The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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Erik_Twice
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Diverging from the mainstream

by Erik_Twice Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:44 am

There's something interesting about the gaming medium and that's how involved the audience is compared to films and music. And I wonder, how will the medium change as the audience does?

Because someone who has music as their main hobby won't listen to practically anything known by the general populace and a movie buff may watch some of the best blockbusters but they won't watch Transformers. Videogames are certainly at a tipping point now and I think we, as hardcore retrogamers, will increasingly diverge from the mainstream more and more.

What do you think?
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by dsheinem Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:08 am

General_Norris wrote:There's something interesting about the gaming medium and that's how involved the audience is compared to films and music. And I wonder, how will the medium change as the audience does?

Because someone who has music as their main hobby won't listen to practically anything known by the general populace and a movie buff may watch some of the best blockbusters but they won't watch Transformers. Videogames are certainly at a tipping point now and I think we, as hardcore retrogamers, will increasingly diverge from the mainstream more and more.

What do you think?


Generally any good music enthusiast or movie buff does listen to/watch mainstream stuff to some extent (even Transformers!), if only to better understand why they don't like much of it or to stay fluent in trends, innovations, the changing shape of the industry, etc. So I don't know that I fully agree with the ideas you've suggested about the correlation between a high interest in a type of entertainment and exclusionary tastes. I know people who do this with movies and music, but generally I think their opinions of stuff that falls outside of their very specific niche interest are worthless.

That said, I think that you are right that there is an increased sense of gamer specialization and that there are more niche markets these days among the greater gaming populace. That's why we see so many types of different games today, compared to any previous period in the industry. Hell, even amongst "hardcore retrogamers" there are folks who almost exclusively pay JRPGS, folks who only play shmups, folks who only play certain systems, etc. I think many of the Kickstarter successes point to this potential viability of some of these non-mainstream markets (retro or otherwise).
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by MrPopo Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:19 am

dsheinem wrote:Generally any good music enthusiast or movie buff does listen to/watch mainstream stuff to some extent (even Transformers!), if only to better understand why they don't like much of it or to stay fluent in trends, innovations, the changing shape of the industry, etc. So I don't know that I fully agree with the ideas you've suggested about the correlation between a high interest in a type of entertainment and exclusionary tastes.

I'd also argue that mainstream doesn't necessarily mean "drek for the lowest common denominator".
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Gamerforlife Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:18 pm

MrPopo wrote:
dsheinem wrote:Generally any good music enthusiast or movie buff does listen to/watch mainstream stuff to some extent (even Transformers!), if only to better understand why they don't like much of it or to stay fluent in trends, innovations, the changing shape of the industry, etc. So I don't know that I fully agree with the ideas you've suggested about the correlation between a high interest in a type of entertainment and exclusionary tastes.

I'd also argue that mainstream doesn't necessarily mean "drek for the lowest common denominator".


Actually, I see a lot more in the way of "drek for the lowest common denominator" video games get heavy praise from critics than I do in any other entertainment medium, which I think is very telling of the gaming industry's quality standards.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Menegrothx Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:16 pm

Gamerforlife wrote:Actually, I see a lot more in the way of "drek for the lowest common denominator" video games get heavy praise from critics than I do in any other entertainment medium, which I think is very telling of the gaming industry's quality standards.

Switch IGN to Zero Punctuation, problem solved.

There aren't that many respectable gaming magazines/sites. I think gaming culture is more "DIY" than movies. Passionate enthusiasts who are specialized in a certain narrow field of intrest tend to be more professional than the actual professionals. Online communities and individuals can achieve wonderful things (modding, playtesting, community projects etc) with out any economic incentives. I think people on a site like rpgcodex can explain why a RPG is good or not much better than commercial critics and so on.
A large part of the problem in gaming is that video games require much more than movies. Movies are 1½-3 hours long, a game can be 80+ hours long. You just sit and watch movies, but it can take 40 hours to learn the basics of a single game. Some games require a lot of reflexes and memorization. Others intelligence and cognitive skills. It's a lot easier to "study" old movies than it is to "study" old games. It's very hard and time consuming to have a large, "professional" picture of gaming as a whole, if it's even possible. You need to play so many games, both old and new and master, or atleast be proficient in all different genres.

And then there's the fact that it's quite apparent that many reviewers are paid to give good scores to major publishers' games.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by isiolia Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:45 pm

Gamerforlife wrote:Actually, I see a lot more in the way of "drek for the lowest common denominator" video games get heavy praise from critics than I do in any other entertainment medium, which I think is very telling of the gaming industry's quality standards.


I think the basic issue in either case is assuming that mass appeal necessarily equates to a lesser work. People love to feel special, and proclaiming a like or dislike counter to what they perceive to be the prevailing opinion is a simple way to do that. Especially when people start to equate something not being to their taste with it actually not being good.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Erik_Twice Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:52 pm

It's not about lower demonitation drecks, it's about how involved the average person is in gaming.

Let's set a more positive example. Let's look at the Top 100 of Boardgamegeek:
http://boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgame

There's some really though stuff in there! A three hour simulation of bussiness in the industrial age, a wargame known for having hundreds of pages of rules and a civilization games that takes twelve hours to play and has been out of print for thirty years.

That's really strange! It's by no means common to have that when you have a mainstream medium, quality gaming or not. And that's what I find interesting here, not so much quality.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by dsheinem Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:16 pm

Menegrothx wrote:It's a lot easier to "study" old movies than it is to "study" old games. It's very hard and time consuming to have a large, "professional" picture of gaming as a whole, if it's even possible. You need to play so many games, both old and new and master, or at least be proficient in all different genres.


And there are people like that on this site.

There are a group of folks who post in the "Games Beaten" thread every year who's opinion on games I have come to hold quite dear because I can see the breadth and depth of their gameplaying experiences, can read their thoughts on most of them afterward, and can learn something about what they think of a variety of genres, studios, styles, etc. I'd put ack, alienjesus, emwearz, xeogred, gamerforlife, flake, stark, noiseredux, exedexes, and pierrot in this group (and likely some others I am forgetting at the moment) because I feel like I know where they are really coming from and can appreciate their "reviews" more as a result. I can't do that with most professional reviewers. For the most part, these are people who are working at having a full understanding of the history and scope of games, and so I have more interest in what they have to say about any game from any era. They often have niche specialties in addition to a broader view of game history (earned through experience), but they are conscious of that specialty in a way that people who don't have that breadth usually aren't.

There are also folks here who don't post in that thread but, over time, have given me a good sense of the scope of their gameplaying history and I feel like I value their stances on games too (e.g. MrPopo, Jmustang1968, Hobie-wan, General Norris, etc.) as a result. All of the people I mentioned in this category do regularly sink that time into gaming, have sunk it into gaming at a point in time, or (usually) both. They also have shown that they are "proficient in [almost] all different genres".

Then there are people who really know a particular genre or a particular era well. I hold their opinion in esteem for that niche (e.g. JT, mjmjr25, retrosportsgamer) but not always for games outside of it. So when someone who plays mostly 16/32-bit RPGs argues that "new RPGs completely suck" I don't really consider their arguments valid in any way. Likewise, when someone marvels at everything that's new because it looks great and offers a "new experience" I sometimes have to roll my eyes at their lack of knowledge of game history.

tldr: I like what I learn about games here, because I know that the people who talk about games really know their stuff in a way that I can't usually be sure if a reviewer actually does.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by Menegrothx Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:27 pm

There are so many platforms and games that it's almost impossible to become a true video game guru unless you've been an active gamer&collector since the early/mid 1980s and always spent 40-60+ hours a week gaming. When you factor in all the new games being constantly released, the last console generation (the huge game library of PS2)+PC releases and ALL the retro stuff (all the 1980s&1990s different consoles, handhelds, PC games, computer systems and arcade games), even getting to properly know a single genre can be a very daunting task unless you are old, rich and focused enough to have experienced majority of "retro" stuff back when it was new. RPGs are the most time consuming genre, but imagine going through the RPG libraries of all those systems, both W and J. Every single game is 20-100 hours long. Many are unlinear and don't hold your hand. Even if you spend all your free time gaming (and hopefully work as a game reviewer), there just simply aint enough time for all the games in the world, even if you don't play all of them from start to finish. One human life simply is too short. And the more time passes, the more games there are and the harder it becomes for younger people to fully grasp the scope of video games (or of a particular genre) as a whole.


And yes, sure you don't need to play all games from start to finish, but there's often a lot of stuff that you might not see untill the end of the game. Many modern games might get credited for "inventing" stuff implemented in some old and obscure game no one ever talks about, so it's important for the sake of game history to map out things. Even if a game is complete garbage, it might've done something a bit differently that sets it apart from all the other games in it's genre.
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Re: Diverging from the mainstream

by dsheinem Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:40 pm

Menegrothx wrote:There are so many platforms and games that it's almost impossible to become a true video game guru unless you've been an active gamer&collector since the early/mid 1980s and always spent 40-60+ hours a week gaming. When you factor in all the new games being constantly released, the last console generation (the huge game library of PS2)+PC releases and ALL the retro stuff (all the 1980s&1990s different consoles, handhelds, PC games, computer systems and arcade games), even getting to properly know a single genre can be a very daunting task unless you are old, rich and focused enough to have experienced majority of "retro" stuff back when it was new. RPGs are the most time consuming genre, but imagine going through the RPG libraries of all those systems, both W and J. Every single game is 20-100 hours long. Many are unlinear and don't hold your hand. Even if you spend all your free time gaming (and hopefully work as a game reviewer), there just simply aint enough time for all the games in the world, even if you don't play all of them from start to finish. One human life simply is too short. And the more time passes, the more games there are and the harder it becomes for younger people to fully grasp the scope of video games (or of a particular genre) as a whole.


I don't think you have to have fully played all the games of every genre from every era to "properly know" a single genre let alone to become a "video game guru". I also think that getting a healthy knowledge of the full history of games under your belt isn't beyond reason in a single lifetime. Yes, RPGs are long. Yes, it might be daunting to become a bleeding-edge expert in that specific genre. But I know from experience that it isn't insane to think that you can have a respectable working knowledge of the RPG genre and have a good many hours logged in it while still developing breadth across many other genres/eras.

I posted this before, which was slightly contentious then but kind of gets at what I am saying now. For most, I truly believe that tackling a huge backlog is more of a mental block than a real one:

It actually isn't that crazy to think you can get through most of what you might want to in a lifetime.

Keeping a "Games Beaten" log since 2009 or so has allowed me to catalog beating about 250-300 games across a wide range of genres in 3.5 years or so. Granted, that is a bit excessive - but that puts me on pace to have 1000 games played in a decade. That's something like 2/3 or so of my current collection, which includes three decades worth of games that I want to play (and many of which I already had before I started tracking beaten games). At 1,000 games every ten years, I have no worries about getting through my backlog over time whilst simultaneously enjoying new things that come out.

Hell, even if I were to cut my pace by 60% and only beat 40 games a year on average before I die, that means that if I lived to average age I would be able to beat almost 2,000 games between now and when I die. If I just want to "experience them" I am sure that number could go much higher.

So it isn't as untenable as you might think, if you truly believe you'll keep playing games into your old age. If you plan to stop or die in the next few years, then you might have a problem.


and some math:


Don't sell yourself short! Even if you have 200 RPGs X 40 hours on average (8,000 hours), you could easily finish up those 200 in 25 years if you played an hour a day. If you live into your 80s, you could easily tackle twice that!

Again, don't make so many assumptions about it being impossible - instead get crackin'!


If you play one hour a day on average, you could beat 1000 games that average 15 hours in length in 40 years.
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