20081210

Is More Better?

Recent games forum discussion has influenced this site a bit lately. First it was the question of how old gamers are, and now it's the old chew toy that is women in gaming. I say old chew toy because it's a subject that yields up hours of discussion and debate on a range of related points, which you can just worry at forever.

This time I'm explaining why I think the idea that more women should play games is a load of complete bollocks. I hear countless stories of guys trying to get their girlfriends into gaming and failing miserably because the girlfriends get bored or dislike it, and I figure they at least have a good reason to try and get a chick to play: it would allow them to play more without the word 'neglect' being bandied about, would mean they would have gaming in common and could enjoy it together, and in a serious relationship would mean justifying games-related purchases would be less of an up-hill battle.

I can also understand why siblings or flat-mates would want to get one another into it. The more gamers in a family or flat the more games will be available in the house and the better the gear will probably be, due to a group-interest-driven set of financial priorities. A multi-gamer household is a fairly logical reason to try and convince someone in that household disinclined to play to give it a try, and lets face it girls are less inclined than guys.

I just don't see why you'd want to get more of either sex to play certain types of games when they don't really want to do, since it doesn't benefit anybody at all. Getting more people (of any sex) into gaming makes sense. More gamers = more money in the industry, more games-related events going on in the world, and more people to have gaming in common with. I just haven't seen a single argument that inclines me to agree that more gamers of a particular sex is a good thing. Sex should be a non-issue in gaming. Gaming is the great equaliser, until people start regarding gamers with or without penises as special. Then it just gets uncool (and sexist).

The funny thing is that logic doesn't seem to apply when people consider gamers. Think about it: the people who were kids and gaming in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are often still gaming. Do people think they've stayed teenagers all this time? A huge number of those early gamers are parents now. Some have kids and others have kids who're now living in their own homes and looking at having their own kids. I don't get how people can miss that fact, unless they assume nobody keeps gaming after the age of 20 or something.

I did play my first video games in the 70s, and then didn't play any in the 80s, but I went back to them in the 90s, and the reason for the gap was I was a party teen, rather than a gamer teen. I got over it when I got over my teens. Talk about being the anti-stereotype!

Oh! I almost forgot: note that we're not talking about gaming as a whole here. I've been told that games like Animal Crossing, Wii Sport, Buzz, Brain training, and SingStar aren't in fact games. They're 'utilities'. Yeah, I know. I don't get that either. This is what I have been told though, and it boggles the mind. We are eliminating all the games most likely to attract women from the discussion, because they apparently don't count as games.

So we're talking about traditional games, of the sort that's been in development since the 90s. We're talking about FPSs, racers, fighting games, flying games, stunt games, adventure games, and the like. The REAL games.

Apparently more women should play them. Why? Well I'm told that on one hand that it's because it would dispel the misconception that gamers are asocial, awkward, spotty, teenage boys. Personally, I think if the fact that there are more 'real' gamers over 24 than under (see The Age of Gaming), and that people like Robin Williams and many other celebrities play games, and that games makes more money each year than Hollywood doesn't dispel misconceptions about gamers then more chicks won't do a bloody thing either. Gamers have misconceptions about gamers, so how are non-gamers supposed to know what the gaming population is like with any degree of accuracy?

They can't. They have no idea. Really, misconceptions about the gaming population is a whole other story, because more female gamers won't help, and we can pretty much ignore that as a reason to get girls gaming.

What else? Another reason is to make gaming more of an 'in' thing to do. I assume this means a more generally and openly acceptable thing to do. Now, I think the 'utilities' I've had to eliminate from this discussion do more good in that direction than more girls gaming can possibly do, because they get grandpa, aunty Elsie, and your dad spending hours playing...sorry, 'utilising' a console, where normally they'd watch TV. I guess because those aren't games (I hope someone told Joe Public that) they don't count, so we need more girls to play. Um, hold on, we already established that it doesn't matter who plays games, because the non-gaming public doesn't notice. Scrap that idea then...

If women want to play 'real' games they do. I do. All but a few of my female friends do. Most don't want to. That's okay too. If they don't want to then they shouldn't. I can see why they shouldn't. I don't like playing team sports. If someone tried to tell me they wanted more women to play netball or softball or rugby, so I should take part I'd tell them where they could get off. If I didn't like 'real' games I'd resent someone trying to get me to play them just to satisfy their idea that we need more ['real'] female gamers.

I don't see any good reason why women should play games that don't appeal to them. To even up the statistics? That's a bad reason. To fulfill a desire some gamers have to have more female gamers around? Also a bad reason. The only good reason to play games is because you love to play them (or you really want to share in your sex-slave's down-time). Anything else is time-wasting. The only reason to want someone else to be into the same games you are is if you have a relationship with them and want to share the love.

Given that these women who 'should be gaming' probably already have great hobbies and sports they take part in (if they have time), I can't see them giving it up for something that doesn't push their buttons. Not for those of you who 'want more female gamers', anyway. You weirdos! :P

I doubt the scrap-bookers post on their forums about how scrap-booking needs more males to partake. I shouldn't imagine that train-spotters discuss how to get more women into the railyards. I'm almost 100% sure that the quilting club doesn't wonder why they can't get more boys interested. I also can't imagine that the developers of Animal Crossing wonder why why more women play their game than men. What's the point? If girls are going to game or train-spot, and if guys are going to scrap-book or quilt (or 'utilise utilities') they will, but what does it matter if most don't? I think people have some kind of idea that girl gamers are rare, and that rarity makes those of us who do game somehow special. We're not. We're gamers, and as much as every girl likes to think she's special, she's not. She's a person. Get over it.

The only people with anything to gain (apart from the boyfriends and flatmates) from more female gamers are the games studio boffins wanting to crack the female gamer market. I don't mean general ('real') games that girls happen to play. I mean the games specifically aimed at girls. The games that aren't games. The 'utilities'. Women will be a very lucrative market, and that makes the money-men behind games publishing drool. That drool has absolutely nothing to do with boobies.

As an aside, some of the people who want more female gamers have a hard-on-related rationale, i.e. chicks are sometimes hot, so more gamer chicks = more hot gamer chicks, therefore we need more female gamers (to increase the odds of hot chicks playing with them). What they don't think about is how utterly humiliating it would be to have your arse handed to you by a hottie, who then proceeds to ignore you because you're a hormone-soaked toe-rag with nothing she wants. Worse yet, she may not want to play with you at all, because you're not in her league, in gaming skill or sex appeal. She may be a complete bitch, you see. After all some girls are complete bitches and the more girl gamers you have the better the odds are that you'll encounter a complete bitch.

In my view gaming does NOT need more girls. It needs more gamers. I really don't give a rat's arse whether they have penises or not. It shouldn't matter. I'm going to repeat my core opinions here for emphasis, so you finish reading this with them in mind:

The only good reason to play games is because you love to play them.

The only reason to want someone else to be into the same games you are is if you have a relationship with them and want to share the love.

20081207

The Age of Gaming

I've recently been involved in a small discussion about the age of gamers. Some young whipper-snappers have the idea that gamers tend to be young. Note that this impression is reinforced by the people they hang out and game with, so it's understandable, but they doubt the international studies that have shown that the average is in fact somewhere in the 30s. For this reason I'm conducting a poll, which will run through until the end of February. Please tell us your age.

Invitations to participate have been posted on NZGames, NZGamer, and GPForums.

NOTE: '>60' should really be '≥60', but I can't fix it now polling has begun.

20081206

Decisions Decisions

Unlike most people BaM and I get every console gaming platform close to release, if not at release. We have EVERYTHING! We make a point of it. There's never a title we can't play, a feature we miss out on, or a platform we haven't experienced. It's a great way to go about things, but it's not for everyone.

Most people look at the console gaming situation with an eye to buying one console. This might be because gaming isn't the big life-style element for most people that it is for us, or due to budgetary constraint, or might simply be because those involved just want to keep it simple. This raises the issue of which console to buy.

I think that the discussion of which platform to choose is the most oft-repeated one on any games community bulletin board, and with reason. Reading someone else's thread doesn't necessarily help you, now does it? People responding to those trying to make this decision will possibly tailor their responses to suit the actual buyer, rather than as general responses, and when it's your turn to make a choice you'll want to be putting forward your priorities, preferences, and ideas for discussion amongst your sage companions, without reference to another buyer's requirements.

Through recent platform releases there have been divergent prices, feature-sets, time-frames, and libraries. You'd think this would make things easier, but apparently it doesn't. People want the added BR DVD thing that comes with PS3, they want the pricing of Wii, and they want Xbox Live, which is only available with the 360. Obviously they're not going to get this combination. So what's the drill?

You have to be realistic for a start. You need to realise that you will not get everything you want at the price you want, and you won't necessarily be able to get every game you want for the console you end up buying. This is very much a case of 'tough shit'. Suck it down and start looking at things rationally, or buy them all, like we do.

Those of you this applies to can stop reading now. For the rest of you:

Firstly you must know your budget. If you can afford the PS3 then you've got a full range of options displayed ahead of you, and that is great, but doesn't actually make it easier to choose. It just means you have more options. With budget comes scope. Can you afford any of The Three*, from Wii to PS3, or are you limited to the Wii and the 360? Got it? Good, that's step one nailed.

You also need to be very clear about what is really important and what would be merely 'nice'. Obviously a PS3 with live, all titles, and a Wii price tag would be ideal, but as we established that's not going to happen you have to prioritise.

The first place I'd start, theoretically, if I had to choose one console (never happen, but moving on...), is with the libraries. That is, the title list, both out now and coming soon. Looking at a platform's present and upcoming games is a very good place to start when populating priority columns. For example, if the 360 has twice as many titles you want a piece of, out now or coming soon, than the other consoles then that can be added as a major plus, along with Live if that floats your boat, and the fact that it costs less than the PS3.

After titles I'd look at features and technologies included. For example, wireless network, hard drive storage, connection ports, optical drives, teleporters, etc. These need to get ticks in 'w00t!', 'nice', and 'meh!' columns, according to your desires. Look really hard to whether adding these later (retrofitting) will be another case of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net bending you over and giving you a good spring clean, or a possibly good option down the line too. Sometimes upgrades are possible with minimal ouchies, such as in the case of PS3 hard drives, and at other times the story is very different (Google ' Xbox 360 HD DVD drive' for more on this).

Once you've covered the libraries and features it's down to a subjective evaluation of the relative values of these machines to you, versus the price to be paid. Look at your columns and add them up. This gives you numerical values for each console on a three-way array. Think, discuss with those sharing the purchase, if there are any, and you may find the decision is made that easily. Sorted!

Then again it may not be. If this is the case then you really need to back away and do some more research. It may also be that in six months an exclusive title will be announced that just takes care of the uming and ahing for you. I think Little Big Planet and Halo are those sorts of titles, and this kind of clincher shouldn't be underrated.

If I haven't helped you to choose, and you really need to choose right now (Christmas purchase?) then I'll refer you to any number of games community bulletin boards, Google, and your credit line, because I can't make this decision for you. I'm just here to write about it.

Best of luck.

* Handhelds not withstanding, there are three current-generation consoles available to you as a buyer, in case you didn't know already.