Originally published on 10/30/12
So this is old rage by now, because this draft has been sitting, waiting to be finished, for at least a week, but you know me and my ability to hold on to rage . . .
I saw GameSpot.com tweet an article with some inflammatory lead-in like “Are all gamers stupid?” or something ridiculous, so naturally I took the linkbait and then watched a GameSpot.com video feature Edmund McMillan, Cliff Bleszinski, and a number of other prominent gaming names, articulating their opinions about whether or not games are getting dumber.
I was almost instantly incensed. What kind of dumb generalization is that, “all games are being dumbed down”?! Of COURSE “all games” aren’t being dumbed down. Are some? Naturally. There’s a huge market for the less intelligent who also love video games. And really, you know what, I shouldn’t even be that dismissive. Really, there are people that buy from that pool of games because they don’t want to think when they play video games. And I’ve been there, I get that. Sometimes you’d rather mindlessly kill things than work through puzzles or an emotionally compelling story. That doesn’t mean you’re missing brain cells, it means you just want a relaxing, thought-free evening every once in awhile.
I wrote out paragraphs and paragraphs of a tangent, but I reigned myself back eventually to what my point is (you’re welcome): the gaming community and industry is now too big to say crap like this. Back in the day, you could make sweeping generalizations about gaming and video games and your exceptions would be one or two titles, so people got away with it. Now? There are hundreds of games released in a year. Potentially thousands, depending on what you’re counting. Some people enjoy “dumbed down” games, some people only enjoy those games once in awhile, and really, those games that appeal to the lowest common denominator of gamers are the biggest cash cows for publishers, so yeah, they get a lot of face time in the media (and some games get media time because they’re just awesome and not dumbed down, like Dishonored).
But there is so much more out there! And the sad thing to me about the video was that Edmund McMillan (co-creator of Super Meat Boy, arguably one of the hardest games of its generation) and Cliff Bleszinski know that. I know they know that. But they must be seeing the games that demand more out of players as exceptions rather than norms. And really, I’m not sure there is a gaming norm any more. Again, the industry is too big for generalizations.
We’re seeing factions and pockets of specific gamers pop up all over the place. Indie gamers, racing gamers, only platformers, only MMO players, only FPS players. There are all kinds, and I’m grateful, because it takes all kinds to make this beautiful gaming world go round. When you get that kind of genre passion, that leads to experimentation to take something you love so deeply to another level, just to see what can happen. And that innovation elevates the industry, despite any of the “dumbed down” games that some think are ruining it.
I guess in the end my rage was really just sadness. I’m sad that from the inside out, the industry is being hated on from people that a) worked to change it in the first place and b) have seen it’s growth and should know better than to generalize such a diverse place. For shame E and Cliffy B. For shame.
Whoa! I’m alive! For what it’s worth, sometimes I write personal thoughts on gettribal.blogspot.com. So more recently, I’ve taken to that transmission vector. Mainly because I’ve gamed so little in the past few months. So. little. It’s depressing. But about a month ago, my brother took the initiative to set up a weekly gaming date for us so we can get our game on and spend some time “together.” Good times! We’ve moved on to playing Halo 4 (fun, horrendous storyline, post forthcoming about that) but we started playing Iron Brigade, by Double Fine and so I thought I’d pass along a little ditty about that since weeds have started to grow over this blog . . .
This is confusing to buy on Xbox Live Arcade because when the game was originally released in 2011, it was called Trenched. A month later, due to copyright issues, the title was changed to Iron Brigade. It’s a third-person tower defense game, set in the mid-1900s but to an alternate history. Frank Woodruff (good guy) creates a new military tool, mechs (called trenches) that soldiers can equip and upgrade to fight in the field, as well as set emplacements to defend military points. Vladimir Farnsworth (bad guy) tried to push his technology, Monovision, to let everyone see whatever they want, but from the comfort of their homes (hur hur hur, social commentary . . .). He disseminates his vision via “devices” called Tubes, who you are trying to kill because you don’t believe in Monovision. That’s . . . a really, really rough synopsis, but that’s essentially what’s happening. Killing Tubes, stopping the forward progress of Monovision, stopping your once ally/friend, Vladimir.
You saw my rave review of Orcs Must Die! so you know how I thoroughly enjoy third-person tower defense games. I like the strategy, and the army you create for yourself with emplacements, on top of getting to get your hands dirty and jump in the action yourself. Iron Brigade has some great mechanics to force you to compromise strength for speed and emplacements. It made a lot more sense to play this with other people than trying to tackle it solo. Some trench chassis allow you to use “heavy” emplacements that do tons of damage, but cost more scrap (the currency essentially of the game) to place, whereas chassis that tend to have more armor and can equip more weapons have less emplacements slots, and out of those slots, no heavy emplacement slots.
It goes without saying that the dialogue and artwork were superb. We’re talking about Double Fine! Very funny narration, good voice acting, funny animation, and great art between action. Without a doubt, this was worth the $5-$10 I paid for it. Short, not incredibly difficult, but fun achievements to keep you coming out, and a great experience to play with more than one person.