Thursday, 9 September 2010

What Dune 2 taught me about Gaming: Part 2

Much of my youth was spent unable to put into words exactly what it was which made me so enthusiastic about games. Even now I have find it very hard to articulate what I love about games to the people I love. Dune 2 was the first game where I encountered this problem, where I couldn't explain what I liked about it with a simple sentence like 'its fun' or 'its looks cool'.

*image took from a scan at the amazing Amiga Magazine Rack

I showed the game to anyone who was stupid enough to give me the impression they might listen to me, but time after time the way my parents and my peers seemed unmoved by Dune 2 to totally confused me. I wasn't equipped mentally to make the simple leap that what was awesome to me wasn't automatically be awesome to others.

But there was somewhere where  I knew there were people who 'got' games. Amiga power is considered to have been one of the great magazines of its generation. Some might pick holes at its professionalism at times, but there was no denying the passion that went into it.
Just like me I felt the writers didn't care who's name you threw onto a box, or if the graphics were flashy they cared about the game itself.
Just like me it felt these were people who felt a sense of belonging of being one of the tribe, who felt there was something special about games.
But unlike me they had found their voice, and they were shouting from the rooftops.

But the biggest problem about being part of any tribe is that after a while it can begin to change the way you see people outside it, and gamer culture was no different.
It wasn't a big step from “Most people don't get games” to”Why don't they get games?” and then “If you don't love games you a idiot!”.
However it wasn't enough for us to start looking down on non gamers we had to get a good old fashioned civil war brewing, and of course the worst of the vitriol was saved for those closest to us. Most of the time Amiga players were to busy saying what a terrible machine the Atari was to even notice the Sega and Nintendo fans embroiled in their own private brawl.

Individually every article I read and every game I played showed me a incredible fully functional and downright beautiful little worlds overflowing in rich detail. However when you drew your gaze back and took a look at the wider gamer culture a effect began to occur not unlike like a giant photo mosaic. All these exquisite little pictures when seen from a distance combined to formed a big crude picture of Sonic swinging a right hook at Mario blood staining his white gloves the hatred in both figures eyes telling us no quarter would be asked and none given.

As long as the impression people take away of gamers is of bickering children like those on the comment thread for G4's review of Metroid Prime its no wonder people like film critic Roger Ebert feel no desire to engage with the medium.

Seeing the Never Sell Out article over at Five Players which was written in reaction to Warren Spector's speech about how the game industry needs to broaden its reach I feel worried. The people who write Five Players' are smart and articulate, exactly the sort of person you would want evangelizing games potential but instead it encourages us to fall back to our worst tribal tendencies.

In the end the concept of dividing games into hardcore and casual and the constant questioning of the worth of the later can only lead to stagnation. Gamers falling into a comfort zone where nothing shocks or surprises.
To draw a parallel people have to stop worrying if punk is dead & start remembering there was a time before it was born.

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