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The Future of Gaming?
Written By:
AJ Middleton

Videogame violence.  It’s a big deal, with both the parent-politician league and gamers themselves.  The parents argue that games are violent, and they lobby political leaders, who act on their constituents’ behalf and start proposing “anti-gaming” legislation.  This, in turn, angers gamers everywhere, who say that even the most violent of games don’t cause problems, and that the parents alone are to blame if their kid plays Grand Theft Auto and then shoots his best friend.  Then both sides attack each other, and things get nasty.  Quickly.

If only everyone would stop and think for a moment.

First, to parents and other adults with power.  Just as it’s ludicrous to say, “All TV is bad for you,” it’s crazy to think, “All videogames are violent masses of garbage.”  So before any of you take action, KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!

And now for the majority of this bound-to-be-controversial article.  We, as gamers, need to stop blaming parents and other adults for their views towards one of our favorite pastimes.  Remember, “Parents are fully responsible for their kids” is equally as extreme as “Videogames are Satan” (I mean honestly now, how many of you listen to your parents 100% of the time?)  Our anger, instead, should be diverted to the TRUE problem; something that we tend to overlook.

The videogame companies themselves.

Now wait!  I know that you all want to attack me now, but listen!  First, a few terms must be made clear.  If you’re reading this site, or a member of our message boards, or know who Shigeru Miyamoto is, chances are you are what would be considered a hardcore gamer.  This simply means that videogame information and facts are a common part of your knowledge.  You may not be able to separate World War I from II, but you sure as hell know the background of the Imprisoning War and the War of the Magi.  You find little joy in how a game looks if it has no characters, story, or originality to hold it together.  You also know release dates, developer info, histories, and everything else that you really don’t want to know about videogames.  On top of that, you have been doing it for a long time.  Some of us, like myself, were raised on the NES.  Others joined when the Genesis was big.  Either way, we’ve seen the lives of many different systems and series.  Peers may see this hobby as weird, but we’re at home amongst ourselves.  THAT’S what hardcore gaming is. 

So what’s the problem?  Hardcore gaming is not mainstream.  Mainstream…you know, what’s generally popular.  Britney Spears, MTV, Lord of the Rings, the NFL…that stuff.  Nowadays, no one cares about Super Mario Brothers or Chrono Trigger.  You see, hardcore gaming is not mainstream.  Mainstream is Xbox.  Mainstream is PS2.  Mainstream is Grand Theft Auto, Halo, anything else that falls under the category of that infamous “M” paradox, and sports games.  The mainstream gamer couldn’t care less about the complexity of The Wind Waker’s plotline, because the adventure as a whole doesn’t have any blood or cursing.  He also wouldn’t pay any attention to Eternal Darkness’s gripping storyline and instead complain about the lack of perfect graphics and gore.  When Ocarina of Time came out, my friend once told me, “I hate Zelda!  I don’t want to have to think to solve puzzles; I just want to hack through things!”  You KNOW gaming is in a bad state when that happens, and things have only gotten worse since then.

Mainstream gaming is popular because various forms of media promote it during the right times.  These games get commercials during big events like baseball games, the MTV VMAs, and popular sitcoms.   Do we see commercials for Skies of Arcadia Legends and Sonic Mega Collection during those programs?  No.  But you DO see ads for Madden 2004, GTA, Halo, and Manhunt.  And, minus the sports titles, those are some of the most violent games out there.  It just so happens that a lot of people end up seeing these…

Put simply, we’re placing the worst out in the open for all to see.  No one cares about psychological thrillers, because finding prostitutes on the street is much cooler.  Link, despite his in-depth stories and adventures, doesn’t draw a crowd, because blowing off someone’s head is more fun than hitting a comical monster with a sword.  Adults hear about these popular titles, see their commercials and are appalled, assume that’s what gaming is about, and then protest. 

The power of the media is amazing, isn’t it?

Blame the marketers, not the parents and politicians.  Parents act on what’s mainstream, and politicians are just doing their jobs (And then there’s Joe Lieberman, who’s a parent AND a politician.  Ahhh!).  You never hear movies given this absolute treatment because it’s understood that there are both “good” and “bad” films.  If games were advertised in a similar fashion, perhaps things would be different.  Where’s Nintendo’s marketing committee?!  Putting on a few little seconds of a more popular title once a week during Nick Jr. doesn’t work!  Stop making two screens per system and use the money wisely!

No, there is no remedy, and no, I don’t think things will get better in the future.  Time will pass, new systems will come out, they’ll each get their own fanboys, and hardcore gaming as it is today will cease to exist.  At the same time, games will become all about visual quality, violence, and vulgarity, as plot, character development, and originality turn into burdens on the developer.  Besides, we hardcore gamers are a minority anyway, so there’s little we can do.  We’re an endangered species!   

Wow, imagine that.  There’s a whole generation out there that doesn’t even know what Duck Hunt is, nor does it care (probably because the ducks don’t explode into a bloody mess of guts and feathers.)  I feel old… 

Posted: 3-17-04
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