Evil Games Or Misunderstood?

1UP reprinted an article from Computer Gaming World titled Pop Culture Pariah: Why Are Videogames The Favorite Demon of the Mainstream Media?

While it was informative, I really don’t like the idea that we just have to wait it out until people who are gamers grow up and take over society from the previous generation. It’s a new form of media, and the previous generation didn’t grow up with it so they don’t know what to make of it except from what they are being fed from the news headlines and pamphlets. In a sidebar, CGW interviewed Steven Johnson, the author of Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, and he mentions that games today are so complex that it is hard to get people to discover them in the first place, which is one of the things I think game developers need to work on in order to not only get female gamers but all non-gamers into gaming.

I remember my mother could handle playing Atari 2600 games since all she had to worry about was a joystick and a single button. In fact, her favorite game was actually Breakout which made use of analog paddles with a single button. When I got an NES a few years later and tried to get her to play Super Mario Bros, she looked at the cross pad and four buttons on the controller and immediately decided that it was too complicated for her, yet, using those same buttons, she loved Tetris on the GameBoy.

In high school I remember people complaining that the Super NES had too many buttons and that’s why they liked Sega Genesis better. Funnily enough, some of these same people were first in line for a Playstation when it came out. Anyway, I think it is interesting that controller layouts can do much more to intimidate new players than anything else. I mean, driving a car is a complex activity, even with an automatic. You have three mirrors, four wheels, one steering wheel, and a number of settings such as Reverse, Drive, Neutral, and Park, plus an entire world that you need to pay attention to in order to get to your destination safely. Yet driving a car isn’t that intimidating to so many people as playing video games.

Sit down someone who plays console games in front of a keyboard and mouse and tell them these are their tools for playing a game, and they’ll freak out. I know that I felt weird playing SimCity on the computer after first playing for years on the SNES version. Today I find it difficult to play Goldeneye 64 even though I was awesome on it when it came out. I’ve been playing computer games for so long to the detriment of my consoles. But the controls don’t intimidate me. I’m used to overcoming new controller layouts.

What about the new gamer? Too much effort? Too much frustration? Too much confusion? It’s no wonder that solitaire sells so well compared to most games.

While I think a big part of the problem is that people need a scapegoat, I also think that the complexity of games for non-gamers only furthers to mystify what is great about games and gaming. With games like Bejeweled and Tetris being as popular as they are among otherwise non-gamers, wouldn’t you think that most people would understand that GTA:SA doesn’t necessarily represent video games?

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