Catering to the Console

As most of you know, E3 is going on right now. And while not as […]

As most of you know, E3 is going on right now. And while not as awesome as it was a few years ago, plenty of big announcements are being made from the outlandish Sony 3d television for gaming, the impressive WiiU, and a whole slew of new games, footage, and release dates.

One of the most exciting titles for me was all the amazing information to come from the Bethseda camp, letting us know about all the incredible things they were doing with Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

The were demoing incredible footage of unscripted dragons, showing off dual wielding spells, over 150 dungeons, and saying that they have well over 300 hours of game play. Truly a dream for a person who loves role-playing games.

Unless of course you take away many of the beloved role-playing elements.

“We wanted to take it and make it really accessible,” the producer said.“… We still have the complexity behind the scenes, but we wanted to make it so that you could pick up the controller and play and it was easy; the average person could get into it…We knew we wanted to make the user interface a little bit more open and available … get away from the stats and things like that.”

This quote came from the mouth of Craig Lafferty, the lead producer. And this quote just kills me. “Get away from the stats and things like that.” Why would you want to remove stats from your role playing game? They have been a focus of the genre since . . . forever. And not just because there was no better way to handle the system. People enjoyed it. Min-maxing your character was as much a part of the game as the story was.

I am not old per say, although turning 29 next month and having a child definitely excludes me from the category of “younger gamer.” And it’s sad to see the dumbing down of games in order to “appeal” to a wider audience. All it does is make the wider audience dumber. Use television as an example of dumbing down the audience. Popular shows on television? The Jersey Shore. Real Housewives of New Jersey. Anything involving Paris Hilton (The show was something like “Paris Hilton’s New BFF” or something?). Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Think about that last one. Adults who are responsible for the well-being of other people wondering if they are smarter than a 5th grader.

So when Bethseda says “appeal to a wider audience” and “get away from the stats and things like that” I read it as “Are you smarter than a 5th grade gamer?”

I try not to make blanket statements, but I am going to today. As I think of the legions of console gamers who want the thinking removed from their video games, I think that it’s one step closer to video games becoming the equivalent of “The Jersey Shore.”

It makes me feel better when I go down to my local card shop and see the young kids playing a card game like Magic The Gathering, having discussions about mana curves and tournament deck decisions, that there are at least some younger folks who appreciate the value in strategy, stats, and in-depth decision making. Not just when to reload.

Does that make me sound old? PC elitist? Maybe. But I don’t want dumb games. And games do not have to be dumbed down to sell.

Blizzard makes games for their beloved PC demographic. And that demographic has been treating them well. Starcraft 2 was the fastest selling PC game of all time, and one of the fastest selling games of all time. World of Warcraft is still sitting at 12 million people, a huge portion of them paying a monthly fee.

No dumbed down control scheme. No removal of complex elements to appeal to a “wider audience.” It goes to show that if the game is good enough, the wider audience will learn. You can have a complex game if you design it right and teach the player. I imagine that other game companies dream of having Blizzard’s monetary intake.

I understand that you need different control schemes for difference devices. But in situations like Oblivion, it is blatantly apparent that they did not make an effort to adjust it for for the PC. I have 50+ buttons on my keyboard. I can handle binding abilities to more than 2 buttons. If you are giving me an awesome arsenal of magical abilities to wreck face, I don’t want to have to pause the game every time I need to use one of them that wasn’t bound to one of the two keys.

Mainly this was a rant for me and not as articulated as I would have liked. But the situation frustrated me and I just needed to dump my thoughts. The “wider audience” wouldn’t know a good RPG if it rolled a natural 20 and crit them right in their impatient face.