Social unsocial gaming

In the 1980’s and 1990’s electronic games were usually blamed to remove children from each other, that games separated players from their normal friends. However, much like on many of claims like this, that’s only partially true.

Let’s consider arcades at first. They were nothing short of social event. While I’ve gone over how arcades were part of continuing cultural phenomena, including criminal activities and rebelling teenagers, I’d like to reiterate that arcades have always gathered people of all walks of life to a common place. Penny arcades first, then video arcades. While the image of arcades as masculine place of triumphant to-be adults has long since died and replaced with kids’ place of play, only to be taken over by free-to-play arcades for young adults with barcades, they nevertheless have always served as a place to escape to in some extent. A round of Street Fighter II might have had a group significance, it also served a way for those who simply wanted to vent something out and be alone.

PC gaming has always been a bit more a hobby for the hermit kind, that much I’m willing to give in. However, even then most children who played computer games played them with either a friend or a family member. Furthermore, computer games would bring people together in groups to discuss the games themselves and ways to upgrade or fix computers. Geek squad is most likely derived from these kind of groups of people with specific computer know-how most people seem to lack. Nowadays Internet connection is making playing with other people very easy, and the old way of thinking of a person playing alone doesn’t apply. A person may be playing a computer game alone in a room, but connected to dozens of different players across the world. Modern social gaming at its finest.

Console gaming has been about multi-player since Pong hit the markets. David Sudnow goes over in his book Pilgrim in the Microworld how adults, not children, played an Atari console at a party and it was a big hit. This should be noted, as while the perception used to be that gaming is only for children, everybody regardless of their age is open for a game or two. Electronic games may be largely based on boy’s play culture, but the truth is that both boys and girls, men and women, have always played games.Compared to PC games’ hot-seat switching (it’s still cumbersome to shove people next to the same keyboard) console gaming has allowed real-time interaction. Now you may scoff at me and say You can attack USB controllers and whatnot to a PC and just play emulators, but you’re console gaming then.

While multi-player games are part co-operation and part contest, playing a single-player game socially is a different kind of shared experience. Streamers nowadays seem to get the same kind of kick from socialising with their viewers as they did when they were children, interacting and discussing the game. What’s lacking from here is sharing the game and taking turns at beating a stage. Peer learning is the key here. By sharing the physical space with someone and exchanging ideas and turns, players learn from their peers that they can then put into use later when they are playing alone. However, it would seem that the significance of peer learning diminishes with age and older game hobbyists tend to prefer their own, single experiences to challenge themselves. Nevertheless, the significance of socially playing a game has not vanished, and streaming indeed has given it a new form. Perhaps streaming is the next step in this chain, where the streamer first has learned from his peers, then challenged himself¬† before stepping unto a stage to both entertain viewers and to showcase his learned skills.

In late 1990’s and early 2000’s, video games were still mostly an option to do when you were bored. This applied specifically to girls, who saw more merit in more traditional hobbies. Boys on the other hand regarded games a better option over reading a book, listening to music or watching television. For computer gaming at the time, this could mean boys had a somewhat powerful gaming machine and an Internet connection to play either a strategy game or a first person shooter together. Console gaming, outside the Dreamcast, didn’t offer much online functions. The amount of games boys and girls played games is significantly different due how different the play culture is between boys and girls. While we could argue that gender roles have something to do with this, it would be extremely interesting to see how much genetics have a role in how a child takes part in their gender’s play culture.

There are those who have been separated from their friends and peers because of games. However, the same applies to any hobby. Books, radio, television, movies, etc. It is more about the person himself than the hobby they choose. Gaming can be extremely social event with its own set of rules depending on the people and the game being played. Just like how one can’t expect to enter a foreign culture and find it acceptable from the get-go, so does modern social gaming expect new players to get accustomed to the modern Internet-driven multi-player landscape.

It would be foolish to assume there would be just one form of game culture when it comes to online gaming. Each region and even game has their own set of sub-cultural rules and behaviours that can even vary between server rooms within the same game, in the same region. The much laughed Call of Duty kid who calls others by names and acts like a brat may be a black and white stereotype, but as much as it is true just a much there are those who act completely the opposite with courtesy and encouragement towards their fellow players.

Electronic games, as much some people hate to think about it, connects more people than it separates. We can choose what games we play and whom with we play them, and we shouldn’t expect to be able to share a game with everybody, either because of cultural or preferential differences. We can be social in the circles we choose in, and while it is healthy to venture outside and see what others are doing to broaden out horizons, we should just concentrate on enjoying this social hobby instead of tearing it down.

Why Capcom killed off Mega Man

Yoshinori Ono was the man behind resurrecting Street Fighter and bringing it back to the masses. However, his physical health was the cost of it all. His interview doesn’t only shed light on why Street Fighter X Tekken was such a massive failure, or why we most likely won’t ever see Street Fighter V, but also why CAPCOM won’t make another proper Mega Man game for the next ten years to come.

“So from the company’s point of view, if the team is stating that it cannot do any better combined with a lack of sales, it’s a complete story and it’s time to move on.”

All the most recent Mega Man games from Maverick Hunter X to Mega Man 10 sold decently, but not well enough to warrant sequels. Mega Man Legends 3 was fate of the same treatment.

“Until the day of release, Street Fighter 4 was an unwanted child,” Ono says, his tone at once sad and defiant. “Everyone in the company kept telling me: ‘Ono-san, seriously why are you persisting with this? You are using so much money, budget and resources. Why don’t we use it on something else, something that will make money?’ No-one had the intention of selling it, so I had virtually no help from other departments – they were all reluctant, right up to the day of release.”

I have no doubts CAPCOM felt the same way about Mega Man X8 and anything that came after it. The Battle Network series sold like hotcakes with its balance of real-time fights and collecting, as did Mega Man Zero with the high difficulty level and modern take on the series. Both of these had sequels and failed miserably.

Creating a Mega Man game should not be expensive, and yet developing the for the current consoles is expensive. Mega Man 9 was costly because the old games had to be reverse engineered and go against the current state of technology. Mega Man 10 was quickly thrown together after that, but only after the sales numbers came in. Developing for the GBA was cheap in comparison, whereas the DS fetched higher price, and the lack of sales that ZX series had doomed it. Same with the Starforce series, which shared the same weaknesses; they were lite versions of their predecessor series.

Mega Man Legends never had proper sales. People bought the first game because it was Mega Man in 3D, but even these people knew what they were getting into; completely different thing that main series were about. Legends 2 sold very little, and at this point CAPCOM had already started becoming the entity we have today.

Legends 3 was cancelled for one reason; it would not have sold well enough. This is the reason CAPCOM “killed” Mega Man; there was no money in it. CAPCOM’s obsession on HD gaming is what killed Mega Man.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s CAPCOM was all about making great games, as evident on Ono’s statement. Arcades was where CAPCOM ruled and made their money. When the arcades died, CAPCOM had to change. However, we all remember how Nintendo’s sales always plummet when they abandon their arcade roots. The same goes with CAPCOM. However, CAPCOM has nothing to make a comeback, as they’ve stopped producing their own arcade machines (the glorious CPS series) and barely produce worthwhile game there any more.

Would it be possible to reproduce the arcade feeling at home? If we take another look at Nintendo, the answer is Yes. Capcom has done it many times over, and the Disney license games they did back in the 80’s and early 90’s is a proof of this; these games were arcade games adopted for home consoles. These games have a hidden property as well, which is that they are generally rather cheap to produce as they do not need to be in HD at any point, but they do need a proper developer team who simply wish to make a good game. This team also needs to have limitations and a clear goal what they’re doing, and keep it simple. Very few arcade games were complex to begin with, and the most complex arcade games happen to be fighting games like Street Fighter III.

Why ZX series died out wasn’t just it’s watered down content, but because it wasn’t a Mega Man game. Zero series gave a proper way to roam free, but within strict limitations. If I wanted to play a 2D-exploration, I’d play Metroid. The Starforce series wasn’t just watered down, but also complicated certain matters that were supposed to be simple but abundant. The decision to make Starforce 3D was most likely an executive decision, or at least what the market department decided. Any good businessman could’ve seen that both ZX and Starforce would flop.

Does Mega Man have an audience out there? Yes, but the customer base has diminished in great numbers. People who got into Mega Man were at age five to fifteen when Mega Man 2 hit the scene. It was my first Nintendo game I ever remember playing and beating. It was the game that made me jump from Atari 520ST, from computers, to consoles. Now we’re all well over our twenties and thirties. People who played Street Fighter II have enjoyed Street Fighter IV, but I’ve seen that they will always regard II as the better game, for good reasons.

Up until Mega Man’s twentieth birthday we all could enjoy great amounts if insanely well made games, as well as bunch of mediocre and bad ones. When somebody like Ono does the same thing to Mega Man as he did to Street Fighter, we can expect Mega Man 11, or perhaps X9. If done correctly, they will use that era’s technology and not rely on nostalgia. They will put their heart’s tears and blood into it, crafting the same fun game have had since the first one.

CAPCOM isn’t toying with their customers. They’re not pissing them into their eyes or anything like that. To them it’s a cold truth that Mega Man does not sell any more. The golden days of their unofficial mascot has been long over and there’s nobody taking the lead. To us customers, to us fans who still wish to see a new Mega Man these times are sad. We can play over and over the past games only so many times. CAPCOM has not been loyal to anyone in the past ten years. The CAPCOM which developed Street Fighter II, Final Fight, Mega Man X, Captain Commando, Kikaioh and all other classics is no more. The CAPCOM we have nowadays is in financial trouble. It tries to survive in these times when macroeconomics are bad, but quite worse yet.

It’s wrong to say that Mega Man was killed off. Mega Man was not killed, but simply… stopped. It’s a dead franchise. Capcom didn’t kill off Mega Man, but in their eyes everything that Mega Man had is no longer alive. Perhaps they’re following the small sales the comics and books are making, but a new game seems to be out of question. CAPCOM’s not willing to invest into releasing the DASH games on PSN, as they would need to pay some money on the licensing issues in the game, like the songs, and they aren’t interested in removing them from the games… which only shows that they’ve lost the source codes.

It’s been a good run guys. The only thing we can really do is to keep asking CAPCOM for a new Mega Man game, and hope that they have someone who is willing to take the same burden Ono did with Street Fighter. Without a person like him inside, I’m afraid it all will be in vain otherwise.

Mega Man’s story is far from over; We never got to know what happens after Mega Man 10, how would Lumine’s rebellion affect X’s world, how the world became one of race of Carbons, and how the hell did Trigger get off Elysium. As far as CAPCOM stands, these are questions that are left open, never to be answered. And perhaps it is for the better….


…everliving life in memories…

…until someone awakes the hero anew.