The Ongoing Gaming Divide
Love him or loathe him, Gevlon has been a fixed constant in the video games blogging community for over a decade. But he has recently seen fit to hang up his spurs and is no longer going to be maintaining his blog. Fair enough, if you see no value in what you do or feel that your pastime is no longer what it used to be, then I understand moving on. Gevlon likes games that offer challenge and then enjoys trying to find the formula for success. Many gamers do this enjoying coming to grips with a competitive game, mastering the underlying systems and then excelling in their gameplay. However, that is not the only approach to video games. Sadly Gevlon has always maintained a somewhat binary view on the subject and he cannot see beyond his own interpretations of what gaming is. The world has moved on and he has not. It is ultimately immaterial whether he or other gamers care for this or not. Life is predicated upon change and it happens in every aspect of our lives. Leisure activities included.
The evolution of video games from the seventies to the present day is a tale of a niche, hardcore pastime slowly becoming more widely popular. The arrival of online gameplay offered social interaction and a new approach to competitive gameplay. Yet increasing popularity has attracted money and this has often made gaming about adapting to what is popular and sells, thus moving away from previously established conventions. Plus there are multiple generations of gamers who have had differing experiences determined by what time they adopted this leisure activity. The first generation of MMO players have had their perspective shaped by the likes of Ultima Online. Those playing The Elder Scrolls Online today are being shaped by a very different game environment and set of rules. Plus so many gaming terms, labels and definitions have changed. The net result is that the term gamer is a very broad church and doesn’t really indicate anything more than a penchant for playing games. The same way that being a reader doesn’t say anything about what you read or enjoying music indicates the subtleties of your personal taste.
It is very hard to try and quantify gaming and break it down into clearly delineated groups and parts. One of the major handicaps of writing about this pastime is that you often have to speak in broad generalisations and prefix your points with caveats and contextualisation. For example, the overall point of this post is to highlight that there is a gaming divide. There are those who play as a test of skill, for competitive reasons and personal achievement. You can argue that these are similar motives to those who play sports. Then there are those who game more as a social and recreational activity, who feel that it is “the journey and not the destination”, so to speak. Yet both these two points are far too definitive and don’t hold up to close scrutiny. Gaming is not a Venn Diagram made up of just two intersecting circles but potentially hundreds. However, from a business point of view, such a diversity and complexity of player needs and preferences, makes it hard to create a product that satisfies the majority.
Overall, I believe there is an established gaming divide, although it is currently framed in very broad and not entirely accurate terms. This matter is further compounded by the current culture of “pigeonholing” and the general partisan nature of culture and politics that exist at the moment. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for video games publishers as they are pretty much in the same category of bankers and estate agents. All are group that compound and exploit the problems associated with their field of work, rather than address them. But I do understand the frustration that game developers must constantly encounter. There is never an overall consensus and every point regarding a game system or mechanic is frequently hotly contested. Plus because developers don’t hold the purse strings, they are often compelled to pursue what is popular, or proven to sell, over innovation and following their own creative leads. It seems that the commercial success of gaming is actively contributing to the gaming divide.
Returning to the matter of the disgruntled games blogger who is unable or unwilling to change and adapt to the new reality of the video games market, I think it highlights the folly of untempered fandom and any other social, political or cultural dogma. Change is a reality in our daily lives, and we seems as a society to cope with it fairly well (although that is now becoming debatable). Yet I suppose everyone has, or potentially has, a blind spot for something or other, and when they encounter it, make it the hill they’re prepared to die on. I guess it all comes down to a choice. There are several big budget games scheduled for release this year, that fall outside of my personal tastes. However, I do not see this as a problem, the same way I don’t resent all the products in my local supermarket that I don’t care for. There are still games that I like in existence and being developed. But I have never understood the mindset that dislikes what others enjoy, as if that is the sole reason why their needs are seemingly neglected. But again this is something that is becoming more prevalent both in gaming and wider culture. The net result of this outlook further exasperates the divisions in gaming, making the matter a cyclical problem.