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.
I bought Portal 1 & 2 during a Steam sale a year or so ago . . . I think I got both for $20 which is usually too much for my budget but I also knew that I would be labeled a heretic gamer if I never played the games. I figured it was imperative that I play the games in order, so I fired up Portal 1 and was instantly disappointed: it was in the first person perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad way to make a game, I just have major problems with it from a medical perspective. I tried to figure it out via a reddit question months ago and got this video in response, which I think does a good job of explaining how developers contribute to the problem of motion sickness in FPS games, but doesn’t exactly explain why CoD is a best seller and people don’t vomit like I do when I try to play.
But at the same time, I think part of it must be developer related because some games I can’t play at all, and some I am able to power a few hours into before having to turn it off. Team Fortress 2 for example is a game that I can play all right for a little bit. Unfortunately, I could generally only do one Portal chamber at a time before I’d have to turn off the game (not even a chamber sometimes, depending on how long it took me).
The other difficult thing about Portal 1 for me is that I’m terrible at puzzle games. I got Braid in one of the Humble Indie Bundles it was a part of (don’t remember which number that was) and googled a ton of solutions because I just didn’t have the patience to sit and figure it out. I’m terrible, I know. So in that respect, it was almost a good thing that I couldn’t sit and play Portal 1 for long periods of time because by the time I was getting nauseated, I was usually also getting stuck, so I’d leave, come back a few days later, and suddenly see the solution. Having said that, I did google a number of things, and felt like a traitor. More than a traitor, I usually felt really stupid because I knew I should’ve been able to figure out the solutions I googled on my own.
So did I think Portal 1 was all it was cracked up to be? Sure. I guess. I don’t really know what it was cracked up to be, since it’s been so long since it was released. I know that it was stepping stone to Portal 2 which multiple people have told me is the greatest game ever made. While I know I won’t believe that, I’m hoping for a good time.
I think the main praise of Portal 1 and I’m betting Portal 2 was the humor. During the last boss battle in Portal 1, I was laughing out loud at the clever, passive-aggressive one-liners GLaDos had. Humor in video gaming is always great, and I think it’s missing from a lot of non-RPG games (and RPGs for that matter), so it was refreshing to hear it in Portal.
And of course, at the end of the day, Portal is just a cool idea. Entering at one spot and coming out of another, HAL 3000’s granddaughter, and cake. That is a winning combo right there. I suppose I’m just glad I took the opportunity to play it, get a few more nerd references now, and can relate that much more to the majority of gamers. And of course, now I can start Portal 2, maybe after this nausea wears off . . .