I just re-read my previous article, I’m not that good at video games. and I’m realizing I missed a couple key points in my overall opinion on gaming. It’s good to have an introduction to me and how I approach video games, but there’s so much more to be written. At the end of that article, I was transitioning into a point that desperately needs to be made to this generation of gamers before it has to be made all over again to the next one. Games are already a very important medium in our society here in the first world, but they aren’t being used to their full potential. Imagine seeing movies be nothing but Transformers or Shrek year in and year out. Imagine going to browse books and finding nothing but airport novels. This is where games are and sadly, this is where they’re gonna stay if their primary audience doesn’t smarten up any time soon.
I’m trying to think of the best analogy to get what I mean across. Video games are presently like airport novels, printed on the best paper in the world, with really pretty pictures and scenery. They look really good, but they also have a lock at the beginning of every chapter that you have to pick with whatever’s around you. Woe betide you should you be no good at lock picking. And instead of having a gradually developing and intriguing chapter behind each lock, they mostly start great, progress badly and finish as though the ending was just dashed off at the end of development. This metaphor could get a lot more in depth and be explored for hours on end, but as it stands, it’s a fair analogy. So what’s the problem here?
Video games have not yet crossed over into the mainstream as an art form. Yes, you can pretend they have all day at fan conventions–sometimes I like to pretend they have too–but we are living on the heels of a generation that has no interest in gaming whatsoever. The guys financing video games today are run by the same old white fogies who’d have no idea how to play Wii Sports. Yes, we have some really good guys up high enough who understand who we are and what we want, but we ultimately–like every other section of society–buy what we are told is good. I’ve never seen a correlation between high-definition graphics and good storytelling, but you know who does? Executives who want to sell you very expensive equipment to play HD video games. Sony invented the Blu-Ray, put a Blu-Ray player in every house with the original PS3 and now they make profit on that like you wouldn’t believe. Corporations dictating the direction of gaming.
The reason anyone over 35 sees gaming as entirely irrelevant is because, let’s face it, it ain’t easy. To them, reading a novel is easy. Watching television is easy. Reading a newspaper is easy. Watching a movie is easy. But games require learning and effort to get into. You have to put in long hours on mediocre titles to have the skills necessary to play the really really good ones. When a friend of mine cites Final Fantasy VII as a work of art on par in its medium with Citizen Kane, it boggles my mind. Citizen Kane was tough to watch on initial release, yes, but at its core, it’s a simple story told well. FFVII takes 80 hours to achieve 100% completion and for some reason, people insist to me that this is a good thing. Yeah, it’s long. So is the world’s longest palindrome, but that doesn’t make it anything more than a dancing bear.
For games to really, truly become art, they need to become more accessible. Maybe that means motion controls, I don’t know, but it almost certainly means that this gamer sense of entitlement has to stop. Gamers themselves are the biggest barrier to video games maturing as an art form, and I’m not the only person saying so. It’s almost an entire community of louts, obsessed more with HD processing than they are with whatever Halo taught them through its story. They’re the kind of people who sit around at evenings and beat Demon’s Souls for the fun of the challenge and then say that a critic has lost his respectability for not liking it for being hard. Gamers are the kind of people who’ve yet to recognize the role taste plays in whether or not someone likes a game. When I ask my video-game-playing compadres what a game I’d like is, they’ve come up stumped every time. They argue for hours on end about what the game I should play is, but not a moment of that takes into account that I’ve reached the end credits on literally a handful of video games, see no reason to sit in one spot while playing through 80 hours of a title and generally don’t like RPGs.
Gamers, as they stand, are a loud minority. They are people with money, time and opinions, and they are willing to use all three to convince you never to speak to them again. Most people play video games now, and most people are just fine at that phase of fandom. Not obsessive, but there’s a part of your day missing without playing a few rounds of Plants vs Zombies or Angry Birds. My personal poison these days is New Super Mario Bros., but when I told a game-playing friend of mine I was enjoying it, he merely responded that it was four years old. Then he went back to playing Halo: Reach. Hey, Dan.
You see, I’m at a weird place in all of this. I want games to be art. I want games to be deeply affecting experiences that influence news media the same way movies do presently. But looking out at this entire scene before me, the only thing that I see doing that is the inevitable passage of time. Eventually, at some point in the future, all of the people who think games are irrelevant will be dead. But all the people telling me they’re relevant now are only doing more to convince me that they’re going to stay irrelevant if we can’t grow up and admit that in the scheme of things, resolution, processing, graphics, length, cutscenes, texturing–gaming itself just doesn’t matter. We realized that movies are trivial things decades ago, and we’ve spent the time since making some of the best art seen by man. We realized the printing press wasn’t going away centuries ago–peep the novels on display. Games aren’t going away, but on their present course, they aren’t gonna stick around as something we like, either.
Unlike other articles of mine, I’m going to take some time out here at the bottom to say, clearly and with great emphasis, that this is only my opinion. In no way is this opinion researched, informed or intended to be accurate. I do not pretend to be an authority on gaming or any related topics–only an observer with a unique point-of-view when it comes to video games online. Thank you for listening.