The Big Tent of Gaming

People who pride themselves on being “hardcore gamers” befuddle me, and the reason for that is because they like to segregate games like they’re dorky versions of George Wallace.  They spend so much time trying to identify what is a game and what is a game that it bleeds into their dreams.  And what have they established?  As far as I can tell, Demon’s Souls is a game.  Bejeweled is a game.  Skyrim is a game but Peggle is a game.  It’s confusing to me, because last time I played Peggle, it seemed kind of gamish to me.  But then it gets really confusing when stuff like Madden or Call of Duty falls into the a game category, apparently on account of them being played by people who spend less than two hours a week on their consoles and occasionally insert their genitalia into the orifice of a member of the opposite sex, as opposed to just telling people they do.  I think what it really comes down to is gamers don’t want to share their hobby with others.  They don’t mind if something is popular, as long as it’s only popular with their inner circle.  The moment it becomes something that the football quarterback, the librarian, or their mother starts to play, it’s not just theirs anymore.  It becomes the embodiment of everything wrong with gaming.  It becomes, gasp, a casual game.  THUNDER CLASP!

The Angry Birds series has gotten a ton of scorn from guys who claim to be hardcore gamers.  I say claim, because I am of the opinion that you can’t be a hardcore gamer if you exclude a series just because it’s popular and your grandmother can play it just as well as you can.  Some people think Angry Birds (ironically) represents the canary in the coalmine.  The tinfoil hat wearing gamer crowd says that games like Angry Birds will destroy their precious “hardcore” games, because why make something only they like when they can make something everyone likes and make more money.  Soon, stuff like Portal or Skyrim will cease to exist just because one series has banked nearly a billion dollars.  Of course, in reality things don’t work that way.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding made $400,000,000 off a $5,000,000 budget.  If the logic of the sky-is-falling gaming crowd were to believed, Hollywood would have phased out big-budget blockbusters in favor of “casual” fare such as Greek Wedding.  They didn’t.  And Angry Birds is not going to stop your Skyrim sequels from being made.

Rovio made a series so well received that they were able to make nearly a billion dollars in revenue from the game and all related merchandise, spawn off a successful spin-off, and break down mainstream barriers. The fucking nerve of them, am I right?

I don’t care if you have a beef with a game based on how it plays.  If you genuinely don’t like Angry Birds because you don’t find it to be a fun game, great.  If you say you hate Angry Birds and will never play it because it’s a casual game and ruining the industry, to paraphrase Sarah Silverman: maybe you’re not a hardcore gamer?  Maybe you’re a cunt?  And the same goes for Madden, and Call of Duty, and 99 cent iPhone games, and Peggle, and every other successful franchise that is too successful for uptight game nerds.  Why is it okay for you to love Shadow of the Colossus but not okay for a 65-year-old grandmother to like Wii Sports Bowling?  The answer is it is okay for you both, and you’re just being a little bit of a douche.

I’m just as capable of veering off into the hateful “but gaming is my thing” category too.  My mother plays Angry Birds now.  My mother, who has never played a non-Wii console before.  And, get this, she has more achievements and more stars in Angry Birds than I do.  My mother, who can’t do math on paper because she can’t grasp the concept of carrying the one, is officially better than me at Angry Birds.  When she showed me that she had three-starred an entire section of Angry Birds Seasons, I had two thoughts simultaneously pop into my head.  Without exaggeration, there was a tiny voice in my head yelling “Wow, go Mom!” that was being shouted down by another, angrier voice screaming “THAT BITCH!”   But, then came the really shameful moment.  The one where I was absolutely stuck playing Angry Birds Space, and.. can’t believe I’m admitting this.. my mother beat the level for me.  On her first try.  And the look of pride on her face was so adorable that I couldn’t even concentrate on trying to figure out where the best place in the house to hang myself from was at.

Madden, a series that provably drives console sales and generates profits that go towards funding such new IPs as Mirror’s Edge, is bad for gaming. Because someone who doesn’t have an Xbox Live Gold account might enjoy it. I don’t get gaming culture sometimes.

That above story?  It’s absolutely true.  It happened.  And it wouldn’t have happened if not for “casual games.”  Yea, it’s an embarrassing story, but it’s a great one too.  It’s seriously cracking up my boyfriend as we speak.  And I am happy that something that is so important to me is now, in whatever small way, part of my mother’s life too.  And it’s made her curious what she’s missed in the gaming realm up to this point.  She’s 44-years-old, and never once while I was growing up asked to play Banjo Kazooie or Spyro the Dragon with me.  So the other day, imagine my surprise when she strolled in and asked what I, as Indie Gamer Chick, was playing next.  The fact that she was even curious, or that she called me Indie Gamer Chick, was in all honesty one of the coolest moments of my life.  And then I showed her the game about sperm that I’m reviewing this week, and she bolted for the door.

I guess the point of this rant is gaming is a big tent.  There’s room for everybody.  If someone makes a game that everyone likes, it doesn’t mean games that only you will like will cease to be.  I think it’s awesome that we live in era where a game like Angry Birds is enjoyed by 5-year-old girls or 75-year-old retired construction workers.  I think it’s awesome that a “casual” platform like the Wii is sitting in the White House right now, occasionally being played by the fucking President of the United States.  So when a company like Rovio scores a major hit with Angry Birds, tip your hat to them.  They’re bringing people to our big tent, and there’s still plenty of room.  And if they can make money by flooding big box stores with so much junk merchandise that it could knock the planet off its orbit, good for them on being able to capitalize on their success.  Just because they have toys, t-shirts, and a television series in the works, don’t call them sellouts.  I mean, it’s not like they’re George Lucas or anything.  Now THAT guy is a sellout.  I seriously doubt Rovio would ever, say, join forces with him and create an Angry Birds-Star Wars tie-in game and line of merchandise to complement it.


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