockbuster film.

If the numbers I've read are correct, Square sold one copy of the game for every man, woman, and child on Earth - living or dead.

That may be an exaggeration.

What a person snared by that advertisement thought of the game once they got it home is anybody's guess. You'll forgive me if I assume that the reader has some knowledge of gaming genres, and won't skitter away if I suggest that Final Fantasy VII constitutes an epic RPG - but suffice it to say that the user "plays" this kind of game by navigating a series of blue menus for up to a hundred hours. For me, hey, I can't get enough of that kind of thing. I crave a good menu. I'll sometimes go into a Denny's and not even order anything. But a person could be forgiven for harboring misconceptions about the experience. All of that aside, it moved a tremendous amount of dedicated entertainment hardware into a truly staggering number of living rooms, and gave Console War I to Sony's Playstation. The fact that we as dedicated gamers were already sold on the series was only part of the success. The game crossed over, beyond the ramparts, and attracted another type of player altogether. Somewhere in my mind, this has always been the point of demarcation after which playing videogames was no longer the sole domain of pariahs.

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