Okay, my name is Jason Wesley. I live in Toronto, Canada, and I feel that -- as I've gotten a little older, I feel that I've fallen a little bit out of games, but I've been looking to try to recover a little bit of that lost innocence, you might say.
To try to enjoy videogames once again.
I find it's not as enjoyable as it could be, and I think that's where I'm trying to recover myself.
How do you mean?
Something I was reviewing just recently before we started was I was looking at what games I liked playing, and a lot of the games I used to play were these little bit offbeat games. Things like Phoenix Wright or Elite Beat Agents. I was mentioning Five Nights at Freddy's and I think a lot of people like it because of the jump scares.
But I was even just looking at things like Nintendo games. Like, a standard Super Mario game. I picked up one of the more recent, Mario 3D World, knowing that it's Nintendo, it's a Super Mario game. I know what to go in to expect. And after three or four levels, I kind of was bored with it, surprisingly. "But this is Nintendo!"
Whenever I played a Nintendo game, I've always gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. And so when I was looking at that going, "What happened? Did the scope get too big or did I just find that there wasn't anything that was catching my attention?" But it's something that I haven't really visited and I haven't really looked back at to figure out what exactly is it because Nintendo -- I've been a Nintendo fanboy, you might say, probably for about 30 years.
To basically say that Nintendo is boring me also scares me, just because it's not something I was expecting to say.
I would think that Nintendo could never do anything wrong, but at the same time, obviously, things change over time and that's where I'm needing to look back and review what I'm doing.
I suspect what it is is we have grown up.
Do you feel like the videogames have grown up with you?
I think that that definitely has something to do with it. A lot of the games that I like playing are a little bit of a nostalgic games. Simpler games. Like, I wouldn't go back and say, "I want to play Super Mario Bros. 1 was all over again." But I feel like a lot of the games that I currently have don't have a 15-button controller where every button does something different and then they add on new combinations of those. I can't handle all of these new controls. I'd prefer give me "jump," give me "fire," and I'm done.
They've gotten so complex because as the technology has advanced, we've gotten more and more interesting mechanisms, like the entire Wii U design of having a secondary screen while you've also got the main screen. Sometimes I find that just even looking at that, I can't look at both things at the same time, and for some reason I get really confused staring at one screen and then realizing it's actually pointing me towards the bottom screen realizing, "Oh, right, I have a second screen to look at."
And it just gets so big and confusing within a matter of minutes that I can't calculate this right now. I need to put this down and go away.
Do you feel like you’re too young to be sounding this old?
[Laughs.] You know, I didn't think that basically by my mid-thirties that I would say, "The young whippersnappers -- we had two buttons and we were happy."
I've found that there are games out there -- again, these game jams where they literally have to design a one-button game, and the idea was that you just had to use one button, either holding it down, letting go, or tapping it quickly or double-tapping and just using a combination with one single button, not even an up, down, left, right to be able to create a workable game. Those are really impressive, and I think it, again -- it starts getting a little complex when you start adding a three-button or a double-tap and hold or something like what you see on a couple of really complex smartphone games.
I think basically, there's definitely an advancement of the technology that's kind of getting over our heads.
But at the same time, I grew up with all of this. You'd think that we would be adapting to it.
What do you think is lost, then, by adding all those additional buttons?
I think that maybe what people do is they look at that going, "Okay, what can we do with this?" And sometimes it becomes an unnecessary part of the game. Like, okay, look at, say, the first few games that came out on the Wii U. They put out, like, specific controls that you had to use both screens. Zombi U, for example. The idea, basically, you had to shuffle through your backpack: The game never pauses. You basically have to look down and shuffle around to find the weapon you want. That's a great use of the technology.
But I think that in some cases, some companies basically say, "Well, we have to use this function." It's sort of like with all the Wii games, they had to use motion sensors or something and so they just introduced waggle because the game didn't naturally need to have a motion controller or the need to point at something, so they said -- it's like it's almost been mandated, "That we have to use the motion controllers that are built into this, so let's introduce a shaking mechanism."
I think that might be -- what do they call it -- feature creep. A little too much that has to be put in just because it's there. Just because that's what the system can handle.
Like, there are certain games that have a good function for that. Like, No More Heroes, there was a bit of a reaction. Being able to recharge your sword by shaking it up and down, and your character does the similar function.
It's very suggestive.
Yes. It's very suggestive. But at the same time, I think it's very -- the one-to-one ratio, you get more immersed in the game by -- in certain control schemes, the immersion of being able to use the controller the way that the character in the game uses it, that is appropriate. But when certain games use it for no good reason, like, Resident Evil, for example: You have to shake the controller to run.
That doesn't make sense at all. Like, even tapping a button seems more relatable to running because there's a frenetic tap-tap-tap you have to do versus shake-shake-shake. Doesn't seem to be -- they add that just because "we have to have some motion controller feature in there."
Well, so, talking about this bridge between newer games and older games, you've sort of admitted some of it is nostalgia. But if you can brush that aside: What do you think is missing from games today that was more prevalent back then?
Well, what I am seeing is a lot of sameness, I would say. I think that, basically, people are not, basically, going off on their own and trying different things because they're scared that it might not take off. I think that basically what we're seeing is a lot of people basically saying, "Well, it was successful with 'A,' so let's try it with 'B.'"
And I think in that regard, that people are not willing to basically experiment with things that are new and different. Basically, you're doing something like it, but you almost don't feel like it's a ripoff.
Yeah, I mean, sometimes it does just feel like tap-dancing around rather than building off and away from. It's like a patchwork quilt of familiarity.
Yeah, that seems about right.
And to be clear: Obviously, we’re not talking about all games.
Not all games, of course. There's just so many games out there that you can't lump everything into it, but the fact of the matter is Tomb Raider -- or let's just look at the revitalization of the Mega Man series, about two or three years ago. They decided to bring out Mega Man 9 and 10. When it did come out, it felt very much like a ROM hack of Mega Man 2. Like, they basically added a couple of new features and everything, and yes it's designed to look like the old retro Mega Man games, but it didn't introduce a lot of new stuff. It was retreading a lot of stuff. The fact of the matter is we're looking at Mega Man 10, and that is the 10th version of the same game: "Destroy a boss, get their power, use it on the next boss."
And that is very familiar. People like what they know, they know that that's a very familiar feeling. It feels good. It's not genre-bending. It's staying dead on the rails and not really trying anything outlandish or new.
They also did Mega Man X.
Like, even that: Mega Man X was technically, what, the Super Nintendo version of Mega Man. Even then, it's just Mega Man with fancier graphics and a little bit more storyline because they've got a little bit more space to work with in the cartridge.
Yeah, but no one's ever been playing Mega Man for the story.
This is true. This is true. [Laughs.]
But I remember really liking that game because it towed that line.
And it was optional, too. It was such a slick way of doing it where, if you wanted to, you could complete upgrade and become Mega Man X --
That's true, there were all those hidden upgrades.
I feel like a lot of things in long-running series, they don't do the Mega Man X way of doing it. They do the Mega Man 9 way of doing it.
Just basically slap a new coat of paint on it and --
Call it "retro."
Why do you think that is? Like, even with that Bloodstained Kickstarter --
Oh, yeah, seriously. The Igavania game?
Yeah, it does seem like everything old is new again, but a lot of it is mainly old. Familiar. And I'm not even criticizing that game specifically, because it's not even out yet.
But what do you think? Do you feel like we mainly see the Mega Man 9 way as opposed to the Mega Man X way?
Yeah, yeah. You know what? You were mentioning nostalgia earlier, and I think one of the things is that people do like what's familiar. The thing is that, basically, when you have something like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which is a classic, and then you follow it up with three or four more versions and it starts to feel old -- to basically go back to the roots again does feel refreshing, oddly enough. Even though you're looking back at the original game that started it.
Like, in this case, with Bloodstained, it's going to be another Metroidvania game, but it looks like they're basically aiming to make something that isn't as feature-heavy and maybe overloaded, might be a good way of putting it. You took Symphony of the Night and we'll add three more features to the next version, and the next one has seven more features to the next version, and then it doesn't look like what it did in the first place and it doesn't feel the same way. But I don't know really why -- admittedly, I haven't really followed much of Bloodstained, I just know that it's existing. I did like Symphony of the Night way back in the day, and I'm a big fan of Metroid. So much so that I played Other M just for the storyline.
But certain games, when they start adding too many "features," it loses sight of the thing and the companies kind of go, "Okay, we've got how many gigs worth of data that we can stuff on this disc? The game right now is only 3 gigs and we can stuff another gig worth of features. What can we do? We have to give them value."
"Concept art! Give them concept art!"
[Laughs.] Yeah, it artificially extends the game beyond an enjoyment level. I think that certain aspects -- Metroid Prime I would say was great for the exploration and scanning visor, even though there were many people who didn't want to scan everything in the world, I found a lot of enjoyment out of going around and reading all the little tidbits they had done. But some games -- like, if you were going to put that into a Mario game, for example. Well, I guess there are some games that do that, but some games it wouldn't mesh right. But they said, "Well, it was so successful with Metroid, so let's do it with our game." And not thinking about what's the actual -- is this actually what our players want? Like, would you have a scanning function in the new Tomb Raider? It's rocks. There's a bear.
I don't know --
Yeah, but what kind of bear?
[Laughs.] "Collect all six!"
All six bears? [Laughs.] See, that's a game I would play: Where you don't do a lot of jumping around, but you hide and try to just get good looks at bears. I mean, I liked the Tomb Raider remake, but I'd also like to live in a world where we get that game, too.
So you're a collector-type person a bit. Do you play Pokémon a bit?
I'm not at all a collector-type person. I just think it would be exciting to see something that tries to extend a series' life but doesn't do it in a way that exclusively capitalizes on what we think of as the core of that specific series. Maybe a Tomb Raider bear-tagging game would be a little silly, but if the company behind it was up for having fun and taking risks -- it'd catch my eye and I'd be like, "Oh, wow, this is super weird."
And I guess, at the same time, while the both of us that the little bizarre little different -- you have to wonder how many people would say, "Oh, Tomb Raider's gone off the rails."
No matter what happens, people are going to say that.
This is true. There are so many people that, basically, when they look at the next version of a game -- even without playing it, they'll be like, "What? Why did they add that? Why is this part of this now?" And they'll poo-poo it before it even gets out the door.
E3 is coming up very soon. It is prime season for stuff like that.
That's gonna be fun.
But you can go off the rails, so to speak, by just not changing things up at all or that much. I mean, do you feel that games are just less creative?
I do feel in certain companies, I guess in -- I'd say that where companies are bankrolling on the fact that: "We have to have a successful game, we have to basically stick to what we know," and therefore they do not innovate as strongly as the indies.
I think that they want to innovate, but at the same time -- Gears of War 2, 3. They're introducing new technologies and new features. Call of Duty just, slap a new coat of paint and a new environment, but it's still at its core a first-person shooter and it seems that every Call of Duty has something that irks the media in some way just to get that soundbite, you might say. The web hits. That catches people's attention so they go, "What's this 'No Russian' thing I'm hearing about?"
But at the same time, it's sort of like we need to reintroduce people -- we know that basically Call of Duty 4 is going to bring in the Call of Duty 3 players, but what do they do to try to bring in anyone new? I don't think they really do a lot in that regard._
You've still got the same audience, but can you really rely on 90 percent or even 80 percent of your audience by the next version of what is pretty much the same? Then again, I say that and then I look at things like the NHL or NFL games that come out and it's practically nothing more than a new roster and not much changes in term of the actual technology behind the game.
Do you feel like that hurts anyone, the conservatism of that space of the industry?
Well, it definitely doesn't hurt the companies in terms of that because they can refine things for a year and then bring out a new version.
I think that people would basically say, "Well, why can't we do something that's a little bit more energizing to ourselves? Why are we basically rehashing the old game again?"
When you're at a workplace, you want to be happy to be doing something and you want to be moving forward. It's sort of like when they were creating Wolfenstein -- was it John Carmack, was already working on the next engine, which ending up being for Doom, if I remember correctly? You have to have something that motivates the person to come back to work the next day. But at the same time, if NFL 2015 is the same game as NFL 2016, that also impacts the customer. Basically, they don't feel -- it's a $60 game and if it's the exact same game with a different roster it's sort of like, "This could have been a $5 DLC code and it would just basically patch out the old people with the new people."
I'm not really much of a sports fan and much of a sports-game player either, but that's what I feel sometimes when these games come out. I think when we look at the MLB games, when MLB: The Show came out, that was a jump. Because they put so much attention into making it sound and look like a TV show rather than just a regular game. And that was a nice attention to detail, but then when they released The Show the following year, all they've done is basically, again, just added new dialog and changed the names of the players. Maybe a few more graphical tweaks to make it look more realistic. But, The Show was the great innovator, but unfortunately that innovation will sit there for two or three years before they do something new with it again.
I think that basically what it comes down to is there are a lot of smaller people doing smaller projects that want to see if it's something that could be a little bit more feasible. Obviously, the indie-scene people making mobile games, they can make these small, five-minute adventures that have different play mechanics or even storylines. Like, Thomas Was Alone didn't even need special graphics or anything. It was literally just a bunch of squares, but the real star of the story was the narration that went on with the game.
And to me that's innovative, even though the graphics are nothing new. They're just -- they don't have to be ultra-flashy, high-res polygons and explosions everywhere for the effect to be brought forward.
These are all fairly recent titles you're talking about, which is totally fine -- but I'm curious, like, what made you cut back from videogames? We talked about it a little bit before, and I know in your emails you mentioned it had to do with relationships in your life.
Like, you mentioned you have a 3DS but you mainly just use Streetpass. But what happened?
Well, what I found that -- I think I can pinpoint the time that I lost interest. Basically, the interest in the 3DS waned when I started getting interested in smartphones, because I know I've only had a smartphone for about two years, and I know I've had a 3DS for a lot longer than that. But I know that basically I haven't purchased a lot of 3DS games in the past couple of years. I know that basically the smartphone market with a lot of people, again, bringing out these ad-run, free-to-play games where you can get 40 or 50 hours' worth of "enjoyment" without paying anything for it. And so I'd say that aside from relationships and things like that, because I always carry my smartphone with me -- the words that I use is "it's my second brain."
I put all of my reminders into Google, I use my emails on my phone, I do pretty much everything online using that phone. And so I always have a phone on hand, so if I basically want to kill a little bit of time, the phone is right there, and the DS -- I don't bring around because it's not an all-in-one functional unit for me. It only does games. I guess I can bring it around, but my first instinct is to go for the phone. It's basically pretty much already in my hand.
But I think I've withdrawn from games a lot because of just how -- like I said, the accessibility of how easy it is for me to just be able to grab my phone and play a game on that versus having to go to the console and I'm still grounded to a television. So, when it comes to PC games or the Nintendo or whatnot, you're grounded to a physical location. I wouldn't say the 3DS is one of those things but that requires you to basically have it with you, so I can only play games when I'm at home or if I brought my 3DS with me. But if I have my phone, that's got games on it. So, I'd say because life has gotten more hectic over the time, I'd say that there's a little bit of a spillover of you're always on the move now. You've got the Internet there, you're always accessible, you might say. Like, I think that I spent a lot of time -- I do my work at work, I don't bring it home with me. I feel like I'm always on the go and I don't have enough time to go home and set up the console to play a game when I have all of these "other things" to deal with, you might say.
I have, actually. For the longest time, I was following quite a few blogs, like Kotaku and Joystiq. You know, the big companies for those kinds of things.
But then, after a while, I just went, "You know what? I don't need this in my life."
I think what I was seeing was a lot of information that I didn't need and so I was trying to cull down the amount of stuff I was basically ingesting, you might say, on a day-to-day basis. If I wake up in the morning and have to read 15 articles from Kotaku and then go over to Joystiq and in order to play catch up I'd have to read 15 articles there. And, again, this is 15 articles -- and I felt like I had to read them even though they had nothing to do with me. And so I was sort of like, "You know what? I've been reading these articles about games that I'm never going to play. There are articles here, there are opinion pieces, there are stories about horrible things that are happening in the world about videogames. Companies being shut down, and stuff, and I'm like, "You know, the one thing I don't want to pay attention to is all the media behind the games. I want to enjoy the games, so why don't I just cull back that and start talking to friends through social media and find out -- they would know what I like."
For example, Portal FX Pinball is coming out in two weeks' time and when that was announced, I had two friends on two different social networks contact me using two different websites to tell me that that game was coming out. It's like, my friends know me pretty well for that. I didn't need to have to be subscribed to Destructoid and Joystiq to know that that was coming out.
But, I mean, do you feel like that there is some sort of strategy that game sites aren't taking that could make them more useful to more people?
Well, one thing that I did make a realization about is that because it is a website, and again with social media, every page has comments. You've been on the Internet long enough to know the rule of "don't read the comments." And I've even gone forward to install a piece -- basically I've blocked off the comments. So if I want to actually read the comments, I have to go and actually click it. I think it comes down to the article is fine. It's the responses that I see that either get my blood boiling or make me upset. Even if I -- like I said, I'm only following Polygon on the media sites, and even that, I notice that I'm basically clicking through, of the 25, I'm maybe only reading three on a day-to-day basis.
And even those, I'll go down to the comments and immediately click on and go, "Nope. I don't want to read that." And I'm still going, "Why am I reading the comments?"
When you had magazines back in the day, they had no comment sites.
I remember that.
Yeah. It was just a review. It had an objective thought and -- I like that, even back in the days of EGM and stuff, you had four reviewers with a very small bite-size review of things and that's all you got. You got maybe three or four sentences where a reviewer really just had to distill it down to its purest sense to say, "This is what I like about it, this is what I don't like about it. I give it a 7."
Now, no one gives a number a rating because they feel that that cheapens the thing and we can't give a 10 because the next game that comes out beyond that could be a 10 and that will have cheapened this 10. And, again, all this -- I wouldn't say it's pandering, but it does seem like they're fighting with themselves to be --
The media sites. They're fighting within themselves to basically say, "We want to appeal to the gamer but we can't fight if we say this is a 10 because people are going to foulmouth our review because they didn't give something else a 10, or down the line a 10 is going to come out and they'll say, 'But you said that was a 10 and this is a 10 now?'"
And so basically I think -- I'm not saying bring back the rating system, but the one thing that's pulling me away from reading these sites and looking at these sites is the other viewers and the commenters because I don't want to read the comments. It makes me feel that -- again, they're dumping all over the game and they haven't even played it. And they're dumping on the reviewer who has had 15 hours of game time with it and the other person hasn't even had it in their hands.
Where do you think that comes from?
Definitely the anonymity of the Internet. The idea that basically if you aren't face-to-face with a person, you can -- I wouldn't say almost always, but your filter is turned off. You can say a lot more without having a person to say it and see their immediate reactions.
Yeah, but also the assumption of knowing something that they have no way of knowing and to think they might know better?
That's a good question. I don't like the MLB game, but that's a personal preference. Basically, you have to wonder if the the commenter is calling out the reviewer because he doesn't like the other reviews that he's made or that he's basically pulling apart, like, he said there were some graphical glitches -- "Well, your computer sucks." [Laughs.]
I have to wonder if basically they just get a thrill out of basically shouting at other people and I don't want to basically say that all commenters are trolls, but basically I feel that there's a lot of vitriol in the comment sections. Again, they don't have a filter. They don't seem to understand what they're saying and how that can impact another person. They just seem to want to spew it out on the page and move on with their life, not realizing the reactions it is getting down the line.
Well, one of the things that I noticed and should point out is that videogame media sites definitely -- some of them are very intelligent and do some deeper investigations into games or thoughts, whereas other ones are tabloid like in that they basically are delivering shock value and sensationalism and basically just to draw the eyeballs because this, again: "We need to draw people to our website, and what's the best way to do that but to make people upset and to start commenting, to show more ads? What's the best way to do that? Let's anger a few gamers or let's poo-poo the latest Mario game."
You know all those angry Nintendo fans out there.
They may jump on our heads.
[Laughs.] I don't know. But I'd say that I don't know if really there was a way what media could do to fix that. I would hope to basically say that the situation would help solve itself by basically -- much like how that Xbox rating thing, it rates your player based on how other people rate you. What do they call that?
That's right. If you want to a heavier, more sensationalistic tabloid-like site, go right ahead and you'll attract the people who like the tabloid-like writings. But if you want a more thoughtful conversation, you have sites like Gamasutra or -- basically ideas that let you think and let you talk about a situation. They ignore the trolls in most cases but you do get a bigger conversation going with people who are more willing to hold a intelligent, rational discussion. I don't know if there's really a way to split that because you know that some media will be: "We've got this article that basically talks about the latest Call of Duty and who they're making the bad guy this time."
But then on the other side you've got an investigation into Fez and how it's just a game of exploration and not like a crazy shoot-'em-up that everyone seems to be enjoying -- and I'm sure someone would bring Phil Fish into that.
That's a tricky thing. I think that when you look at most gaming sites, because they want to attract the most people, they will cater to every person they can, which obviously means that they will have a wide variety of articles ranging from opinion-editorial pieces right up to reviews or something that basically irks people and rubs them the wrong way. But that's what they need to basically have a bigger community and more eyeballs for their revenue.
I think that basically if there was a way of having a media situation where basically we weren't talking money, I think it might be better just because you don't have to be doing these things where you have to have these certain outlays to say, "We need to get this many eyeballs on these articles before we have a successful website."
What's weird to you about the intersection of videogames and the Internet?
I think that's weird about it is -- well, I'd say there's the anonymity, basically, causes a lot of problems. I think basically when it comes to multiplayer games, I find that there's going to be a lot of problems between people playing games together unless there's some sort of intermediary.
Let me use an old example: Disney's Toontown Online. Did you ever see that one?
No. But I'm sure I can follow. Go ahead.
It was an online RPG, basically. It pretty much felt like a child's Final Fantasy game. You had quests and buildings that you went into and you had to fight characters by throwing pies at them. It was very childish. But it did not let you use typical chat. It basically gave you, like, you might say, a keyboard of words that you could use to piece together a sentence.
Like a soundboard.
Yeah. That's it exactly.
Allowing people to be able to communicate using words and pictograms without, basically, allowing to type in anything too naughty. Obviously because it was a Disney game, it had to be clean.
When I saw the game, way back in the day -- this was back when it was still in beta -- I think that was the first time I had ever seen a system like that where they didn't just let the chat run wild. With good reason. Because it is Disney, you can't have people coming onto a Disney chat board and just suddenly swearing up a blue streak. It had to be a friendly environment, but the problem with that is you have a very restrictive system in place that doesn't allow new ideas, you might say, to be developed. It's like you're only given 100 different words, you can only do so many things with those words and you can't go outside the boundaries of it.
So, again, this is like the game was a great idea but because of the chat system, the innovation for finding a safe environment for kids to be able to talk without basically just letting it run wild or completely monitored kind of breaks down a bit. I think what I'm finding is that I've never been an online player in most games.
I think you've got this by now, but I don't like first-person shooters, I'm not a very violent person. I don't like the first-person chat environment. I would basically say there's a lot of -- well, I don't like the foul language. I don't like the standard gamer response with misogyny. I don't like if they hear a female voice all of a sudden they start either telling them to get back to the kitchen or they start hitting on them. Basically, it's not a welcoming environment.
There was a problem with the Uno game, for crying out loud, on Xbox Live for the longest time because they allowed a camera. I think that basically, what was the other thing on the 3DS, the StreetPass, or was it SpotPass? They disabled the whole thing because started doing some pretty bad things with the camera function.
I'm not basically fighting for them, but the thing is that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. But at the same time, what do you do in those regards? It's very difficult to be able to have a community without having those one or two people out of every hundred that basically want to make it miserable for everyone else, which gives them enjoyment, which is something I don't understand. Or someone who wants to try to break the system and ends up ruining it for everyone.
But how do you police that?
I don't know what we can do in that regard to be able to make videogames sanitized but I don't want to say "sanitized" because --
I think it's just "civil."
Civil is a better way of putting it because you don't basically end up with restriction like Toontown Online for the entire Nintendo network. I mean, I can understand if people try to talk in stamps, that'd be interesting.
I mean, there once was a time there a whole society, their entire language was that.
[Laughs.] That's true.
That was also before videogames.
This is true.
We had to give up something to get something, is what I'm saying.
[Laughs.] You know what? Somebody made this thought already, but the fact that we're using emojis a lot these days -- you have to wonder if we're going to go full circle and start writing entire sentences in emoji. And all a sudden it's, like, a futuristic hieroglyphics.
I mean, if that's true, then what do you think videogames are if we're continually going in circles?
I guess that's one of the other things I wanted to mention about the online thing. Back in the day, online, being on the Internet, you ended up being typecast as a "nerd" or a "geek." I was perfectly fine with that title. As bad as that was, I enjoyed working with computers, I enjoyed being ahead of the curve with the technology. I would embrace the "geek" and the "nerd" thoughts.
Now? Especially when you look at a couple of E3's ago with the Xbox One, they're embracing the "bro" culture and the "jock" culture, and I don't want to be associated with those cultures. It's kind of pushing me away from the online communities because it's welcoming in another group that I don't feel that I associate with and I don't want to be associated with.
I think they can coexist. It's not about displacement, it's about harmony.
Do you feel like any part of the industry is saying they have forgotten their people?
I don't think so. I'd say that basically a lot of the people that we grew up with, like, many of our friends or people that we knew growing up have gone on to something related to games. If not playing them, making them. I feel that a lot of the friends I've been gravitating to online still play games. They don't play the Call of Dutys and stuff like that, but they enjoy games. They make games. They discuss games. I follow a couple people who are doing YouTube videos, it's basically like a Let's Play but they did a little more research into it and found out some more information about the background and history of them.
But I find that basically those people were gamers, even in the past, even if they aren't as intense gamers as they were back then, they're still gamers.
Can you elaborate on how you think things shifted, then, without abandoning anyone, per se?
Well, let me use an example of Electronic Arts, since they’re been around even since the years of the Commodore 64. I have a multitude of games from that company on floppy disk, games that were diverse and different, heck, I have a game titled Robot Rascals that included a special deck of cards and was a digital scavenger hunt.
If you look at EA now, what I feel their focus is not inclusion of every type of gamer, only the ones that have that fan dedication and expendable income. I used to be a big Electronic Arts fan, but the games that they produce after 30 years has left me in the cold. The same goes for Activision, too, actually, when you think of the Atari games and now, 30 years later, they’re a giant conglomerate, only with profits on the mind and not fun. I wish I could pinpoint that moment when games went from a "geek thing" to a “bro thing” because I think it might match up to when my interest started to fade.
If you want to get into labels: When you hear the term "gamer" discussed, what do you feel is missing or not being articulated from the full picture?
I think what it comes down to is we've got a stereotypical gamer, but the thing is that at the same time, we have a lot of people who hear "gamer" and they've already got a preconceived notion of what a gamer is to them. Whether it is the person who is living in their parent's basement or it is the screeching headphone user. But I think what's missing is we are missing what else a gamer is beyond a gamer. Because when you think of a gamer, you think that they basically play games 16 hours a day. A little obsessive-compulsive. I'll admit that I've felt like the black sheep in my family. I was the only one that got into technology and computers. My parents still don't really understand anything beyond basic email.
I was the stereotypical "in my parents basement" for a very good part of my life, on a computer. So, but I think what we should be looking at is what else does a gamer do? For me, I work in television. Basically, I've got a lot of interest in Japanese anime, which I think maybe came from videogames as well. But I've also got a lot of interest in North American animation, especially this new range of Adult Swim content. The fact that Simpsons is still relevant 25 years later. But it's still -- there's still more beyond just the games.
There's more to any typical gamer than what they just do sitting in front of a screen. And I think that that's maybe something that isn't touched upon. I think when you think "gamer," your mind immediately goes to the stereotypical type what you think you know of a gamer.
It's like what you might say in Japanese culture. The otaku. If you were to say "gamer," you would say they are a "game otaku."
But there are even more gradations within there, if memory serves. Like, isn't there "snacker" otaku and "feaster" otaku?
Yeah, yeah. Because there are ones that are obsessed to it. It's their job. It's what they do after their job. It is really binary there, but, say, you have "gun otaku," who basically run a paintball shop and then they go and play paintball or they go sniping things. But that's the most intense you can get.
But there's definitely a gamer that basically -- much like you can have a casual gamer. You don't have the hardcore gamers. You have people that basically will play Bejeweled on their phone while they're waiting for the bus and they would call themselves a gamer. But that's the only thing that makes them a gamer is that they play a game maybe five minutes a day, if at that. But basically because there's so much proliferation of games now, everyone could be called a gamer.
I think that's sort of the thing that gets lost. And also, it doesn't even really matter.
Yeah, it's very difficult to say that there are gamers and there are people who don't play games because pretty much everyone plays a game in some capacity.
I also go and meet up with friends every week and do board games. Again, that's what some people will do for a social event. There's a lot of -- that could still be considered a gamer, just in a very, very broad sense. But I feel that basically it's -- I think that what we're not focusing on when we say "gamer" is what else people do outside of playing games.
What do you think videogames have accomplished?
Well, I always consider that since videogames have managed to surpass Hollywood in pure revenue, I think they have become the standard in popularity. You can't say that nobody doesn't play games, because everybody plays games in some capacity or another, even to pass the time while waiting for the bus or even a game of Solitaire. Everyone wants a piece of the videogame revenue nowadays, and I would say that people have developed some TV shows or movies with the sole purpose of creating videogames of them since they may be more profitable than the shows themselves.
I think they have managed to bring a lot of discussion about what we should and shouldn't expose to our kids, with the introduction of the ESRB thanks to the handful of realistic violence games such as Mortal Kombat-- despite the proliferation of violent games that children would play beforehand, from wrestling or the Power Rangers for example. But it did bring to the forefront that there is a lot of violence in videogames and that maybe we should take a good look at what we're putting in front of the next generation. It could cause problems down the line -- even if there is no connection between video games and violent behaviour, I think that exposing children to violence so early in their lives may not be a good way to bring up the future leaders.
I think videogames have accomplished a lot in the past 30 years, being so readily accepted by practically everybody, but I also feel like they may have plateaued. If you look at the start, games like Pong and Super Mario Bros., and look at where we've gone to, Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty, LittleBigPlanet and Super Mario 3D World or whatever it's called, I don't know where our next jump, technology-wise, will be. Graphics aren't getting any better. Computers are still getting more powerful but the games are not pushing -- maybe I'd say they can't push any further. We have open-world environments, we have procedurally-generated systems, we have AI that reacts to almost every situation, we have people using games to create other games, all we can do is create new worlds, new stories, but I don't know if we can go any further technology-wise with videogames. Personally, I'm curious to see where we can go -- virtual reality and hologram technologies are new steps, but I can't see that being as readily accepted into every person's home as easy as an NES or a personal computer was.
I'm curious but cautious.