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[Video games, market, trends] The Wake-up Call series: there's a crack in your hard-core

Freelance writer and tabletop game designer David A. Hill has recently expressed his feelings about the artificial divide between 'hardcore' and 'casual' game(r)s. I pretty much agree with every word in there, so this series of articles assumes you're both familiar with the concepts (however vague they are) and with David's point of view.

This is what a gamer is supposed to look like?For those too lazy to follow the link, here's a quick summary: the gamer community – and even part of the gaming industry – has adopted the concept of 'hardcore' gamer in opposition to 'casual' ones and extended this whole division to games being produced… But in the end no one really knows what it means to be 'hardcore'. Is it about time spent playing, graphical violence, challenging gameplay or what? In practice, the concept is whatever someone wants it to be, and it's used pretty much as an excuse to bash any game geared towards children, women, older people etc. – in short, anyone who's not a male, young adult conforming to certain gamer stereotypes. It's an extremely elitist position that would seriously damage the video gaming hobby if followed to the letter by the whole of the industry.

That established, I wanted to add a few things to David's post, hence this series of articles. For starters, there are more indications to why this whole 'hardcore' idea is stupid, even if everyone could suddenly settle on one precise definition of what a 'hardcore' game(r) is. After that, we can consider the consequences of all this stupidity – he's mentioned how big releases made for a wider audience fuel more risky, niche projects, but is that all? Well, first things first. Today, we start the series with a simple proposition: all this isn't really new.

Gamer or loser?

Wake-up Call #1: There's nothing new under the sun

If you hear/read someone ranting about how we need more 'hardcore' games nowadays, chances are someone's talking about the Wii console. This includes Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 owners dissing the less-powerful hardware from Nintendo and pointing out how it is 'for children and family games', and Wii owners themselves complaining that the console doesn't get enough 'hardcore' games for their tastes.

I could dispute the latter all day, but that's not the point right now. The really laughable part in these arguments is the notion that 'casual' gaming only entered the market (or became a major factor) four or five years ago with the Wii's introduction. Wake up: it's actually older than many gamers who insist on all this 'hardcore' talk. (Which actually adds up to David's point about how 'hardcore' actually stands to 'games aimed at a very specific demographic of young, white, nerdy men': most are too young to have seen things like the NES or old arcades about 25 years ago.)

NESWhile everyone looks to the Wii as the console that seemed to break into every household thanks to its 'social' games driven by motion controllers, the fact is that until very recently it still wasn't the biggest-selling home gaming console released by Nintendo, even after four years in the market. That honor was reserved to the NES, which was released in 1985. That's right, nineteen-Back-to-the-Future-eighty-five.

Now think about it for a second. We all know that the gaming industry these days is almost as big as Hollywood. That is, it's ten times (if not more) the industry it was 25 years ago. How come the NES sold so well at that era then? Anyone can answer that? You in the back, you can speak up. Oh, exactly: there are a lot of factors, but mostly, the NES achieved that feat because the console was marketed at everyone, not just those already addicted/used to gaming. (Here, have a cookie.) It even featured 'alternate' controllers, such as a lightgun - which, at the time, was aimed (pun intended) at new audiences, not only those crazy people who could speedrun Metroid in less than 30 minutes.

Metroid (NES)Some of you who did pay attention to game history are probably thinking... 'Of course it sold that well, it had no real competitors for about a couple of years'! And you'd be right. But still, this also means that at the time Nintendo basically was one of the very few companies which really believed in the potential of video games. No sign of Sony and Microsoft then. Why do you think that was so? Because they weren't sure there was profit to be made on it. Once the NES and its successors (and later competitors, especially from Sega) proved there was high money to be made on consoles, they jumped aboard.

That is, if you're in love with your PS3 and your Xbox, your 'hardcore gaming' is only possible today because Nintendo cared to bring video gaming to a bigger audience to begin with. Otherwise, you'd be playing 8-bit games to this very day. (This may sound cool, but let's be honest, it's better to have options.)

The notion that 'casual' gaming is a recent phenomenon would be amusing if it wasn't tragically dumb. The industry has always thrived on bringing new people to the world of staring-at-a-TV-while-smashing-buttons (or waving a remote, it doesn't really matter), and this hasn't changed a bit. Sure, there's some difference in scale - and even then, not by as much as one would think if one takes NES sales into consideration. The only thing that's really new is the arrogance of teenagers (in age or brain activity) who think they're special because they can kill your character 1,000 times per second in a multiplayer first-person shooter – not to mention the fact that now they have a worldwide board to boast their 'accomplishments' (you may have heard of it, it's called the Internet).

Other funny thing is that the kind of 'hardcore' gamer who measures his status in time spent playing (and equivalent 'accomplishments') used to thrive in the arcade era, not to complain about those 'other people'. Lots of people played arcades only occasionally (just check any 80's teenage/college movie), but most players were kids, and in that scenario those who mastered a certain game usually took the role of wise kings of sorts. They brought people into the hobby, showing the ropes to newcomers and making them spend more money on the whole thing.

How's that changed? Again, it didn't really change. Most people who play games often don't really care about how 'hardcore' they are. It just seems like so, and for a very simple reason: the Internet lets very vocal people seem more representative of something than they really are, and it makes spreading false assumptions all too easy. But that's a matter for the next article in the series: the so-called 'hardcore gaming' community is way smaller than it think it is. Save your game and wait for the next chapter!

buddy poke, plano malvado, tabuleiro

[RPG, profile] I kinda knew it

You Scored as Tactician

You're probably a military buff who wants to have the chance to think through complex problems. You want the rules, and your GM's interpretation of them, to match up what happens in the real world or at least be consistant. You want challenging yet logical obstacles to overcome.

Method Actor
Power Gamer
Casual Gamer
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[Music] Good music doesn't change you

"Jamming is for hippies in the park. Nothing eternal comes from jamming in the park."
- Eugene Hütz (Gogol Bordello) on the Brazilian equivalent to the David Letterman show

About one year ago, I wrote here a great praise in Portuguese to Gogol Bordello after seeing them live for the first time in the country. Basically, it was 50 minutes of pure, unabashed, awesome fun. Me and my wife felt like we've just taken a lot of E with none of the bad effects whatsoever. There's simply no other way to describe it.

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[Music] Best of 2009

Simple thing: I'm glad this year I was able to devote some time to listening to new music once more . It's been years, and I'm still catching up to stuff that was released from 2002 onward. But these are songs officially released in a new album this year, and I'll post them one by one until the end of December. This one's my wife's pick for this year. Enjoy!


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[TV series] Fringe benefit

I'm watching the sixth episode from Fringe's first season right now. Of course, the fact that I'm writing this at the same time already reveals how much attention I'm actually paying to the show.

I've seen bad TV shows before, but this isn't it. I've seen a number of great shows which took a while to go anywhere meaningful as well, but I can feel this show isn't such a case. It's just that, for all the talk about Fringe being the new X-Files and the fact that J. J. Abrams is behind the series, it falls way short even when compared with less stellar efforts.

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[Music] Memories can't wait

Can you believe that I've known this song since Fifa Soccer 09 went out (that is, about a year ago!) and never really noticed where did the lyrics come from? And yeah, I'm old enough to know the source - if you have less than, say, 25 years under your belt, you have a good excuse. I don't.

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Lots of pending stuff

I try, and I try, and I try... But this LiveJournal always end up on the backburner. Worse yet, it isn't like there's nothing to talk about:
  • I've finally managed to run a Dust Devils game. It was... educational about entrenched roleplaying habits, so to speak.
  • The latest Datarock and CSS albums (Red and Donkey, respectively) grew up on me recently, and I've discovered Kasabian isn't really as bad as it sounded the first time I've listened to them (their latest album is way better than the previous one, indeed).
  • We've watched Bones' first season again and concluded for once and all that this isn't just another police procedural show with a hot geek chick and a handsome sensible guy replaying the sexual/intellectual tension between Scully and Mulder - it goes deeper than that.
  • I've finished reading the Supernatural roleplaying game and much to my surprise, it's very interesting and to the point.
  • I'm about to finish reading Geist: the Sin-Eaters and, while it isn't really a surprise, the game has blown me away (check the mementos section - the sample memorabilia alone are worth what I've paid for the book).
  • I'm still obsessed with Future of the Left's latest work, Travels with Myself and Another - in fact, I'm listening to it right now again (step ahead and raise your hands for the chin music!).
  • We've finally found the time to go to the movies again and saw Inglourious Basterds, which I dare to say it's Tarantino's masterpiece - yeah, that means even above Pulp Fiction, even considering the role the latter had in subverting film industry standards.
  • I've managed to put my dirty hands in some copies of Fringe's first season (it hasn't been released in DVD down here), and that's probably what we'll watch later tonight.
  • And there's always Kindle - can't believe it will be officially available in Brazil, wireless access included. Guess I have a Christmas gift set now.
That's just off the top of my head. Now that my netbook has returned from tech service and I have 3G wireless Internet access, hopefully you'll see more updates in this LJ in the next few days. Here's hoping life doesn't come in the way (much).
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Weekend's over already?

These days, I can hardly get some free time for myself, much less to write anything. My wife is starting her own little business and we've been busy going after all the stuff needed for it to function properly next Tuesday. But just for the record - even if just for myself - here's a quick recap of what I/we managed to have fun with in the weekend:
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[Music festivals] There are no barriers for shame

... so Mark Foley was indeed right.

Not too long ago, maybe a month or two back then, I've read an interesting article on a local newspaper about how the economic crisis "forced" a few regular musical festivals to take a break this year - even while we experience an increase of international acts coming down to Brazil for their own tours. The rationale was simple: festivals require sponsorship, and most big, multinational companies aren't really keen on spending money on this kind of marketing and promotion these days. On the other hand, the crisis weakened the dollar-real exchange rate, which means paying for international acts actually got cheaper for the local promoters - and these acts are probably quite happy to book big events overseas, what with the crisis raining down way harder on their own countries (at least for the American and British artists) than in here.

But still, two music festivals were confirmed for the second semester. One is the quite recent and hugely successful Planeta Terra, sponsored by a major internet portal, which brought us bands/artists/DJs like Devo, Kaiser Chiefs, Jesus & Mary Chain, Lilly Allen, Foals, Breeders, Datarock, Kasabian, Felix da Housecat, Bloc Party, CSS, Calvin Harris, Animal Collective and many more in the last two years. The other is a new venture called Maquinária, which seems to have been created just to better accommodate the third coming of Faith No More (they were quite huge in here back in the day) and the return of Jane's Addiction (which has never played here in its heyday).

So what's the deal? Guess.

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