Connoisseurs of the Art of Gaming

The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated

-Mark Twain

Alrighty, I’ve been gone for a while, watching E3, attending Comic-Con, being lazy, etc. This Monday night I leave for Australia for a week and a half, which will once again affect my posting, but I’m going to try to at least get today and Friday done.

First off, and I’ll leave the rest of this possibly for Friday, but there is little I can say about E3 that hasn’t already been said. I think all three hardware companies had terrible press conferences and much of the public has turned on Nintendo following their conference. Core gamers feel ignored and I can see where they’re coming from, and while we may not like, I do not believe there is anything wrong with the increase in so-called casual titles into the market and it is on the subject of both types of gamers that I want to focus on today.

You can call this a defense of casual gamers if you so choose but I think of it more as a statement of perspective that I think accurately describes the situation the industry is in at the moment.

I’ll start off by saying that I detest the usage of hardcore to prefix gamer. Well, that may be slightly inaccurate. Better said, I hate the way in which hardcore is used by elitists that use it to elevate themselves above the inferior casual gamers. That said, I will say that there is a difference between these two groups of gamers, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say one is superior to the other.

I’ll begin my argument by offering this analogy. The core gamer, for a lack of a better term, are the connoisseurs of the art of gaming. The irony is not lost on me; I state that I do not believe one group is superior to another and yet I describe one as a connoisseur, but bear with me. The core gamer, the lifetime gamer, the ones that have been playing games for years, they know the art of video games, whether conscious of it or not. They are versed in the worlds, in the techniques of the developers, in the standards of genres, in the complexities of interfaces; simply said, they have experience and investment in the art of games. The casual gamer does not have any of this and honestly, they may not be all that interested in obtaining it. Does that make them an inferior type of gamer? Many believe so because they enjoy games like Carnival Games or WiiPlay, games that the core gamer, the connoisseur, finds fault with.

Now, let me shift my analogy to another arena. Food. Pick any restaurant you enjoy. Better yet, pick your favorite restaurant in the entire world. I would wager that there is a gourmet out there, more likely many, that find the food there simple, unrefined, and lacking in the nuances that make a good meal. Does their opinion make you enjoy the food there any less despite the fact that they are experienced in flavors, techniques, and styles? Probably not. You’d still love the food there, its what you enjoy.

Let’s shift now again to another arena. Film. Pick your favorite film. Let’s say you thought At World’s End was the greatest movie of the year, or maybe you really loved Revenge of the Sith. It wouldn’t be tough to find a film critic or a historian, someone who is really involved and invested in the history and the art of cinema, who would woefully disagree with you. Conversely, I’m willing to bet that most of you would find movies like Blowup or Un Chien Andalou completely inane, pointless, or just plain boring despite the fact that many critics and historians praise the films and their place in film history. Would that make you enjoy them any more? I’m sure most of you would not care one bit what they said and you would know that it was a bad movie.

Now, I purposely used the word know in my previous paragraph to highlight something. Most every core gamers knows Carnival Games is a mediocre game just as well as every core gamer knows that Wii Sports is a glorified tech demo; that is, the very same way that film critic knows Blowup is a great movie and the same way you know your favorite restaurant serves great food. Now whose opinion of those above is more correct? You can argue that the critic is right because he is versed in the art of film. He knows the history and why the film is important. But then again, you really love that restaurant. Despite all the gourmet’s talk about quality of ingredients and lack of imagination in its preparation, you still love that restaurant. Despite the gourmet’s experience, it doesn’t mean anything to you because you know you like the food. What about the casual gamer then? He enjoys Carnival Games and WiiPlay. He is you at your favorite restaurant and you are the gourmet telling him the food there is crap. Who is right? Both of you are, and neither of you are.

My point is that we are all gourmets and we are all casual gamers at something. The release of yet another mini-game compilation offends you just as the release of yet another Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Then again you do love that restaurant despite the fact that so many gourmets would disapprove and hell, maybe you’re really looking forward to Disaster Movie that’s making critics cringe but you still know that you like them. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely points where both sides agree. There are still movies like The Dark Knight that have critics raving and audiences lined up around the block just the same that there are games like Brawl that casual gamers enjoy just as much as the hard core.

Like I said, this wasn’t meant to be a defense against casual games, I personally wish there were more core games coming for the wii, but I did mean this as something of an attack on elitists that condemn every casual game and every casual gamer because they don’t agree with them. My point is that casual gamers have just as much a right to enjoy the games they like as core gamers have the right to dislike those same games. Are casual games ruining the industry? I’d say only as much as the next spoof movie or brainless summer blockbuster ruined the film industry.
Anyways, that’s it for that at the moment. On Friday I’ll sum up my opinions and experiences over these past few weeks, what with E3, Comic-Con, and most recently, Soul Calibur IV. Also, the LE Review will be seeing a comeback. To make up the absence I’m considering either covering all the special versions of RE4 or doing the Japanese Biohazard 5th Anniversary pack. Just tell me which one you’d prefer.