On talking about gaming I can’t help but realise I’m one of these casual gamers. And yet this post may have references you don’t get.
A lot of critics can’t help but dislike games like candy crush and bejeweled. They will often sing the merits of having more people into gaming because of the legitimacy it brings to the gaming community. The view of these people is no longer of teenage boys and middle aged men living in their parent’s basement. Families have nintendo wiis sitting by their television (unused in my family now that we have them, but there you go), they play at the arcades when on holiday and yes, the games like candy crush and farmville are ridiculously popular on social networks. I say ridiculous with reason. About 100 million people were logging into candy crush at it’s height and it was bringing in a couple of million in cash everyday. Everyday! Of all the games to pour your money into.
Of course iphones and smart phones being as popular as they are adds to this with platform gaming- if Metro can make a platform game about safety next to trains and people play it [dumbwaystodie.com], then gaming has even become a type of marketing… Forget having to market the games in the first place- they kind of do it themselves by being so enjoyable and accessible.
So… marketing… that’s a thing. When game design companies like EA were young they were run by creative young minds who wanted to raise gaming to the level of respect and understanding that story art such as paintings, books and movies have. They had a vision of interactive art that could not only entertain us but also immerse us into a world of escape. Instead of having to imagine characters and scenarios by their description they would be brought before you like a movie- but unlike a script or plot the saga is flexible and pliable to the story you would like to see played out. We’ll leave that kind of gaming to Bioware these days but I’m off topic.
When gaming popularity started to grow with the accessibility of computers and 80’s technology it was inevitable that the game companies would eventually want a sense of direction. They wanted to understand their audience and provide for that audience as any good artist would. It was of course in part with money making in mind, but also about demand and supply. There is a fulfilment level in an artist that can only be gotten by others appreciating their creations. That’s all fine. What these companies did was market research. The results from these projects would go on to drive the industry into the saturated crap we have today. As I’ve tried to point out it was only with good intention and who’s to say saturation is bad? … Necessarily…?
The results showed that boys made up a greater percentage of the market. So of course- make games that appeal to boys and make money, yay! What I would question is whether they really thought that the only kind of games that would appeal to boys were ones where you shoot continuously. Whenever I play these modern shooter games I am constantly in a state of paranoia. And that is mainly because I am very easily immersed in a story or frame of reference. I play minecraft, and there was this one time… OKay, story reference that only a few people will understand. I was flattening a piece of land to build on and I was about to dig away the last grass tufted block of dirt. I was so immersed in playing the game and my eyes so blinded by not having blinked in 5 minutes that I didn’t notice that behind this block of green was a different shade of green. I dug the dirt block up and threw the keyboard away from me so hard into the wall you would have thought that the creeper had actually come out of the screen and started sizzling irl. So can you imagine what I would be like in combat? On edge doesn’t even come close.
The lack of marketing to girls in the beginning now means that games that do try to grab onto this underrepresented sector are way off the mark. They came up with shiney, colourful puzzle games that are connected to social media based on the presumption that girls are more driven by emotional ties to their social groups. The games are also coded childs-play even though I would hope the kind of age level they seem to be marketing too wouldn’t have facebook pages. Then again, old classmates of mine do have pages for their newborn babies. All the gamer girls I have ever talked to don’t need the game to be MMO to like it. What they like is Role Playing Games (referred to as an abbreviation), which when you think about it runs from that same emotional basis. Getting to live out a story that’s not your own to see what it feels like? Sounds about right. Then of course it has to be concluded that there doesn’t need to be gender orientated marketing at all. Males are just as into RPGs as females. And guess what games industry? Girls play shooter games too. Shock horror.
Not me of course. I happen to steer towards the very games I am describing as being thought of as casual games. It isn’t that the marketing worked on me nor that I was brainwashed. I just like simple puzzles where the game is set from the outset, and then I don’t have to interact with other people or even fake people; even the artificially intelligent characters don’t interest me. Recently I watched a vlog by MovieBob on the Escapist website called ‘Pink is not the problem’. He talks about the fact that girls shouldn’t be ashamed of liking things that are coded feminine, just as boys shouldn’t be ashamed of it either. In truth people shouldn’t be coding things male or female in the first place. But while we wait for the knuckleheads in the industry to catch up with that fact we should just like what we like, and allow ourselves to be entertained that our lives might be enriched.
I get it… my life is not gonna be enriched by the monotonous games that I like- tetris, bejeweled, solitaire, breakout etc. The gaming critics would cringe that I would pour so much of my time into these games. In fact, me playing these games at the speed I do and as often as I do is probably a sign that I’m putting so much else off. I’m procrastinating away a depressed state. But do you know what? At least it offers me that coping mechanism.
Now please go enjoy the quirks of Google like celebrities bacon numbers and ‘do a barrel role’ or atari’s ‘breakout’.