Me and the Mainstream

November 24, 2009

I do not approve of the mainstream.


Yeah, short article.




No I’m afraid there’s more.

With the release of Modern Warfare 2 recently we’ve seen one huge surge in video game interest. Excuse the indie kid in me here but this does not make me happy. Seeing an article about video games in the Guardian should excite me, knowing that a well respected source of fantastic journalism has lowered itself to the gamer level to report on us should feel incredible.

Wait, no it shouldn’t. It should feel insulting that it takes 4 million sales and some celebrity to get us noticed. Last game I remember getting this sort of coverage was Halo 3, and I can’t help but notice a correlation here. Namely, the multiplayer.

Now I consider myself a ‘hardcore’ gamer, meaning I am deeply invested in the industry and play as huge a variety of games as I can. In the past few weeks I’ve been playing an RPG, an RTS, an FPS, a TLA, a sandbox game and an adventure game. I’ve been reading various video game blogs daily, watching many game trailers and eating a donut. The last one isn’t really related, but it kind of made my day so I’ll count it anyway.

I’m also living with two people who I would define as ‘casual’ gamers. I mean that they own a games console each (a PS3, who continues to entice me with a handful of exclusives without any incentive to actually play them), and they play one game at a time for a while before switching. The most they know about games is what is coming out, when, and what DLC is around.

They are the kind of person who sits and plays multiplayer with random people for a couple hours each day, usually without wearing any trousers, to earn trophies/achievements and waste some time. I am the kind of person who switches games every few hours and arranges games with well known online friends for the wealth of the experience and the rich conversation and wow I sound elitist.

What I’m trying to get at is this is the kind of person Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2 attracts, people who just want to waste some time online for a while with strangers. This isn’t a bad thing, not at all, and I’m not saying the multiplayer is itself bad. As much as I detest the Halo series, Halo 3’s multiplayer is polished stuff and is brilliant fun and what I have played of Modern Warfare was similarly fun, if not chaotic due to the belief amongst my group of friends that knives are awesome when guns are around. It’s kind of like playing with Heath Ledger’s Joker in combat gear. Which is kind of a scary thought.

What I do find bad is this open public play is why we’re noticed. These time wasters and brief jumpers draw all the media attention when there is so little to define them. Though different games the goals are the same, kill people with these bullets, occasionally with something pointy in desert/snow/industrial settings. The difference to me is one has an awesome vehicle called the Ghost which is awesome and there are some aliens who made the awesome vehicle, the other has no collision on walls where bullets are concerned and no awesome vehicle.

Team Fortress 2 has this weird fusion of Pixar cell shaded 50s spy fiction cartoon warfare where I once punched Adolf Hitler to death as a giant Russian then ate a sandwich upon his corpse as a mute in an asbestos suit tried to flame me to death. I’ve never seen a newspaper article about that.

And that’s just the multiplayer. Then I get into the exquisitely designed shocks and scares of Silent Hill 2, hilarious and abstract gameplay in Portal and shockingly detailed galaxies like Mass Effect. All of these I feel deserved some newspaper recognition (or in Mass Effect’s case, other newspaper recognition) and they aren’t even my favourite games. I can’t imagine how the mainstream media would grasp Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed or Dwarf Fortress. Maybe some story reporting on how a crazy man shut himself in a room for a year straight and modelled all of the universe down to an atomic level yet still gave fish superpowers.

I sound bitter and maybe I am. Maybe it’s because films like Jennifer’s Body get attention when Drag Me To Hell doesn’t. Maybe it’s because for the past few weeks people think playing games means Call of Duty. Maybe it’s just because of the chocolate from that donut on my shirt. Whatever it is that made me bitter, I know that while people think games are these silly distractions to daily life that maybe lets you tamely shoot civilians sometimes I’m not going to be happy with the newspapers.

More donuts could be the solution.


One Response to “Me and the Mainstream”

  1. Phase said

    Exactly! All this coverage of MW2, and what does Left 4 Dead 2 get outside of the gaming community? Squat. Thanks for expressing this in better words than I ever could.

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