Games need to fit their own culture, not to be fitted into another

What are the most generic girls’ games you can think of? The term itself may not get much use nowadays, but it was all the hotness during the 1990’s and even in the 2000’s. It used to baffle me back in the day, much like edutainment did.  Girls’ games never had a good reputation to speak of and had a tendency to be lacklustre at best, something you’d find in a bargain bin, or at a stupidly high price because of their unique place among games like Duke Nukem 3D or Quake.

The sort of games we most often associate with girls’ games are the Barbie games, dress-up titles or non-violent adventure games like Chop Suey. You have the occasional 2D action game that concentrates on puzzles rather than mechanical skills, like Mary-Kate and Ashley: Get a Clue for the Game Boy Colour. It’s not uncommon to see a girls’ franchises to be adopted into games, just like the opposite is true for boys’ franchises. With boys being historically the larger consumers base for video and computer games, girls’ games usually got shafted.

The question whether or not sport games fall into either slot has never been raised as such, but maybe it’s a moot point to begin with. I used to have a discussion whether or not NHL games were neutral in their audience with few friends. One of them was adamant that the userbase of any sports game didn’t matter itself, as the games were solely based on real world sports and reflected it. The other argued that because the NHL titles didn’t include National Women’s Hockey League, and the main set of players were boys and men, the game was a boys’ game. The question I always posed was naturally Why didn’t they include NWHL into NHL games? The answer I got was the women didn’t buy NHL all that much.

Considering Super Mario Bros. seemed to be the game that had most equal split in a study done with Finnish students around 1999, the idea of needing your playable character to be the same sex or gender as the player does seem largely unnecessary. Mariosofia (2002) has a chart on the rest of the titles on page 119. The discussion about women needing more representation in video games thus seem to be a bit moot, as the character itself is often a blank state outside RPGs. This is an act of playing after all, and the avatar the player controls is merely an extension of the player; the true actor is the player, not the avatar.

Despite this, the idea of girls’ games stuck around. While in reality it was more than enough to make competent games that bring in excellent gameplay and content, these specific games got separated from the bunch and fitted into the framework of girls’ play culture. This sort of framework fitting doesn’t exactly fit all that right, because this can lead into games that look like something girls might want to play on the surface, but are not anything of interest. Part of this is because of the aforementioned lacking gamplay, and other is that the industry barely has any idea what they are to do with girls’ games. The answer of course is not to do any and concentrate on making good games. We can’t force a readily set media and culture to fit another.

That is not to say games push a certain section out. Electronic games, like any other play-related medium, expects competency from the consumer. It’s the only kind of medium where you can not advance without playing, much like a child’s play like Cop and Robber can’t advance if you don’t play your part actively.

There are also variety of games that generally can fit girls’ play culture despite not being designed around that, at least not initially. The Sims is a virtual doll house. Will Wright even described it as such after losing his home in 1991. Doll houses are associated with girls’ plays far more than with boys, though castle sets and such are essentially the exact same thing, just with a different theme.  Castle Grayskull is essentially a doll house just any Barbie Dreamhouse is. Because the The Sims allows choice what the player can do and with what sort of characters, it avoids the girls/boys issue. It’s not exactly a continuation of either play cultures per se, despite taking notions from both, but it is fully part of electronic game culture.

One thing that defines electronic games as a whole is a set of rules and the play they require. This is shared with all play cultures across the broad and nobody wants to deviate from this. While most of the competitive rules have been inherited what are generally seen as boys’ sports and plays, majority of these sports and plays have their girl equivalent or an outright version. In electronic gaming the differences dissipate even further if we concentrate on what the game culture is in itself. Perhaps a truly neutral game, if you will, is something like a Super Mario title, where the main character can be whatever sort of fellow who appeals across the board and the game content, and the world for the matter, does not weight to any other direction but to the game’s own visual design. Mario titles do not ooze masculinity or femininity. You can argue however much you want about the need to save the Princess, but that always gets tossed on the sideways because that is only a reason for the adventure itself. Like in any play, the act of playing is more important than finishing the play. Hell, the game’s play and its flow should be enough to warrant player wanting to continue.

Games are still a young medium, relatively speaking. Despite this, certain certainties have been solidified already. One of them is the slow dismissal of unnecessary divisions. While boys’ and girls’ games will always exist in terms of targeted market, the genres themselves seem to have gone underground. It would seem the winning formula is to allow the players to step into world of electronic games rather than trying it the other way around. Games are, after all, about the freedom of play and there exists more games than anyone of us knows. We just need to find the ones we like the most rather than try fitting existing ones into a framework we’d like to see them in.

Of course, there is an issue of game culture being a sub-culture under the overall culture, but that’s another post altogether.


A cold day in hell for NIS America

You probably heard already about NIS America apologising for the terrible translation job they did on Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and will issue a free update down the line that will fix the translation. This just doesn’t anywhere, NISA is known for their terrible practices and laughable translations. This has come to a point that sometimes a fan translation can make more sense and contains better flowing text.

NISA doesn’t offer apologies all that often. The CEO of NISA, Takuro Yamashita, is correct; this sort of terrible translation should not have happened. Ys VIII however is not alone in the list of games that NISA has put out that should be retouched from the grounds up. Ar Tonelico series is somewhat infamous for its lacklustre quality in translation, with Ar Tonelico II‘s even going so far of having no translation in the game or completely mistranslations of in-world terms and being inconsistent on the name changes they did. The quality assessment wasn’t up to par with the title overall, seeing how the end-game boss has a bug that crashes the whole thing. This is just a singular example, of course, but we could point out such things as Ar Tonelico Qoga’s English voice script being different from the Japanese one, and even at times from the English text script. If you though name changes are OK, NISA may change your mind with their take on Atelier Arland trilogy’s Esty Erhart being renamed as Esty Dee for a stupid STD joke.

Not to turn this whole post into bashing NISA, but translation really isn’t the only place they falter constantly. I mentioned the game breaking bug in Ar Tonelico II, but that’s just one example of bugs NISA introduced into their games during localisation process. Witch and the 100 Knight on the PS3 has a game crashing bug, plus causing the game to overheat the console itself to the point of it suicide. The translation aside, NISA never did issue a patch on these, and I recall them even refusing to acknowledge the overheating issue. Again, a single example, but we could talk about Disgaea D2 having a CPU melting bug at release, game crashing Skills and opening essentially off in the middle of playback.

It wouldn’t be a full three-course meal if we didn’t have censorship to throw into the mix. NISA’s release of Mugen Souls and Mugen Souls Z saw removal of some 120 CGs. There has been multiple explanations over the years, but all that really boils down to wanting to appeal the largest possible market. This is coming from a company that is release a very niche set of games to a niche audience. NISA doesn’t seem to realise that the larger Western market doesn’t like anime style, especially not in America and in parts of Europe that doesn’t have along lasting anime related pop-culture elements, like with the French and Goldorak, so trying to appeal new market with a product they have an aversion of is a terrible business move. Maybe the best example of this would be the censorship of Criminal Girls, where the player needs to give the titular characters “motivation lessons” through slight slapping and whipping with naughty overtones. Censoring the game’s main appeal, appeal that only appealed to even smaller audience than normal, is nothing short of retarded. The game itself is nothing special in content, it’s a mediocre RPG overall, but a really nice playthrough. The motivation lessons just added something extra to it, and now even that was denied.

Anyone who saw NISA grabbing the Ys license after XSEED’s deal with Nihon Falcom was over could tell you that the quality of the translation would go down. Nobody questioned that, and like some sort of collective arcane expectation, that came about. The only reason why we’re seeing an apology issued with a promise of a new, free patch being delivered, is at least partially because of a mailing campaign the fans had put up. The main reason however is without a shadow of a doubt is that Nihon Falcom put pressure on them. Hammering Falcom with information on the failures of their new partner in the Western was the best way to turn the tide, as only Falcom has the leverage to essentially force NISA’s hand on the issue.

XSEED has handled the Ys series like a pro. They essentially revived the franchise in the West and made it a household name long after people had forgotten how good Ys I and II were on the Turbografix-16. However, with NISA being a larger company and being able to offer more money, they could grab the rights and a deal with Falcom. NISA now had their hands on a franchise that fit in their overall library of titles, was already popular, and expanded their market away from naughtier games. Well, they managed to fuck that up.

It’s not everyday you see sensible English from Japanese being re-translated by a localisation company. For example, a region called Crevice of the Archeozoic Era was changed to Archeozoic Big Hole. Certainly, there are better options than Crevice in the context, but Big Hole is not only an invitation for a series of stupid jokes about some big hole being important for a character, but also sounds really stupid. That may be just a single issue that really stuck with me, but the rest of the script is no better. Character descriptions are awkward at best, treating them as in-game inanimate objects rather than characters. There is an imgur folder up for some examples used in the mailing campaign, and it’s a good thing to check out if you’re interested further. Some of the examples are weirdly selected, but they give an idea how things are.

Let’s not forget that the in-game bestiary for Ys VIII contains different area names that are in the in-game map.

OG moonlanguage version
Are you serious? A goddam Mephorashmoo? Is it a cow?

We would not have seen NISA bending their asses over this if there was no pressure from Japan’s side. Nothing would have been rectified if not for that. It’s a sad situation when NISA more often than not completely ignores criticism from their consumers and even refuse to acknowledge some of their mistakes. This isn’t even the first time the consumers have raised their voice against NISA and their translation, which is probably why some have taken an issue with it. The argument that people should be happy to even see a game translated doesn’t hold water, as XSEED would have wanted to continue with Ys series. I also have already discussed the good enough argument. NISA tends to have hardcore fans that don’t really care if they have good quality titles or not all the while there is a sect of those who won’t touch NISA’s products at all because they do care. NISA all in all is an example when can be understood-mentality extends from translation to everything else. It’s just not cutting it. NISA’s not just a blunt blade, but a blade that was left to rust on purpose.

The situation with NISA won’t change until more of companies from Japan start to care about localisation. Falcom is painfully aware of the need for their games having a demand to be well translated, as XSEED has managed their IPs like a golden egg. Most other companies simply don’t care, and translation overall gets the shaft in the processes of things.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, like all games, deserved a proper localisation. Now that the game will be getting a better one, will it be worth purchasing? Wallet voting here is a tricky one; on one hand you shouldn’t support a company with practices you don’t agree with, but in times when they do rectify their mistake, either by force or via free will, that should be appreciated. If this has peaked your interest, I recommend sitting back for a whole and waiting to see what the reworked translation is like. The fact that NISA had to employ a new translator and editor for the game should tell you about the quality they strive for normally, and much they care about their products in the end. Well, products that are owned by another company they just happen to have a license to. Personally, I can’t but hope to see Falcom giving Ys‘ license back to XSEED as soon as possible, as NISA seems unable to change their ways unless forced to.

Video games in Olympics?

Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, seems to know there is some kind of writing on the wall and has held talks with the eSports representatives and the IOC about them joining the Olympic games in 2024. While he argues that digital prowess should be considered a legit sport if Olympics is to maintain its relevancy. Estanguet should look elsewhere first and begin to work on removing the corruption and the financial strain the games cause to a nation.

The idea of digital games in Olympic games is not too far-fetched. After all, the two do share the core common root in games and competition. However, despite their spirit common ancestry, the two beasts are very much different in the end. Olympics have a history on themselves that fetch respect alone, and in the core still aim to celebrate the physical fitness of the human body. Albeit with the healthy help of helping substances and loads of less than clean money. Nevertheless, sports does include activities like chess, but that never got into Olympics by that merit.

It’s all about money, really. If this news bit is to be believed, an eSport star makes money than your average Olympic athlete. With electronic game industry eclipsing Hollywood and movie industry at large in worldwide revenues and cultural impact to the point of political agendas being driven into the sub-culture through sheer force, it’s no wonder Estanguet would like to give this newfangled thing a careful, close look.

Not that the idea hasn’t been amused before, but that’s exactly why modern eSports scene has come to be. Not because it was regarded as sports worthy the Olympics to begin with, mind you. Money goes where the viewers are, and it would seem the newer generations do not value seeing people doings traditional sports (if you will in this context) on-screen, when they could see professional video game players raking in bucks and points like no other. Perhaps the biggest difference is between Olympics and eSports tournaments is that anyone could become a good player with few months time put into a game and compete in a tournament, whereas an Olympic athlete has to live the life. It’s not an easy life either, and not everybody can become the world champion in 100m dash. However, the chance of becoming a damn good Counterstrike player is much more attainable goal.

If electronic games would enter the Olympics via eSports, there would be further shift to appease the broadcasting companies and such even further than what they already are. Outfit bans would become a common practice within these tournament circles to adhere to the high standard Olympics and their broadcasters would demand, which would still be ridiculous considering the same channels would be airing gymnastics, swimming and hurdles, all sports with people in rather skimpy outfits. If eSports would enter Olympics, you can bet on companies changing their designs to fit these standards from the get go rather than sticking to their guns. After all, if we’re to count games as a form of art, then they should be able to present anything the author/s intend without censorship. What a riot.

Thomas Bach is on a high horse when he questionsed whether or not eSports would stand to Olympic rules and would respect the values of sports. They lost that long time ago themselves, but it’s the front what matters the most. He also mentions that the implementation of Olympic rules should be monitored and secured, which more or less can be shortened into They have to change to fit out agenda. The Olympics committee doesn’t see video games and sports and within this generation they never will. Furthermore, there is no reason to see video games as sports to begin with.

I bet there is behind the doors talk about gaming maturing or needing to mature before it can take its place among the higher cultural phenomena like the Olympics. As I’ve argued before, this is a fallacy and video games do not need, should not, prove themselves to be like other media formats or games to stand on their own. The value of games as themselves can not reach its mature point until its hardcore consumers start masturbating over it as art or sports, literal storytelling or other such forms included, and begin to treat electronic games as they are. It’s not going to happen over night or in a week. There needs to be a paradigm shift with time. Electronic games need to achieve similar status to that of poker (or cards in general), where it is universally accepted as a valid form of entertainment where there are possibilities of serious competition while offering the player/s to have a solitary game against the deck/game itself.

No, video games should not be included into the Olympic games. If anything, eSports should create its own official Olympiad similar to Chess Olympiad. Hell EVO essentially is that for fighting games, and they even offer Special Olympics equivalent with the inclusion of Smash Bros. I know, that’s a terrible joke, but I know at least one you chuckled. This format could be easily expanded and included in a larger event, where you could have all the big names in town within the same Olympics-styled event, with e.g. Starcraft being played all the while you have people competing for the next high score result of Donkey Kong. It is a possibility, it just would take loads of money to be organised. Seeing how much money there is overall within these competitive gaming circles, it wouldn’t be a far fetched idea.

We could throw in an additional question whether or not there is a need for such an event. Video games shouldn’t need to be validated through Olympics, or an Olympics like event. Would it be better, in the end, if eSports would stay in somewhat similar form as it is now and naturally evolve to whatever shape it’ll be in the future? Whatever the direction may be in the future, rest be assured either one will shape how the games will look and play, with distinct lack of that original artistic intent being replaced with intent of making the games more sports-like (e.g. overly balanced, but not fun fighting games) and sticking to rules set by a committee outside electronic games industry.

Games as consumer art?

If the arcade game paradigm is applied generally in interactive art, `interpassivity’, a Pavlovian interactivity of stimulus and response, will be induced.

Simon Penny

Electronic games can be argued to train the player in a Pavlovian sense. I’m pretty sure most people who have played games to some extent can discern what sort of importance a large, glowing globe on a boss’ head means. You may need to solve a some sort of puzzle or wait for the right time for the globe to reveal itself, but when it does, you close in for the damage. There are so many games out there that use this approach to their enemies and bosses that it has become universal to some extent, and players already have a Pavlovian response to them. Modern Zelda games even go as far as to explicitly train the player in a use of a gimmick to solve a puzzle that is then presented in a boss battle.

Games are not the only ones that draw a response out of us. Art tends to do that as well, though art itself rarely is interactive. There is a distinct overlap between interactive art and electronic games in both of them requiring a participant in order to be realised. Interactive art does not fulfill its intended form without interaction in the same way as a video game can’t play itself.

Games and art do share more than that. Both are biologically unnecessary and often are seen in a romantic light of being separate from the need of being a sales success or politically driven. From a more realistic perspective, both art and games need to make money and the more emphasizes storylines games have had, the more they have emphasize they have on a subject. It should be noted that games like Zelda don’t intend to make any sort of political statement as such, but as with anything, there are those who will analyse anything and see whatever they wish to see.

The value of art itself is also in the line, as the general public is outside the circle of high art connoisseurs, who have made efforts to determine what art even is. At one point the notion of a five years old being able to do the same thing as a highly skilled painter was able to had become common enough to be seen absolutely everywhere. It’s the lowest level of insult given to any piece of work out there. This insult is not necessary from ignorance, but simply that the notion of a canvas painted white was even considered as art.

There is a lack of criticism towards what is considered art. Whether it is due to the post-modern era we live in or simply because the majority of the population simply attach the term to anything they see even remotely wonderful and astonishing. The old argument you’ve seen in this blog is If everything can be considered art, then art has no value.

This blog tends to would argue that art has always had a direct connection to its consumption under consumerism. However, the romanticised view is not any less valid. Art does not need to entertain or conform to the wishes of the consumers, it has no wish to the commercially successful. A consumer product has to, and if we are to combine both art and electronic games under one banner under the term of interactivity, then we must also abandon the notion the romantic view of art gives us and embrace art as something that has to serve the masses.

The language here is an issue. The emphasize we’ve given to art and artists is stupidly high in modern world. Whoever draws pictures is called an artist. Whoever can produce a piece of music is called an artist. Whoever can make and edit videos is called an artist. Ad nauseam. While the core etymology of art in ars refers to skill or craft, perhaps that’s not applicable nowadays, where the amount of people who are skilled eclipses that in out history. Make no mistake, very few can make classics like Mona Lisa, but in all objectivity, we have Internet full of people making far more impressive paintings with superior tools.

The worlds just don’t meet. If a game is made by hundreds of artists in a combined effort towards one end goal, is such work art anymore? Perhaps games are galleries in the sense that they offer a virtual space for different artists to showcase their skills in respective fields. Most games are not single vision as the main consumer crowd wants to view them as. Hideo Kojima is not the only person responsible on the success of Metal Gear games just as Miyamoto has a large team behind most of his Mario games. There are composers, illustrators, modellers, coders, designers, business men, organisers and God knows what within the credits of one game, all supposedly artists in their respective fields working.

The same applies to movies, and to some extent to movies as well.

Cultural consumer is a thing, a person who consumes cultural product within their society, and even outside it. Perhaps Patricia Martin was right to suggest the converge of art and entertainment alongside with technology was, and still is, remaking the consumer. This thinking consumer who wants to separate himself from the mass market has options to voice himself. Either through blogs or Youtube videos. In reality, with this constant cycle of ever-present news, media and event information we have thanks to the Internet, the cultural consumer has become part of the mass market. What used to be counter-culture is now mainstream.

How does this tie to our topic? Games were made by mathematicians and other people who didn’t want to get a “real job.” They were seen as kids’ toys. Something to scoff at. As games became more popular and mainstream, the more they were tied to artistry in multitude of ways. Now, electronic games are a bigger business than Hollywood. The institutionalisation of art would mean that its romantic view needs to be discarded, and we recognize that art is through and through a tool for profit and politics. Art is a thing that perhaps should stay as a romanticised object and be desired to be realised as, despite the reality not permitting this.


Netflix style gaming

Some time ago I was asked what do I think will be the next big thing in gaming. Usually I tend to argue that digital will not replace physical release for some time now (digital distribution has been said to obsolete physical media for some fifteen years for now) but I do recognize that cross pollination between the media is common. The future of gaming can once more found in the past, and that probably will be streamed games.

Streaming games isn’t anything new and few companies have already tried it few times over. Nintendo’s Satellaview service is perhaps the most prominent example next to OnLive’s cloud gaming. These two functioned rather differently, with Satellaview requiring a specific cartridge that would download and save the game on the cartridge itself, whereas OnLive’s MicroConsole TV Adapter (that’s what their console was called) would access a title on OnLive’s servers and stream it directly to the console.

Netflix’s and other streaming services’ success is something modern game industry is probably highly envious of. Games and movies don’t only affect each other visually speaking, but also how the industries sort of work. Modern mainstream game industry is just as corrupt and full of itself as Hollywood is, and both are envious of each other of their successes and products they put out. The consumer really loses in this little battle with each other.

It could be argued that modern technology isn’t up to perfect game streaming yet. Satellaview was more or less a similar service to Steam in how the game required a specific setup in order to be played, and OnLive’s service stated that the user needed to live thousand miles of within their server in order to get quality service. The Internet speeds are the bottle cap of the system overall, and as games require more and more oomph from the machine, the machines need to reflect this in their hardware. However, hardware still doesn’t reflect the quality of the games, as that’s still up to the developers how their games are designed and optimised, two things that seem to be missing from current mainstream industry.

One of the main reasons why companies would want to aim for game streaming is that they can claim it to be fighting against piracy through that. Claim is the choice of word here, because game companies don’t like people trading their games with each other. It’s better for them if everyone bought their games new from the stores. A streaming service would keep their the control of the market in their hands. Purchasing of games wouldn’t be a thing as the consumer would subscribe to a service. Except for the DLC, that would always be a separate thing. Of course, the user wouldn’t need to use any of his HDD space for the games due to cloud based service. In regards of history archiving, stream-only games would be hard to archive for future generations. Satellaview games suffer from this, especially with the radio broadcasts that went with them. Even now, a game that has its license expiring will be removed from stores and online services whenever applicable, and the same will apply to any streaming service.

Of course, the ownership question always pops up. With a streaming service, you would only own the console you would use for streaming, and for computers you wouldn’t probably own the software. You’d need to subscribe to the service itself and would have no control over anything in the end. Without a doubt, regional variants would continue to exists, just like with Netflix and other streaming services that limit what can be streamed in which country. This sort of regional locking is something that isn’t an issue with modern consoles any more, but with stream-only services a user wouldn’t be able to access games from another region without a VPN.

Which if the Big Three would launch their own modern game streaming service first? Sony certainly should have the basics for it, as they bought out OnLive. They should have all the documentation and basic framework how to set up a similar cloud gaming service. Perhaps this could be their ace in the hole to compete against Nintendo’s hybrid console. Microsoft on the other probably won’t do anything of the sort for a while now before they see how Project Scorpio turns out, and probably will mimic whatever Nintendo and Sony put out while trying to trump them with something over the top (see; Kinect and WiiMote.) Nintendo on the other hand seems to be already testing some waters with Switch’s paid online, as the current word on the street is that Nintendo’s paid online service has been delayed until 2018 and rather than offering a game for the subscribers to play, they will be able to access a plethora of classic games. Of course Nintendo would only offer classic games and nothing newer, as they don’t give a damn about their classic lineup of games. On the surface it does seem nice, with the cheaper price and all, but this most likely also means Nintendo won’t give two shits about Virtual Console, which was one of the reasons people bought Wii. Perhaps in their eyes a streaming service of these classic games could increase console sales, especially if the service was cheap enough.

I admit that companies hoping to take control over the consumers’ consumption of goods into their hands does sound like conspiracy theory to an extent, but no company would pass such an opportunity, because ultimately it is all about the money. By having all the string in your fingertips, a company could log in all the preferences of a consumer, supplement them, hit the right spots and sell the information forwards while still selling their own  product (i.e. subscription service and DLC in this case) to the consumer. The current consumer trend is to give control of products over the companies, and Steam probably exemplifies this the best alongside with Netflix. Certainly it is cheaper and you don’t amass large amounts of discs on your shelf. Perhaps there is too much trust put into these companies with all the information we give them.

An untouched library

There is an excess of video and computer games nowadays. Games are a luxury items from the get go and have always cost a high sum, especially computer and NES games in Europe. The amount of games released per system seems to to grow with each generation with the ease of digital publishing. However, there are fewer games that carry impact on the industry or the consumer crowd, partially due to how large the marketing push for Tripple A titles are getting and partially due to sheer amount of them. Despite the overwhelming amount of games released, some with extremely questionable quality, there won’t be next Video Game Crash. The core gamers will see to it.

A classic gamer seeks to build a library. Not just digital titles in your Steam subscription. That’s what mostly separates a modern gamer from an old-school one. The use of money also applies here. A Steam user builds a backlog so much faster and easier than an old-school gamer who picks what games he purchases and why. Valuing a single game in its entirety, if you will. There is a significant difference between purchasing a game from a store and… whatever the correct term is for getting a license to use game software in Valve’s digital console. The same really applies to GOG to lesser extent. The simple physicality of it all is a significant separation enough, though there is more to it, like owning a copy of a game rather than just having a right to use it.

It is harder and more expensive to collect a proper library than one in digital form. It’s not uncommon to see Steam users that have thousands of games in their Steam library, most of which are barely ever launched. Most of these games come from sales and bundles. It is a common practice to sit idly and wait for games to drop in price, and Steam’s sales have become rather expected even within the user community. These games that just sit in the library really have no value to the player, thus the overall perceived value is low and fetches low amounts of money. This sort of attitude really seeps into other titles easily, where the expectations of low prices has become a standard across the board.

This is a problem of sorts. It twists the market results quite a bit, and when everything is eventually available at a bargain price. The Tripple A titles saw a decline in sales from 2015 to 2016, and the trend seems to be continuing. This directly reflects to the fact that these high budget, highly hyped titles simply do not meet with the consumer demands. This really should tell something to the developers and publishers about their products and about their approach for them.

For these reasons, about 38% of game consumers have stated intending to purchase fewer games than previous year. With an increasingly number of titles in one’s software availability, putting more resources into something you won’t be able to consume and enjoy really seems stupid as hell. We’re getting to a point where people have more games than they can play in their lifetime, even if they were to become full-time gamers.

It doesn’t help that with emulators and such we have the access for most of the games produced. There is an excess of games, but that’s market for you.

Perhaps because of the excess itself one should practice a more moderate approach in their purchasing habits. Considering digital games are pretty much always online, unless if it’s a licensed game, there really is no reason to purchase a game at launch or at sale. While library collecting is a part of the whole high-end game consumer culture, this should not displace the act of playing these games. With digital games it can’t be argued that someone is buying them for value either, as digital games can’t be sold onwards as such, especially not on Steam (which is why Valve had to change the description of their service.)

The fact is, the fewer games you have, the more you’ll be ending up playing those individual games, and thus your library will be end up being far better curated. Switch’s current library isn’t anything to call home about, especially so if we’re only counting the physical titles, but the more reason to practice this self-limiting, selective purchasing. All this really maximises the amount of time a consumer should be spending with an individual game. There is something in common with the idea of practising one motion a thousand times rather than practising a thousand motions once.

It is also easier to appreciate a game when you’ve spent enough time with it. If you’ve ever experienced lower-income households where money is tight, each luxury item is valued. This applies to each and every game purchased, despite their quality. Thank God rental videos and games was a thing, so people could test games before committing to a purchase before widespread use of the World Wide Web.

Collecting a library of games does not necessarily mean the consumer doesn’t have appreciation for the games he has, though without a doubt less than a person who has gone through nook and crannies of his own library.

This excess and the possibility to even collect a large library of games is taken as self-evident. While I did mention that another video game market crash is not likely to take place, an implosion is not. Steam’s Greenlight and Kickstarter have been full of titles that never went anywhere or have questionable quality at best. Anyone can become a game developer if they so choose to, but very few indeed can become good game developers or even successful ones.

I’ve said this before, but this is the first time in gaming short history where we live in an era where you can purchase most major titles from past consoles on your modern one. Not only a new game is competing with its contemporaries, it’s also competing with highly venerated classics. There are very few games that even intends to stand up to the challenge, and sadly there are those who are in for the simple quick-cash and nothing of worth or intending to push an agenda for the sake of it. Eventually, all this will reflect in sales and direction the consumer goes. When one-third of the consumers seem to go back to their untouched game library and rather than investing in new titles, that’s time for some alarm bells.

Games cost money to make and buy, and it would seem that it would be the right time for both consumers, developers and publishers to take a good look how they are spending their money.

Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.