The Wheel turns…

It seems like there have always been ways people have grouped themselves or have been grouped. I’m sure that back in pre-history it was cave vs cave, or valley vs valley and you belonged to a clan. We’ve seen the various ‘faces’ of music, the mods and rockers of the sixties, punk and prog-rock in the seventies, new romance (oh my god!) and rave. We’ve seen the yuppie, the sloan, the crusty and the goth and we’ve seem the rise of the Gamer.

Gamers were, at one time,  synonymous with geekery and certain games types still carry that sting, that brand, and you can hear it in people voices when they exclaim “YOU used to play Dungeons and dragons!”. I did, of course, and I still have a soft spot for D&D which is especially tickled when I listen to folks playing it and having as much fun as I remember having. Check out the podcasts available of the Penny Arcade guys plus Scott Kurtz of PVP and Will Wheaton (no less) playing under the guidance of D&D’s new owners, Wizards of the Coast.

But time moves on and faces change, the fringe becomes mainstream and people begin to adopt and engage rather than pointing and staring. Again this is a cycle which continues, the early renaissance painters, the ‘romantics’ saw the same thing, initially ridiculed and now classic examples of ‘art’. Rap music, especially the so-called Gangsta Rap was, no so long ago, pilloried but has now become standard top 40 fodder with the old-skool (sic) once again viewed as ground-breaking classics.

NWA - Pilloried pioneers (Don't they look young!)
NWA – Pilloried pioneers (Don't they look young!)

Gamers have also changed. The 3rd generation of consoles, and I include the Wii in this broad definition, have broadened both the reach and the appeal of gaming. Games themselves have become more experiential which, once again, makes their appeal greater. What I mean by this is that early games were, on the whole, something that you did; you played the game, it was an action or set of actions you did. Oh sure there were games which could be experienced but they relied on a very active and fertile imagination in much the same way D&D did, the action took place in your head and the majority of people didn’t ‘get it’. Now though the action is very much on screen, not only on screen but there in near life-like colours and definition. It’s become very possible to watch a person playing some games in the same way as you’d watch a docu-movie. This new level of experience allows those ‘visual’ types – folks who have to see it to understand it – to become involved. Games have also evolved significantly too, beyond just the visuals and auditory experiences but in the game-play types available. Our current crop of ‘Rhythm’ games are a significant milestone here, the best example I can find from the early days (although I’m sure there are other and better ones) are the button mashers like Daly Thompson’s Decathlon (there a memory!). I’m now reading about, and looking forward to, DJ Hero – can you imagine this game even 5 years ago? – and this is indicative of the overall move in the industry to appeal to Gamers in the broadest possible terms. Our industry has entered the mainstream!

Oh the colours.. the definition!
Oh the colours.. the definition!
DJ controller prettiness!
DJ controller prettiness!

Instead of now selling to Gamers, the industry is selling to gamer sub-sets. Demographics are being created dividing us up into ‘target markets’ and advertising is now being sold in and around games based on this. For me this means I can no longer say “I like racing games” as the question by our marketeer will be “Racing sims, racing arcade, or open world?” my contrary answer is of course “Yes.” but this is indicative of the maturity of our once sneered at pastime and how things move on and the wheel turns.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this of course. On the one hand it’s great that so much hard cash is now being ploughed into creating some frankly beautiful pieces of work and that I’m able to experience these whenever I like. On the other I feel like my special club has now been branded, franchised and sold out to the masses, and we’re no longer exclusive.







2 responses to “The Wheel turns…”

  1. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I would have to say the online connectivity, has helped bring the gaming market to see many others as well. No longer is it playing in a room on your own or passing the controller between friends for one go each.

    The social aspect of playing with your friends, co-oping in one game, or just talking while playing your own game. Meeting new people online and making new friends through gaming.

    We’ve even been divided into types of gamer, hardcore or casual. As long as I still get to play and enjoy good quality games then I say let everyone have a go.

  2. Lorna avatar

    It is hard to think abouy which category you slot into…Burnout is a good example. i hate racing games but that is what it is lumped under…however it is very open world, with events rather than tedious racing round a track…blurring lines making things harder to define is perhaps a good thing?

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