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3/09/2011

Casuals are slowly killing gaming.


I've been a gamer since I was like five years old and for as long as I can remember, gaming has always been a hobby exclusive to "nerds", "geeks" and other names people have usually been calling us. We’ve always been people who can manage to have tons of fun while being lonely by either exploring a world in Zelda, racing in a virtual F1 competition or shooting friends over the internet in Halo. For that, we gamers have always had to endure being called “weird”, “asocial” and stuff like that.

Even if it’s always been common for anyone to get together with friends to play a videogame, I can bet that most of those were gamers because what people usually call a “normal guy” always had a videogame console as a toy to use about an hour every week or so.

Now, I’ve seen a HUGE change in this in the current gaming generation, everywhere I go, people are talking about how “cool and fun” Kinect is, how amazing the last Call of Duty is and the new motion sensor for the Wii. People that never touched a console in the 90s and early 2000s are now out there buying videogames and making opinions about stuff they don’t really know anything about. And the sad thing is that a lot of developers and companies are actually listening to them and creating games just to earn money and please that crowd.

I always hated the Wii until last year’s E3 when Nintendo suddenly changed their way of working and actually announced a lot of products for us hardcore gamers. In its first 4 years, the Nintendo Wii was probably the worst abomination to ever exist in the industry. All the games sucked, had bad graphics, forced mediocre motion controls and I won’t even get into the Mii subject. Yet, the console was the most successful of the three financially because a lot of people’s attention was caught by the Wiimote and its capabilities. As I mentioned, this “casual” crowd never touched a videogame console before so they didn’t have the knowledge to compare the Wii’s early games with the great titles in the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube.

This casual crowd actually includes several dozen million people all over the world. They buy games as a toy and not as a hobby. They don’t feel what we hardcore gamers feel when we play a game. But unfortunately, they’ve been giving millions to the industry and I think it’s extremely unfair that this public is actually the one setting the standards for this gen and the next one while we hardcore gamers who have been here the entire time have to adapt to the casual’s crappy tastes. The companies have spent the last years spoiling them with casual games which are extremely bad but at the same time, incredibly successful. Proof of this are the 10+ Guitar Hero games released in the last four years.  They’re all basically the same game but every time a “new” one gets released people go in riots to the stores to spend hundreds of dollars in a new plastic guitar to play a game they already bought at least twice before.

This brings me to the subject of the Call of Duty franchise. The first three CoD games were “OK” FPSs specially created for fans of the WWII scenario. But then the COD4 phenomena happened. And I specially blame the media for this. The entire industry made an insanely huge fuzz over the COD4 beta, people were literally becoming crazy to find a code to try the game in beta form when they didn’t know anything about the franchise because they NEVER played the first three games.

Now don’t get me wrong, COD4 was actually a great game. It had a good campaign and the multiplayer was tons of fun but then its publishers decided to turn the franchise into a product to be released every Christmas so they could get more money. This is very sad because now every COD game turns out to be a soulless Modern Warfare 1 clone. I’ve played the three sequels (World at War, Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops) and while they’re not really that bad, I can’t help but feel that I’m playing Justin Bieber’s last album, which means, a product created just to look pretty, sell and make money instead of innovating, setting new standards for the genre and try to push the console’s powers over the limit.

This reminds me that when Halo 3 came out, I complained a lot about its incredible success, because this franchise was always very innovative and I was very afraid of it becoming what COD turned out to be. When Bungie announced ODST I was about to rage-quit gaming because I was sure the company had turned Halo into an excuse to release more games and people would only buy them when they saw the name on the box. I was wrong.  When I played ODST (both the campaign and the firefight mode) I totally fell in love and noticed how Bungie created a beautiful world, story, environment and characters to give life to this franchise.  Even with spin-offs like this one and Halo: Reach which also turned out to be an excellent title.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m totally up for new public to get into gaming because we always complained our entire lives about “normal” people not understanding why we liked to sit in front of a TV with a controller so much. But if they’re going to come, they should adapt to what gaming always was and not set the standards. There are actually some signs here and there about things getting back to normal. One of those is the Guitar Hero franchise (which I admit, makes me vomit) getting cancelled. Nintendo getting back to please it’s real fans with excellent titles like Kirby, Donkey Kong, Mario Galaxy 2 and Other M,  Kinect games sucking a lot, etc. And if everything returns to the way it was (like in the PS1-PS2 era) then we will see the real potential the industry has to truly innovate and created great things.

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