Published on July 5th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Perception of Gaming
A little while ago I made a couple of posts aimed at the positivity of the videogames becoming a more mainstream pursuit, especially in terms of equal footing to films and books as a medium of entertainment.
There are a couple of informative and in-depth pieces people have written lately on the subject, so I shelved it for a little while until I had something else to add to the table and this week, I was dished aplenty. With videogame crowdfunding problems, censorship & banning in Australia and possible microtransactions added to World of Warcraft, I finally felt I had enough material to go on, so here I am with the final part to my trilogy of posts on the expansion of games which started with the treatment that game companies give their fans and was succeeded by the generalising of gameplay in modern games.
Firstly, current perception of gaming is a lot better than where it was 10 or 15 years ago, the geek culture that encompasses videogames has become more popular culturally since Marvel films started getting made but at this point in time there is still a negative image surrounding the general idea of playing a videogame.
Games of the video and role-playing variety, were incredibly popular amongst stay-at-home people, for those that did not have much social company there is an abundance of single player videogames on home consoles and PCs and for the more sociable, they can play games like Dungeons and Dragons.
In both examples the kind of worlds often portrayed and the kind of ones preferred are more often than not vastly unrealistic, namely Sci-fi or Fantasy-based, lending itself to an assumption of escapism for the people who are playing them.
It’s not entirely disagreeable, even now most people including those that do not “game” on a regular basis could probably agree that playing a game is often an act of escapism as well as entertainment. Here is where the first misconception came in. Just because someone enjoys escapist hobbies, doesn’t mean they are unfit for society in some way or even avoiding it. Sometimes I believe that psychosomatic belief in this is what causes a vast amount of gamers to confirm the close-minded oppressors’ suspicions of this stereotype.
Even when not following the archetype of a “common gamer” there is still the hurdle of being seen as either stupid or having a child-like mentality. This comes from when the NES was marketed as a child’s toy because of the videogame crash in the 80’s. People still believe they are aimed at children, especially as games were a convenient way of entertaining children with little to no input from guardians. It is usually these same lazy parents that blame videogames as evil and brainwashing as they do not pay attention to their children’s lives or in some rare cases pay too much to them without doing any external research on the things they demonise.
I agree that interactivity is primarily something that is marketed for children when it concerns purchasable products as it is all part of learning and “conditioning”. Unfortunately some people misguidedly believe that learning ends when you leave school, so any form of interactivity is soon dismissed as “immature” and “skiving-off”. Even when not considering that interactive entertainment is not actually a crime, it irks me that just having something that can exercise your mind, keep you busy out of harm’s way or even the fact that it’s entertainment so it shouldn’t be coming under worse scrutiny than harmful substances is getting such a bad rap. Not like it concerns these people anyway.
This week, despite changes in Australia’s Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games that came into effect on January 1 2013, Saints Row IV and State of Decay were both banned.
I personally work under the philosophy of zero censorship, so obviously I naturally thought this ludicrous just like our own England’s banning of Human Centipede II.
We still haven’t gotten over “video-nasties” of the 80’s, so it was fairly expected, however Australia’s rating was not only shocking considering the new guidelines, but also incredibly unfair. If this was a film, this would not be happening, so why do they do this with games?
Children. Somebody PLEASE help the poor, innocent, Saints Row IV fan-children from this videogame nasty!
In England they ban Human Centipede II because they simply don’t want people to watch it.
In Australia they ban videogames because they don’t want children playing them.
Do they really not understand after all this time? Not all games are for your children! If children could grow up without needing any guidance and if the world was a nice place full of rainbows and chocolate pillows, then biologically we wouldn’t need parents.
But that just isn’t the case and just because there is a Pokémon movie out there your child liked, doesn’t mean that your child can watch The Thing, only for you to ban it because you afterwards you don’t think it’s suitable.
Speaking for myself, I have had much trouble all throughout my life with people judging me and what I do, despite my other redeeming qualities clearly showing that I am not some mindless drone stuck in the body of a pubescent teenager. I did well at school, I have a job in publishing, I read Milton AND I play videogames, NOT as a guilty pleasure but as something I rate as highly (if not in ways higher) as literature, cinema and music.
Obviously, many people that do not deem games as art, despite believing that art is an undefinable term that encompasses much more than paintings and sculptures.
I recently read an amusing review for a film, done in the style of a game review, however humourous, I couldn’t help but be somewhat offended by the casual dismissal of review format for the industry. Unlike other artistic mediums that often undergo the “review process”, games are part-service and part-product, meaning that functionality has to be taken into consideration. And YES. This does mean you must talk about them AT TIMES as if you were reviewing a defective kettle. That in no way detracts from the validity of the form as art, as even art can be reviewed purposefully too, at times like this, I like to think of the difficulties that sports writers have when writing about a match, this in no way detracts from the sport.
Other mediums do not have many facets to cater. I did hear once that just having many different aspects and creators was enough to denounce games as art, but then, I also remember the late Roger Ebert’s very same struggle with explaining the artistic vision of a film director’s role in movies.
A gamer once expressed distaste for the term “The Citizen Kane of gaming” and too right too. There is no Citizen Kane of gaming, there is only one of film. If by that, it is meant a game defining games as a truly unique medium and a tour-de-force to be reckoned with, well in that case we have hundreds. It happened long ago. Is there a Beethoven of films? Or a Shakespeare of music? No? That’s because these references are not transferable in terms of themes but only in terms of impact.
In that respect we have Super Mario Bros. It ticks all the right boxes. It is a perfect example of a game. A game that deserves this title always had to be gameplay based and intrinsically ground-breaking.
In order to convince people you must first just accept yourselves.
Tim Schafer once said that “You have to act famous, before you can become famous”. It’s true of games, instead of throwing fits whenever someone criticises your games, just concisely say you disagree and that perhaps the person should try something to play. Whenever discussing games, don’t shy away as if ashamed and always just continue talking and acting that games are already accepted as the art you believe they are.
But Tim Schafer cannot always be trusted upon for sound videogame virtue, as his very own company is a good example of why businesses from other sectors look enviously upon the lucrative videogame industry, but also laugh at the embarrassing rookie mistakes it makes, like Schafer’s own Broken Age crowd-funding campaign.
The Double Fine Adventure was initially kickstarted over 8 times the amount required, but just this week he announced that on the current track they’re running, he’ll have to cull 75% of the game.
I mean, give or take 5 or even 10% off leeway, but 75? No way. That’s just the world’s worst planning and I’m certainly not too proud to say I already called that.
This is all more concern for our industry, showing its unbankable roots and juvenile dreams. We need to play a bigger game if we want to be taken seriously.
Fundamentally the games industry is ostracised by its peers and our sole defender is Geoff Keighley, a conspicuous person himself. It’s odd that none of the company’s whose interests involve videogames being desirable do not ever step up to the plate when it comes to not so much defending the medium, but advertising and shouting about all that is good about it, all it requires is a change of demographic marketing. Nintendo has partially grasped this by making non-gamer based ads, but with the inherent acceptance of gaming being weird with their ad campaigns of “not a gamer” this is proving rather difficult as it is only reinforcing the belief that gamers are separate entities to “normal people”.
As games become more mainstream, we can certainly look forward to a lot of these problems we experience becoming a thing of the past as people become more tolerant. The games industry itself as a business can stop being laughed at due to its fledgling policies, reviews will be accepted as relevant and teachable form of journalism and most importantly, people everywhere can enjoy and pursue their non-harmful activities without the fear of persecution.
I hope that this acceptance will lead to the money-grabbing schemes which harm the artistic integrity of games, such as monetising, micro-transactions, DLC etc, becoming discontinued, if not better refined by the very companies that are representing us and currently “safe-guarding” our medium. But for this to happen, we have to prove that games are worth the fight, we have to ensure that we do want to be taken seriously and in turn make ourselves the very ideal we wish others to embody.
In the meantime, I will continue doing what I do best, playing games and then writing about them.