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Consoleation: Acceptable Irrelevance

Peter Skerritt's picture

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Screenshot

As we talk about almost every year at this time, the 2010 Video Game Awards are in the books… and I didn't watch it. After having watched the show for the last two years, and with my karaoke job coinciding with the event, I was fine trying to follow the event via Twitter.

I didn't miss much.

Sure, there were trailers galore… and next November was looking like a veritable gauntlet of software that nobody is going to have the money to be able to afford to run through. The awards themselves were a joke, as usual. Games won awards that weren't even at retail before they were nominated. Super Mario Galaxy 2 wins the Wii Game of the Year, but apparently isn't violent or "mature" enough to gain any consideration for the overall award. A music game wins a Best Soundtrack award, which is apparently different from a Best Score award. Halo: Reach was all but shut out, prompting conspiracy theorists to link this fact and Microsoft's decision to nix their Gears of War 3 announcement at the event. The host (naturally) wins an award for his own work despite more deserving nominees. Neil Patrick Harris goes "gamer" and shoots a bunch of dancers. Stay classy!

The Video Game Awards are little more than made-up honors for show sponsors that drain what little credibility that the video game industry has in mainstream circles and serves to enforce the "dudebro" stereotype that's been manifesting itself since the original Halo arrived nearly 9 years ago. The award nominations are allegedly finalized by a crack team of members from the gaming press corps… and we know how these people can't be bought or influenced. "Angry" Joe Vargas has the right idea; there needs to be a more diverse group that makes up the VGA panel in order to even begin to lend credibility and substance to these "awards". We need to get designers, PR people, and people from all walks of the industry to decide on nominees… not just reviewers who may or may not have an agenda or bias.

I'm starting to think that either I've finally grown up or that the gaming industry just doesn't care about "dinosaurs" like me. Either way, the VGAs symbolize a lot of what's gone wrong with video games over the last five years. The industry thinks that it's bigger than it really is and that it's almost bulletproof, although many in the business who lost jobs during this console generation would dispute that. Rather than let consumers decide what is best for them, the industry has decided to take the reins and tell us what we want.

Limbo Screenshot

Apparently:

  • We don't want to play games alone and feel the need to always play with friends.
  • We just want to shoot and kill people. No blood and no death equals no sale.
  • We are content to spend more for games that give us less content than a generation ago or publishers will mysteriously go broke.
  • We don't want complete games or games that work properly since post-release patches fix everything.
  • We would much rather pay $5 after release for a multiplayer mode that's on the disc. Again, publishers going broke.
  • We will replace our consoles that stop working after a year of normal use because, you know, stuff breaks.
  • The idea of a "girl gamer" is a myth; games are for boys.

I can sit here and type over a thousand words about how the industry is pursuing courses of action that will forever ruin it, but nobody pays attention. After all, I'm no Michael Pachter. I don't have a business degree and I don't go around saying controversial things just because the gaming press gives me license to do so. I'm a relic who just doesn't have it in him to adapt to this "new" gaming culture. I grow tired of having to senselessly kill things just because that's what the industry thinks that we all want to play. The higher cost of gaming is taking its financial toll, even though I still work in gaming retail… and when I do buy a game, it's buggy and generally requires a patch right away. (And it's worse on the PlayStation 3 thanks to its forced installs and updates.) Gaming is about Call of Duty XIV and Final Fantasy XXVII, while new ideas are cast aside and reboots of IPs that old gamers like me find intriguing are criminally awful. (See Splatterhouse.) Thankfully there were a couple of downloadable games that came out late in Q4 this year that seemed to turn back current trends; Pinball FX2 and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX are not violent and cannot be "beaten"; anyone can play these games and they require skill, strategy, and (in Pinball FX2's case) endurance from players in order for them to succeed. Unfortunately, these games are outliers to the current trend, and I doubt that we'll be seeing a pattern shift anytime soon… even with the critical acclaim that both games have gotten.

Perhaps I'm just old enough now to have my viewpoint clouded by how things used to be, rather than seeing things as they are without comparison. Maybe if I didn't have over three decades of history playing video games, I wouldn't know any different and would probably be a lot less vocal in my complaints. I'd see the VGAs for what they are rather than what they should be. I'd just go along with what the industry says I should do, because I wouldn't know any other way. Unfortunately, that's not reality. The reality is that there's a widening rift that separates the industry and myself over the form of entertainment that I love. I used to foolishly think that the industry cared about what I thought, even if that was just an illusion to foster loyalty and trust… but that illusion has been slowly fading, just like the industry's popularity bubble has been doing.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Wii   PS3   Nintendo DS   PSP   PC  
Articles: Editorials   Columns  
Topic(s): Pop-culture  

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Interesting, says I.

You know, I wish I could agree with you. I really do. However, I spend the entire show - the entire show being the 20 minutes or so before I turned it off in disgust - angrily trying not to punch my TV square in the face. It was difficult. If I thought that even a tiny fraction of the damage would have transferred over to those grinning goons casually patronising everyone and chortling about 'World of Whorecraft' I'd have set about the thing with a chainsaw and a baseball bat and a questionable sense of justice.

Oh, okay. Maybe not - after all, not every gamer is a violent misanthrope who needs to shoot things or club them to death with blunt instruments in order to have a good time, not that you'd notice from the show.

What's genuinely terrifying me though is that several of the larger forums I frequent seem to be conforming to adapt to this stereotype. It's baffling and horrid and makes me so very, very sad.

Even though you may feel

Even though you may feel like a "dinosaur" where gaming is concerned Peter, you're definitely not alone with your feelings. I've been feeling like you have for a long time now, but I'm just at the point where I can't be bothered to care; there's nothing I can do to help make things better.

While I agree with some of your observations...

While I agree with some of your observations on the current state of the game industry, there are a few points that seem to be constants in your blog which, frankly, I find to be disgruntled whining about "the good old days."

I can't speak with absolute authority on the matter because I've been out of the console loop for at least two years now (the last big console game i played was GTA IV); save for what I read on places like here and PA. Yes it does seem to be the norm now both with new console, and major pc, releases, to launch an incomplete product and then expect people to buy chunks of downloadable content online. Yes it's not uncommon now to find alleged triple-A titles with bugs that should have been cleaned up with a little more development time. And yes it seems that multiplayer is, slowly but surely, becoming the main attraction with single player being the "other" feature.

However you're complaining about games being about killing things? I'm sorry but violence, or insinuated violence, has and always will be a primary feature of videogaming; it gives the average person the chance to indulge in things he would most likely never even think about doing in real life. Perhaps there is a huge glut of glossy first person shooters nowadays, but combat of some sort has always been in games and I find this complaint to be laugable.

Also games are more expensive now than they used to be? I remember buying n64 cartridges that cost between 50-70 dollars, and consoles continue to cost several hundreds of dollars brand new. The advent of the playstation brought about CD's as the main software format which did seem to bring prices for games down, but I'm sorry, video gaming has always been a hobby that comes with a price. There was never this magical moment where the average joe walked down to the corner store to pick up video games for 5 cents to entertain the family. Unless that guy was a hell of a thrifty shopper.

And as for the industry "betraying" consumers. Well sorry but companies have always been about business and making a buck; that's how the playstation came to be remember? Nintendo loved holding on to cartridge production rights to make a fat stack before games were even actually made. The playstation project brought about an option that skirted around that with CDs, nintendo saw the threat, and Sony eventually split with their own project after nintendo more or less gave the shaft. Sony then became a company making fat stacks hand over fist.

Yes you do provide some legitimate, and insightful, remarks about things to get worked up about with the state of video games. However you should probably take your own perception of being a "dinosaur" heart. Some of your criticisms just reek of looking through with rose-tinted glasses. I myself wouldnt be surprised if the industry goes into another crash like it did during the 80's, before nintendo came in, within the next couple of years.

If anyone actually reads through this dissertation of a comment you are truly gods amongst mortals.

Market is not dictated by publishers

The market is not dictated solely by the publishers, telling us what we want to buy. That's nonsense. Gamers bought and buy games that push and direct the publishers to make their plans. And so they finance games that may (or sometimes may not) sell according to what gamers bought in the past. Of course with some experiments... gamers can accept or reject.

Gamers are the only group so far that accepted DRM. Music industry tried that too and failed. The market CAN decide. I think you and many gamers lost that thought some time.

- look in any forum when a game comes with single player only. Their is an outcry for coop or mp. Of course some want split screen modes or want to sink into a single player story but the content you miss was ordered by the gamers to be in mp where they spent 100s of hours, sometimes don't even finish the already short sp-campaign.

- there are many bestsellers that have some sort of violence:
CS, Halo, CoD, Gears, WoW... but there is also GT-series, Mario-games (though actually that's also sort of violent), Bejeweled... USK statistics say clearly that non violent games are by far the majority of produced games, but the majority of bestsellers are imo violent. So it's sort of fact that "we" want violence.

- don't buy to-be-patched or cliffhangered games if "we" don't want them. It would actually be easy...

- people pay for live because it has the better service compared to PSN but ignore the best service; Steam, which is free. So yeah, "we" want to pay.

- some PC-stats i read some time ago said that more girls are playing already. WoW and browser gamers i guess. PC is for girls?

Don't care for the VGAs, or the Academy Awards or the Globes or Grammy or Community Awards. Awards don't have arguments and only because many like something doesn't tell me much.

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