Sometimes I just don’t get where we are coming from as gamers. For years, computer games have been viewed with suspicion by wider society. Ask anyone to describe a gamer and they are likely to come up with the hackneyed image of the pasty-face, geek sitting alone in their bedroom. Meanwhile, our mainstream media loves nothing better than to run stories suggesting that computer games turn people into antisocial and/or homicidal maniacs, unable to distinguish the fantasy of computer games from the reality of 21st century life.
As gamers, we have quite rightly railed against this image and yearned for the acceptance of our chosen hobby. We have pointed out the cultural influence gaming has had on the world (Pac-Man, Mario, Sonic) and the supremely talented programmers, artists and musicians who have graced our machines over the years. We point out the massive contribution that gaming makes to economies worldwide. An industry that didn’t even exist 40 years ago now generates more revenue than the film industry which has been around over twice as long. We shout about the good things computer gaming does, we scream in protest against the lazy stereotypes and we crave widespread acknowledgement that computer games are deserving of our attention and in their own way are just as worthy and creative as films or books.
Yet, when we get that widespread acceptance, we can have a tendency to withdraw, to circle the wagons, horrified that “other people” are enjoying the hobby which we have been used to having as our own exclusive preserve.
This is perhaps demonstrated by the reception to games like Candy Crush Saga. Some sections of the gaming community rail against such titles, sniffily dismissing them as “popular” and denying that they are “proper games”. Sure, they don’t have the depth or complexity of some games – but they’re not intended to. They are throwaway titles designed for people to enjoy on the move. Whether you enjoy them or not they are “computer games”. More importantly (for the purposes of this post), they are “computer games” that have gained widespread recognition and acceptance. So why do we turn on them like a pack of rabid dogs?
Don’t get me wrong: I despise the now almost omnipresent use of in-app purchases, micro-transactions, Freemium games (that are often incredibly difficult/impossible unless you buy “extras”) and even downloadable content. As far as I’m concerned, once I’ve paid for a game, I should have access to all its features, without having to part with more cash. However, if a Freemium game is fun, well-constructed and possible to play without purchasing extra items, then we should welcome it and the new gamers (and attitude to gaming) it might bring in. Like books and films, gaming covers a broad spectrum (or should that be Spectrum?!) – there’s something for everyone to enjoy. If people like playing Candy Crush Saga, then we should encourage it, not dismiss them disparagingly as “casual gamers”. After all, if people find they enjoy gaming, they might move onto more “serious” titles. And even if they don’t, what’s the harm?
I’m going to make a confession now which may well send some of you running from this blog never to return. I enjoy playing Candy Crush Saga. I’ve never paid a single penny for any bonuses or to hasten my progress through the game, yet I’ve reached something like Level 1225. In other words, I’ve invested just as much time in Candy Crush Saga as I have in, say, the Grand Theft Auto series. Sure, you can’t compare them in terms of scope or story-telling, but it’s a case of horses for courses. When I’ve got a few minutes to spare or don’t have a console with me, I turn to a “casual” game on my phone; when I have a bit more time to spare, I fire up a “proper” game on one of my consoles.
Does this mean I’m not a proper gamer? Of course not. I’ve been playing computer games since the early 80s and, barring a brief period around the late 90s/early 2000s have never been without a gaming computer or console. What it means is that I have eclectic tastes and am willing to accept gaming in its widest form – from casual games designed for quick, mobile play through to complex titles that can take over weeks of your life. My choice of game is very much determined by my mood at the time and how much time I have to play.
So, instead of dismissing people who come to gaming via a “casual” route (or indeed who only ever play “casual” games), let’s celebrate the fact that they have finally found out what we have known all along – that computer games are fun. Let’s be as inclusive as we can be in our definition of gaming and welcome newcomers to the community – however they found us – rather than making them feel like 3rd class citizens.
I appreciate that this post isn’t to do with retrogaming as such, but more to do with gaming generally but hey! it’s my blog! And I promise normal service will be resumed with my next post.