Community Opinion: Catering to the ‘Bro’ gamer

by Ryan Williams

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece is one of three community submissions up for voting in a PlayStation Network giveaway contest being held in our forums. Check out our thread for details, including your chance to vote on the winner!

Has this logic taken gaming off the path of righteousness? After reading an article from Kotaku, I have found myself questioning the world of gaming as it stands now. I remember when I was younger that each system had tons of games spanning different genres. Variety, to me, is what makes video games so great, in that you are given access to a different kind of interaction with creativity that one could not find in simply reading a book or watching a movie. I can look back at my youth, which started with hand-me-down Ataris and ended with PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and find myself lost in all of the different games that I played. Now when I think of video games, the primary genre that pops into my mind is "first-person shooter."

Since the coming of Halo, the gaming market has dedicated most of its time to the FPS genre. It does make sense, given that Halo is one of the biggest names in the game. Halo, in and of itself, is a simple game that has everthing a guy (or girl) loves: combat vehicles, combat weapons, grenades, and stuff to use the aforementioned things on. With all of that being said, the reality of the matter is that the "simplicity" of the game helped gaming reach a whole new crowd: the casuals.

Halo does not require much in terms of gameplay; you can jump in and out whenever you please and not have to feel overwhelmed with terminology, skills, and control schemes. You jump, shoot, crouch, run, and repeat. I guess a good comparison of Halo to other games is a simple game of throwing a football back and forth in comparison to a whole game of football. A game of catch is something fun that everyone can do whereas an actual game of football is something that is only for certain people, for it is much more demanding. Everyone plays catch, in some form or another, but, when it comes to actually playing football, the rules and physical and mental aspects can be seen as overwhelming. Halo introduced this simple version of video games to the population; it showed everyone that a video game does not have to be complicated, that you can just play a game without dedicating yourself to it as if you are learning something in school.

The funny thing is that there are other games that fit this description of mine that came out way before Halo, but they did not (obviously) capture people’s minds as Halo did. One cannot blame game companies for trying to make money, but they are (even indirectly) at fault for the decline of creativity and the death of certain genres. The biggest threat to these two things comes in the form of Call of Duty, the next step in the evolution of FPS that Halo started. Halo may have been simple, but Activision figured out a way to make a game much simpler.

As far as being at fault for the decline of creativity, it is quite obvious that the "something evil attacks and we must use our military to stop them" storyline has been overplayed. I guess this can be said for many games in different genres, but the whole "government" backdrop has been really played out this generation. No longer do we see oddball games like ToeJam and Earl, Sonic, Earthworm Jim, Bubsy, and Battletoads. To keep up with the "money game," third-person games have started incorporating this cookie-cutter storyline; games such as Vanquish, Gears of War, and Army of Two are a few examples. This storyline does prove to provide an interesting "read," but the fact that this has turned into what sells makes developers wary of trying something different. You can clearly see this in games like Syndicate, James Bond, and Resistance 2, all of which turned from being their own things to simplified Call of Duty clones.

The biggest problem with this is that there are a handful of games that do stand well on their own without copying the norm, like Uncharted, whose multiplayer gets flack for having "perks" like Call of Duty. A simple similarity causes those tired of the norm to dismiss a great aspect of a game. Who can blame them, though? If something reminds you of something you dislike, you tend to stay away from it.