Games Will Never Be Mainstream: The TL;DR Version
i did read thru half and then became bored. i apologize in advance because i hate when people do this to me but your post is just of unnecessary length. i disagree with many of your points though…
Fair enough. I did front-load the article, trying to pack in responses to every counter-argument I could think of; accurately suspecting most people wouldn’t bother to read any extended discussion in the comments section.
An unfortunate result of that seems to be that the message got lost. Each point leads directly into the next, so if you’re skimming, you’re missing something. As another commenter pointed out: “Really my complaint only boils down to the choice of words you picked and how poorly the arguments were developed (when you get around to the final points of each I agree 97% but you need to make that end clear in the beginning, or people will get angry early and miss the real truth you have to tell us“
So I’m going to try to summarize my own article. *shrug* Why the hell not? Everything here is all from the original article (no revisionist history). Good idea, bad idea; let’s see if it’s helpful:
Mainstream here doesn’t refer to awareness that games exist, or raw sales (not apples to apples, as games cost way more per unit). Mainstream refers to acceptance. It refers to audience attachment and commitment. Are games a regular part of that person’s life? I believe and propose there is a difference between someone who consumes games in roughly equal quantities to television, movies, or books, and someone who only plays them on their smartphone at the airport, or on Facebook at work.
Games here most accurately refers to “core” games. The ones that all major game sites discuss, promote, and cover. However, the argument that ALL games will not be mainstream still stands, as I don’t believe that casual games promote and grow the industry. Wii Fit was one of the top-selling games of 2009, but is Wii Fit really a game? Or is it an “interactive exercise simulation”? Will Brain Age inspire its audience to buy a Mario game, or is Brain Age the only “game” they play? Is the mass proliferation of complex, yet comparatively simple (think Chess, or maybe Pong) video games really a “win” for the video game industry at large?
Essentially, I don’t believe casual games will grow the industry because the audience for them isn’t committed. Are they going to be compulsive game buyers and consumers? (If FarmVille charged a monthy sub, would it still have tens of millions of players?) I propose that causal gamers don’t see games as an important purchase in their lives (unlike movies, a cable subscription, etc) and thus can’t be counted as a reliable audience for the future of the industry.
Games Are Rarely ABOUT Anything
I suggest here that more games must have a deeper story or point to them for games in general to be seen as more than shooting simulators for teenage boys, or simple diversions (occasional party games, toys for kids, Bejeweled on your phone).
Story in games currently just serves the repetitive action. Bear in mind, I’m not talking about events or scenes during the game (which have certainly gotten more elaborate), I’m talking about the overall reason for telling the story; the meaning. The story currently usually runs you from one shooting exercise to the next.
- Yes, there are movies that do this too. Yes, there’s a place for this “mindless” action. The point is that MORE games must be more than this to interest a broader audience. If every movie was an 80s action flick, would movies as an industry be mainstream?
- Yes, there are games that already do this (mentioned in the article), but even if games can get a broader audience interested, another barrier to common acceptance is games’ interaction.
Games Are Interactive, Not Passive
The user must bring a minimum set of skills to games to enjoy them, unlike any other mainstream medium (tv, books, movies). Without the basic ability to navigate and survive the game, you can’t enjoy the game. But remove or limit the interaction, and you take away what makes a game a game – it becomes more like a movie.
You can’t get around this issue. More people will have to know (and care) how to play games to enjoy games. Will the Move and Kinect “fix” this? Some future technology? Possible but not likely, as pointed out in the next section:
Gamer Culture Is Not As Big As You Think It Is
Many commenters seem to think the issue will go away as a non-gaming generation simply dies out. That would be true, if the majority of a younger generation were playing games. This section gives reasons why they don’t, some numbers to support that, and suggests that though it may FEEL like all your friends play games, that’s really a small community compared globally to accepted “mainstream” outlets.
Games Must Be Fun
There’s a “casual” vs “core” argument, but a “fun” vs “art” argument splits the audience even more. I already covered how interaction is required for a game, but without “fun,” you can’t have a game either. This section talks about arbitrary requirements core gamers put on developers, and how many games (and gamers) don’t even want a story or think it needs one.
- This is important because we’re talking about converting a new audience. If they just wanted to play fun games, they’d already be playing them. If they already ARE, as “casual gamers,” I talked previously about why casual gamers can’t sustain the existing industry.
- I don’t want to see the industry revert to basic, arcade-style game concepts, with success measured in a high score rather than narrative closure. I like that games have evolved from Atari VCS and even NES titles into something more expansive and interesting. I don’t want to see these kinds of “just plain fun” games disappear, but I don’t want them to be the only kind of “game” out there, either.
- This section also sets up the next argument, by pointing out some of the ridiculous demands gamers place on developers in order to make a game they are willing to buy.
The Current Model Is Unsustainable
The growing antagonism and rift between publishers, developers, and gamers can’t sustain itself. I propose that the industry will crash, shift, or restructure before we solve the issue of how to get more people on board.
- This doesn’t affect those casual gamers, because they don’t care. If games went away, they’d put the Wii in the closet and keep watching TV and going to the movies.
- I also mention that you can’t bring in a new, regular audience at a $60 price. I propose that’s a barrier to getting non-gamers interested – it’s expensive to try, and an expensive habit to maintain. I also point out how the $60 price is only the beginning, and already not enough to support demand.
I exaggerated nothing and tried to support everything as best as I could (read the article and follow the links). The overall sense of “gloom and doom” is actually not a rant. I tried to point out how futile making games “mainstream” is – there’s too many complications and barriers – to show that the entire argument is pointless.
Yes, 4000 words to say at the end that the argument is pointless. But that is the message, and hopefully after all the points brought up, you see why I think so. I’ll post the original end of the article again to wrap up.
Maybe we should give up on this foolish desire to be mainstream (you know, by pretending Inception or Scott Pilgrim are video game movies) and just be happy with our niche little hobby. Stop trying to explain to politicians, your girlfriend, or the media why playing a game where you shoot people over and over is loads of fun, but still not harmful or desensitizing. Stop trying to explain why games are just games, except when they’re not just games, but then they really are just games.
Bottom line: the whole world doesn’t need to love games as much as you do.
There’s a lot (too much?) in there to think about, but hopefully this helps clarify my points. And again, I do not intend to be preaching here. This is a discussion topic, and please prove me wrong… for the games’ sake!