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12/08/2003

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Bowler

An awesome piece, Jane, and I feel where you're coming from.

Ironically (talking about the need for video-game reviews in teen zines and Martha Stewart Living), we as game developers hope for better reviews and more exposure from Maxim than we do from the gaming 'zines, because Maxim has a broader and larger readership.

Some game developers are catching on that you need to reach a broader market than the "niche" gamer market to be profitable. I'm hoping the trend continues.

Boringbot

so the next rez is gonna be "rez 2:martha stuart living"? and you fly around as martha and decorate, changinf forms and the decorating and remodeling keeps getting more and more intense? i cant wait!

tim

Yeah, that's not a bad website, there.

BrainFromArous

Two grouchy points:

1) Why do gamers yearn for acceptance and embrace by the "larger culture" or mass market or whatever the current sociological term is?

Isn't this like the Germans wanting to re-fight the Battle of Stalingrad?

Attempts to reach a "wider" audience are what gave us Lara Croft's bust, endless boring sports-themed games and pandering to the teenaged boy mentality.

2) While I agree with most of Jane's points in the piece, I thought the Rez/vibrator article was, frankly, bad. Not "bad" in some political, you-have-betrayed-feminism way, just bad.

Bowler

Brain: 1) Why do gamers yearn for acceptance and embrace by the "larger culture" or mass market or whatever the current sociological term is?

There's a lot of reasons, but one of them for me is that I remember what it felt like when games died (after the Atari 2600). I don't want to live through that again. It's a lot easier to maintain consumer interest in gaming if it's as popular and wide-spread as the telephone. I'm not saying that there's any danger of that happening again; I just don't ever want to see it.

BrainFromArous

Bowler,

But wasn't one of the key causes of gaming's "death" the mass-market efforts of Atari & others? An avalanche of licensed crap combined with two back-to-back high-ticket, high-profile disasters (Pac-Man and ET) wrecked the business - at least for awhile.

Also, what was it that really died? The period of 1983-84, while consoles were in freefall, did see significant growth in cheap home computers and games for them - growth both in sales and artistic achievement. Some of the all-time classic titles of computer gaming arrived during these years. At the time, computer gaming was most definitely NOT mass-market. It was still a "hobby" business served by visionaries like Ken & Roberta Williams, Dani Bunten Berry and Richard Garriot.

I do agree with your point about the value of a durable, financial 'ecosystem' for gaming. My worry is that the demands of serving the mass market function as bulldozers in that ecosystem.

ClockworkGrue

For once, I'll agree with Brain, in that acceptance by the mass-market is indeed a double-edged sword. Although it is true that trolling for a wide audience is the only reason I still know who John Madden is, and that the console crash of the 80's was due largely to too many console manufacturers and game companies trying to make a quick buck with bad software, I believe Jane still has a valid point when she says that what games needs is for "outsiders" to come in at treat us like we should be accountable. Not in a "rated T for teen" sense, but in a "this was a waste of my time" sense.

Besides, there's plenty of evidence that pandering to the "teenage boy mentality" is a result of games not trying to please the mass market since a majority of people are not teenage boys. Truly engineering for the mass market would give us more games like The Sims, which appeals to gamers and non-gamers across many age and gender demographics.

I, an ever eternal optimist, do not believe that the mass market would reject the games made by the likes of Garriot, Berry, or the Williamses, rather that mass market awareness would encourage good designers to keep designing games. Nor do I believe that a games industry that serves the mass market would prevent good designers from rising into positions where they can produce games of high calibur.

A games industry that truly creates for the mass market would not be entirely good or bad, just different. Currently, I am inclined to believe that "different" is worth persuing.

Bowler

Brain: "But wasn't one of the key causes of gaming's "death" the mass-market efforts of Atari & others? An avalanche of licensed crap combined with two back-to-back high-ticket, high-profile disasters (Pac-Man and ET) wrecked the business - at least for awhile."

Yes and no. The main reason was lack of product quality compliance. Some games just didn't even work. Atari didn't have a quality control and approval system in place at the time. Every system out there at present now has what they call TRC compliance, which is basically their way of making sure that what you're selling actually functions and is worth selling on their system.

Snowmit

The massmarket is more than just teenage boys. In fact the mass market is really made up of a whole lot of niche markets and the sooner we get to the point where the market is huge the sooner there will be room for profitable niche games. Games we haven't even thought of yet. Genres that no one knows about.

A lot of people seem to think that mass-market appeal will mean even more of (insert whatever genre you think is in a creative glut right now) schlock. That makes no sense. By and large the games that are produced now do not have mass-market appeal. That means that in order to make it into the mass market these games will have to change in some way. This will require a period of creativity. Genres will shift, new ideas wil be born, many will fail and eventually games will truly be the new Television.

Then there will be a this terrible glut of creativity as genres get solidified etc that you all fear and then after that there will become more specialty niches and so on and the mod community will be much bigger and will start doing even more crazy shit and there will be elitist gamers who will turn their nose up at the Oprah series of games or what-have-you. And pop-culture will thinder foward and someone will invent a new medium that has something to do with bio-engineering and people will worry that too much violence in bio-entertainment is causing kids to shoot each other in schools and the world will spin and the heavens will stare on complacently for ever and ever and such.

But to get there will require a period of creativity. I'm pretty excited.

Avenging Dentist

I'm actually kind of surprised at all the optimism about giving games mass-market appeal (specifically Snowmit's). I for one doubt that games will gain this appeal by making any huge creative leaps. Instead, the biggest change will probably be in games' image. There is still a temptation for most people to look at games as a sort of "geeky" activity, so these people will be hesitant to start playing games.

Of course, games will change somewhat, but I expect that the biggest change will be in accessibility. That is, mainstream-style games will be designed for casual gamers who want to spend an hour or so playing relatively simple games. Basically, this means that these games would have more save points, an easier learning curve, and less difficulty as a whole.

These developments would surely help games (I'm sure most gamers have lamented the lack of a save point right after they finished a hard part), but they will not necessarily be fundamental changes.

Clubberjack

Another thing that is hinted at in Snowmit's post and Avenging Dentist's thoughts is the potential for a richer "indie" games scene as the larger industry reaches mass market status. There will always be room for indie game "snobs" just as there are indie music snobs. Not that the music industry is a stellar model right now, but for every Britney and Christina, there's a no name musician making forward thinking music that challenges and excites the listeners. It's the same with film. In fact, the movie industry is maybe a better example. There is a thriving indie scene supported by festivals and so forth, while Hollywood continues to put forth the "mass market" stuff. Every once in a while, the cool indie stuff influences or even breaks into the mainstream, exposing viewers to new and exciting things. This is why mass market is important for games, not because the mass market itself drives good games, but because the mass market supports the really innovative, indie stuff.

I know that's kinda general, but hopefully it's a good thinking point.

Clubberjack

Another thing that is hinted at in Snowmit's post and Avenging Dentist's thoughts is the potential for a richer "indie" games scene as the larger industry reaches mass market status. There will always be room for indie game "snobs" just as there are indie music snobs. Not that the music industry is a stellar model right now, but for every Britney and Christina, there's a no name musician making forward thinking music that challenges and excites the listeners. It's the same with film. In fact, the movie industry is maybe a better example. There is a thriving indie scene supported by festivals and so forth, while Hollywood continues to put forth the "mass market" stuff. Every once in a while, the cool indie stuff influences or even breaks into the mainstream, exposing viewers to new and exciting things. This is why mass market is important for games, not because the mass market itself drives good games, but because the mass market supports the really innovative, indie stuff.

I know that's kinda general, but hopefully it's a good thinking point.

Seth

Yeah, nice job Jane! The 8/10 syndrome bugs the hell out of me also, something I tried to avoid back when I was reviewing for Happy Puppy. Maybe it comes from grading systems? People think that reviws should be curved (only half joking). But really, the publications and major websites seem solidly in the pcket of publishers, and seem to be afraid of objective reviewing for fear of not getting stories and exclusives. This problem plagues mainstream media as well in the form of corporate ownership of media outlets. Viva la revolution.

Seth

Yeah, nice job Jane! The 8/10 syndrome bugs the hell out of me also, something I tried to avoid back when I was reviewing for Happy Puppy. Maybe it comes from grading systems? People think that reviws should be curved (only half joking). But really, the publications and major websites seem solidly in the pcket of publishers, and seem to be afraid of objective reviewing for fear of not getting stories and exclusives. This problem plagues mainstream media as well in the form of corporate ownership of media outlets. Viva la revolution.

Draigon

The gaming industry still has a big denial problem and that's something gaming journalism aimed at the masses isn't going to help much. I don't think gaming journalism has properly set its beam on itself yet so there isn't much to make me think it's ready to set its beam towards "mass market". I stay here because this is one of those sites that makes me hopeful for that change and, although amusing as hell, it's definitely not because of Rez. :)

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