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Video Games Are For Everyone – Get Over It
“That’s not even a real video game.”
That mantra—or phrases similar—are familiar to anyone who’s perused the comments section of any article or review for a video game. More specifically, indie games and mobile games. In an age where the validity of video games as art has never been more assured, members of the exclusive gamer club often respond with vitriol toward “casual” and “simplistic” games.
This mentality is damaging to the industry and fellow gamers, and frankly it’s a bit hypocritical. Set aside the fact that video games began as simple, casual creations. Pong was as simple as the most basic game released today, and even Super Mario Bros. utilized a measly two buttons and a D-pad. The evolution of control schemes and the ever-increasing number of buttons on a controller do not in any way devalue the status of those video games as legitimate video games.
Consider instead the history of games and video gamers. For arguably decades gamers were a minority, with the medium considered “for kids” and not something adults partook in. As has been discussed many times over by now, gamers of old often felt ostracized and misunderstood as they sought acceptance and dreamed for the day video games were legitimized as much as television or films.
Well, guys, if video games breaking media sales records isn’t vindicating, I’m not sure what is. The logical reaction would have been to celebrate this tremendous reception of video games into mainstream entertainment. Instead, we have seen gamers, stereotypically reclusive nerds with no friends, behave as you’d expect a disgruntled hipster to react. Malice and repudiation have caused many gamers (that is, anyone who plays video games of any kind) to be spurned, labeled “fake gamers” who play video games that are “not real video games.”
I can only imagine this is caused by the same mentality that makes fans of an underground band acerbic when said band hits it big and suddenly everyone likes them. I won’t even say it’s impossible to comprehend. When your hobby or deepest interests are ignored by those around you despite your pleas that it really is awesome, only for those same people who never listened to you to hop on the bandwagon (so to speak) when the popular crowd finally embraces it, is infuriating. I imagine it’s even worse when you’re still not given your due street cred for being a longtime fan.
Whether that is what’s truly occurring here, I cannot say. It’s unfair to say all longtime, “hardcore” gamers are rejects who spend every second of their free time opting out of social hour to pick up a controller in their parents’ basement, but there’s no denying a sense of entitlement has adulterated the gaming community as a whole.
I won’t spend time trying to convince people that this is cannibalizing behavior. The amount of work that would go into convincing gamers to be civil to other gamers far exceeds the limits of a simple op-ed. Instead, let us look at the essence of what makes a video game a video game, since that seems to be at the core of what a lot of people criticize about modern games.
This cannot be answered definitely or objectively, but as someone who has been gaming since the NES days (I wasn’t alive during the Atari days), I have grown with games as they moved from a two-button scheme to what they are now. I get that games like Farmville and Candy Crush are far removed from the conservative ideal of video games and appeal to a vastly different audience. I have no interest in playing them and, I admit, I would probably balk at someone who claimed they loved video games when that is all they play. (For the record, I know people who play those types of games, and none of them claim to love video games.)
What ultimately matters is that video games, like all other mediums of entertainment, are made for everyone to enjoy, not just a particular group. While I gravitate toward the stereotypical game—big-budget titles with a learning curve and the coordination to configure thirteen different buttons in the blink of an eye—I feel neither threatened nor offended by the new wave of casual or social games. Yes, these games are more like junk food, supplying entertainment on the most basic level, but Tetris was a simple puzzle game when it was released, too, and it’s so beloved it’s getting its own movie.
Fortunately, games have evolved beyond falling blocks and moving dots, and when I play games, I’m not just looking for a solid gameplay experience; I’m interested in plot, emotion, good writing…and the list goes on. Not every game I play has to hit every one of those (I enjoyed Borderlands, and let’s face it, that game has no plot), lending further to my opinion that video games are not rigidly defined.
Whether it’s a major release with a well-defined story full of emotional cut-scenes and mind-blowing, innovative gameplay touting the highest graphical fidelity or a simple free-to-play mobile game that anyone can download and enjoy on their smartphone, technology has changed. Video games are more accessible, and more and more developers are getting in on the action as the medium continues to grow. Now more than ever we are seeing that video games are for everyone, whether you feel a game meets your personal criteria or not.