I decided to attend a game design course not too long ago just for the kicks in our local university to see what kind people there were and what things the lecturer would go through. What came out of it was more or less the things I already had known, and a new understanding how ignorant PC gamers can be with the term “hardcore gamer.”
A hardcore gamer is a myth created on message boards and chats. There is none. When discussing the matter with the students there about the subject they concluded that a hardcore gamer is somebody who plays a lot of game, collects them and has a lot of knowledge behind them. Skyrim was brought up as an example for a hardcore game. However, somebody who plays the Wii, console games or arcade titles in general was a casual gamer. Inquiring them whether or not I was a casual or hard lead to no answers. This was because they had no basis in their arguments, only an idea that has been floating around.
What seems to bind these hardcore gamers and hardcore games together is the story elements and options the player has within the stories. Skyrim and Mass Effect were given as prime examples. The phrase “this game has no deep plot, it isn’t a hardcore game or anything” was the most rephrased sentence in bulk of the presentations given by the students. The selections and choices given the player also seemed to be a big part in the game. According to these people, who also seemed to represent the majority of the online student’s opinion, was that arcade games do not allow players to choose.
Let’s stop here for a moment and wonder what is choosing inside a game. According to these students, a game does not a any choices if the story in the game doesn’t allow them. However, they went silent when asked if any action done in a game is a choice or not. I gave Final Fight as an easy example. The game does not give choices to the player outright in form of text, but gives the player to choose from their own preferred way of fighting the goons the way they wanted. They disregarded these as choices and options, and called them as puzzles. How the hell selecting between two guys to punch is a puzzle? The only way these students could understand what a choice is was through multiple choice questions like in Mass Effect. In games a choice is something that player chooses to do. It has nothing to do whether or not it’s a story selection or not. Simply the decision of jumping unto someone in Super Mario Bros. is a choice given to the player.
Vast majority of the attendants were clearly had their roots in computer games and only in computer games. Their route to console games was most likely in the early 90’s and then later on with the current generation of consoles. Their point of view was fixed to one way only, and nothing could budge them. They had no appreciation outside their own beloved computer games that were clearly superior to measly arcade and console games. Their games were more cerebral and had more story into them, more realistic and rewarding.
But ‘lo, they regarded such game as Contra as a true hardcore game! How Contra can be a hardcore game when it’s the epitome of arcade game, a true casual game if we were to use such terms. Pointing this out they said that the difficulty alone makes Contra a hardcore game, but to this I demanded to know what excludes all other arcade and console titles from their list of hardcore games. They basically had none and went back at talking about difficulty levels and stories. To this I noted that aren’t bulk of adventure games difficult only in a manner of knowing what to do rather than skill, making them truly casual games? Adventure games are also extremely easy to anyone to pick and and play, like Myst.
These students had no idea what to talk about simply because they were computer game players.
It’s been a mindset that computers will some day be integrated to the society to the extreme and become something more than a mere tool. They expected Atari to become such entity, then NES, then PlayStation, then the XBox, and now the iPad. Computer games will never be popular on any other platform other than computers. The same can be said of console games with the exception that most arcade ports did succeed on consoles and the largest console franchises originated from arcades.
Hard core gamers and their stories are one of the reasons that the game industry’s in decline. The Wii and the DS has showed what kind of console and arcade titles is what people want. If the industry were to make more and more hard core games, they would lose more and more money and customers. It would take another industry crash them to realize that hardcore gamers do not exist. What they are in their true colours is computer game players directed to consoles. If the industry would return making console games for consoles, arcade game for all platforms and computer games for computers, then we could return to a more balanced industry.
Look at Angry Birds, a computer game on computer devices and its succession. Look at New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a console arcade game on a console and its succession. Or if we want to go back in time, look at how successful such game as Pac-Man was on any platform it was released. The only place where it failed was the computer, and computers do not matter in the long run.
What will it take for players to open their eyes and start enjoying games as games, rather than as experiences?