This is more of an open question than a well-formed idea, so I’m hoping you all can help me out on this one.
A few weeks ago I read an article by Noel Murray over at the A.V. Club. His synopsis of indie rock band Pavement’s career is worth a read, but the opening paragraph is what that really struck me as insightful:
Here’s how it goes sometimes: A guy likes movies, initially because he’s attracted to story and spectacle, but after a while, he sees so many movies that he starts to get tired of the same kinds of structure and style repeated over and over. So novelty starts to take precedence over quality, and the cineaste starts grooving on such esoteric virtues as slowness and murkiness. Or consider the music buff, who often gets jaded quickly and starts tossing around words like “overproduced” and “middle-of-the-road” to describe songs they can’t abide, while championing acts that traffic in drone and distortion.
It made me wonder if the same principle applies to gaming enthusiasts. It’s fair to say that we champion games such as Killer7, Earthbound and God Hand because we’re desperate for a fresh, distinctive experience. We defend Silent Hill for having bad combat controls (it enhances the fear!) and are thrilled by Mega Man 9′s retro aesthetic. We often value creativity and ambition more than execution, quality and enjoyment (ex: S.T.A.L.K.E.R being a critical darling despite horrendous glitches and flaws.)
There’s been a lot of talk in the gaming press lately about the gap between the vocal minority present on blogs/forums and the average gamer. For instance, EA argued that, despite the online uproar, most people neither notice nor care about the DRM measures taken with Spore. Peter Molyneux specifically requested that potentially jaded reviewers include non-gamers in their appraisal of Fable 2. Furthermore, consider Leigh Alexander‘s experience:
Even when I go to GameStop, where you’d expect that most of the shoppers would be something “like us.” I end up chatting with other customers and am always disoriented — believe it or not, people shopping at GameStop usually haven’t heard of Kotaku. They haven’t heard that the game they’re in line to buy was delayed twice or is made by the wrong studio.
Then, when those people start to talk to me about what they’ve been playing lately, I’m always surprised to learn that they enjoyed, say, Kane and Lynch. They didn’t notice the problems reviewers did. They never heard of Gerstmann-Gate. They don’t know who he is, and they certainly don’t know who I am. They thought The Darkness was the best game they played last year. They like Geometry Wars but not Braid. They love Madden and don’t even know that “we” snub it.
In other words, they’re normal consumers, and their opinion is different than ours.
Are gaming enthusiasts out-of-touch with what the average gamer wants? Are we so blasé with games that we value novelty over quality? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.