Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Little Big MadWorld

Shamus Young | 19 Jun 2009 21:43
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When I buy a DVD player, I don't have to choose between getting a Samsung to watch action movies or a Magnavox to watch romantic comedies. When I shop for things like televisions, video players, and sound systems I look at sensible, quantifiable things like price, features, reliability, ease of use, and how awesome the unit will look once it's set up. But when I buy a game console I'm supposed to figure out what kind of gamer I am and then purchase the system that fits my "lifestyle." (Which carries the insulting implication that I must already have a life. The nerve.) I became a nerd in order to avoid making exactly this sort of idiotic decision. Anyone who's been unlucky enough to see me in person can tell you that I don't let car or clothing companies define me, and I don't see any reason why things should be any different for the likes of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.

But this is the nature of the "console wars." Like the "cola wars," it's a manufactured conflict where marketing executives trick consumers into doing their jobs for them. Why run ads when you can recruit your customers into posting all of your selling points and ad copy to pointlessly angry and hostile forum threads?

I understand that consoles aren't quite like DVD players. There are good technological reasons why you don't see a lot of games appear on both the Wii and the PS3. But when a console company trumpets their victory in securing an exclusive, it's a victory for them, not the consumer. I am not going to like a game more just because other people can't enjoy it at all. I didn't enjoy Fable because my PS3 friends couldn't, and I was more than a little sad when I realized I couldn't get LittleBigPlanet for my Wii-owning parents. Less choice is not a good thing for consumers, and you should not let marketing tell you otherwise.

But I am fully in support of any effort to break down the pointless and completely artificial genre barriers that surround the big three. I like the idea of being able to use my Wii to play grown-up games when the kids aren't around. And I think it makes sense to have family-friendly titles like LittleBigPlanet on a system being sold as a home entertainment / multimedia system like the PS3.

I know each console is concerned about "branding," but I think trying to serve a rigid demographic is counter-productive. There is nothing Nintendo could do to bring Killzone 2 to the Wii, but there is no reason they can't reach out and entertain people who enjoy Killzone-esque gameplay. Focusing solely on kid-friendly romps just means that gamers like me need to go out and buy another console if we want a little blood and cursing in our gaming. Even if you're like me and own consoles from all of the Big Three and have built a gigantic nest of fire-hazard cables in order to to lash them to your television, it would still be nice to see each of them broaden their horizons enough to encompass the breadth of interest of the average person.

(And before someone jumps down to the comments any types "WHAT ABOUT THE XBOX YOU BIASED HATER", let me point out that I own one, and it does an acceptable job of reaching out to the various types of gamer. I haven't mentioned it because I'm contrasting the two extremes, and it stands somewhere in the middle. Still, more choice and diversity would be a good thing, for all platforms. Watching Sony and Microsoft enter the family-friendly market of heartwarming characters and kinesthetic interfaces is like watching a couple of hockey players learn to figure skate.)

I would say that LittleBigPlanet is a good start, and so is MadWorld. We need lots more of these convention-breaking titles, on all platforms. Ideally, people should decide what console to buy based on answers to simple questions like: How much can I afford to spend? Do I need a Blu-ray player? Do the Wii motion controls look like fun? How important is multiplayer and voice chat? They should not have to begin the process by asking, "How old am I and what genre of games do I like?"

Shamus Young is the guy behind this movie, this website, this book, these two webcomics, and this program. He still finds time to play videogames now and again.

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