*Speaking of not having time for things, I have to cancel Thursday’s post. Sorry for the short notice, but I’ll try to make it up with a more substantive post on Saturday.
Do you know what the biggest difference about modern gaming and classic gaming is when you boil it all down? It’s accessibility. Old games were hard, so hard that most people had no time to really bother throwing their time at a game that wouldn’t let them get through the first level. Classic gamers often complain about the dumbing down of games, but that’s not what today’s post is going to be about. What I want to talk about is accessibility. Some games are pick up and play, where gamers of varying skill levels can jump in and have a good time. Others require vast amounts of background knowledge, skill, or, most importantly, time. While there are many gamers who value games with limitless depth, where they can sink months if not years of their lives into, most gamers simply don’t have the time, especially as they get older. Limitless depth is only as good as the time you’re willing to allot to spelunking. Today I want to look at games that you just don’t have the time to really get into. That’s not to demean these games, as they’re all worthwhile, but simply to highlight that, unlike most modern gaming, there is a very steep hurdle in the way of obtaining proficiency, one that many are not willing to vault.
|If your willing to let a few things slide, you’ll have time for it all!
This is the genre that made me think about this article. Fighters have an immense bar for entry. They cater more to pre-existing fans than new ones. While there are many different games such as Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, Blazblue, and so forth, there are only a couple of distinct subgenres in the larger genre, and sequels usually don’t try to change the mechanics too much. On top of that, most of these games focus heavily on online play, preferring to provide rather barebones singleplayer in favour of a more robust online component. When you combine these with the fanatical following many great fighters have, then you have a huge bar to new gamers. Let’s look at Marvel vs Capcom 3. It is very similar to the wildly popular 2nd instalment, which people had been playing for a decade. This means that there is a built-in user base of fanatical fans who will destroy you. Then there is next to no singleplayer component, meaning that those who simply can’t make headway online don’t have much else to do. Now with tons of work, you can build your way up, but it requires an obscene amount of dedication, and enjoyment of crushing failure to be able to climb to the point where you might be considered half decent. There are exceptions to this rule, but if you want to be a good fighter, you have to have to be competitive and to be competitive, you need insane depth and balance so only the most skilled can profit, instead of simply spammers. It’s not a negative; it’s a major part of the genre, but it’s also alienating.
2. Real-time Strategy Games (“RTS”)
RTSs are the same as fighters in many regards. These are the two genres of video games that have competitive circuits and for good reason: they both require an insane amount of skill, which many gamers simply don’t have time to cultivate. Let’s use Starcraft 2 as our big example here, because it’s the game you’re all thinking about anyway. In order to be good at Starcraft 2, it isn’t about practice. It’s about living the game. People who want to rise to the top ranks of Starcraft 2 can just forget about it. They should have started ten years ago if they wanted to even stand a chance. RTSs rely on twitchy reflexes that are forever beyond some gamers’ abilities, and require the memorization of an insane amount of information so that you can adapt to an ever changing battlefield. While most RTSs have a singleplayer component, once again, the real money is in the multiplayer, where raw skill is king and countless hours of your time are needed to reach even moderate proficiency.
|Starcraft 2 is not for the faint of heart.
3. Turn-based Strategy Games
Unlike the last two entries, turn-based strategy games such as Civilization are predominantly singleplayer affairs with a traditionally much smaller focus on online play. What bars the entry to these games is their insane complexity, which makes it very difficult for new players to ever get any kind of handle on the game. While many modern games try to be more and more accessible, where anyone can pick them up, strategy games pride themselves on complexity and depth where good players will spend countless hours studying the game via online communities in order to optimize each turn. While twitchy skills and hotkeys aren’t needed, all that means is that you have a lot more time to agonize over every tiny decision, and the best players know how to micromanage everything perfectly. It isn’t as hard to get yourself up to a moderate proficiency in these games, but due to the fact that average play sessions for each game are immense, it is still a massive time commitment.
|I believe in you Japan!
I’m using the term “builder” generically. What I’m referring to are tycoon games, city builders, world builders, and level creators. This means stuff like Sim City, Little Big Planet, and Minecraft. These games tout the ability to build and create to your heart’s content, giving you an insane variety of tools for you to play with. I’ve seen brilliant creations in Minecraft and Little Big Planet, but the average gamer doesn’t nearly enough time to create the wonders that some gamers will achieve. I’ve played around with LBP’s creator, and after ten hours, my level wouldn’t be something a ten-yearold would find interesting. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time and effort that would be required to makes something even remotely good, no less amazing. These games/modes cater to a very specific set of people: those who will obsessively build and create no matter how long it takes them. This being the internet, we celebrate those with too much time on their hands, mainly because most of us don’t have enough.
|Good luck on this one.
Those are the four genres I wanted to highlight today. Notably absent is the MMO genre. However, since World of Warcraft hit, MMOs are more casual than ever, and few of them require too much time at all in order to completely finish. This is a marked departure from older MMOs which were about eating your life, and being your only social connection. This facet of MMO culture still exists, but it is really easy nowadays to jump in, play for a little bit and leave, without ever feeling inadequate or that you were missing anything big. Once again, I must note that all of these genres are good, and the time component required is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does hurt accessibility and it does mean that many gamers simply won’t have time to bother with them. Despite this, I’ll still buy fighters even though I habitually get destroyed because I guess I’m a masochist.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer