Special: Casually changing the game.
I think there may be something wrong with me. I'm not sure if I'm a hardcore gamer. I'm supposed to be a hardcore gamer. I write articles for a game-focused website. I spend hours reading gaming news and posting in forums. I believe it finally hit home with Penny Arcade's recent strip concerning the Nintendo Media Summit. That strip featured an exchange about the recent announcement of Brain Age 2 and their reaction to it:
Gabe: Isn't watching someone do math one of the levels of hell?
Tycho: I think it's where they send sorcerers.
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (and their alter-egos Tycho and Gabe) are probably considered the two of the geekiest spokesmen for gaming there are. But apparently, it's not considered cool to be excited about Brain Age 2.
But I am excited about it because "AAA" games have never really interested me, but there was a time when the games I liked were considered AAA. A new Contra or Tetris or Mortal Kombat means little today, but I look forward to new entries in these series' just as much as I did in their heyday. Once upon a time, those games (and games like them) were considered mainsream. Today, that's no longer the case; they are considered niche titles. In the last several years I've noticed more and more that I am more likely to play a game like Tetris than I am a game like Grand Theft Auto. I am gradually creeping away from almost all forms of "modern" game genres.
So it's easy to see that it's not just Brain Age 2. It's a lot of little things. For example, my favorite games from 2006 were the original Brain Age, New Super Mario Bros., Lego Star Wars II and Uno. There's more. I purchased a Dreamcast a few years ago for the sole purpose of playing Typing of the Dead. I pre-ordered Tetris Evolution, but I had to be given a copy of Gears of War as a gift. I've probably played Hexic HD more than any other Xbox 360 game I own. I have never played a huge number of games that are considered essential by most gamers.
I think I might be... gulp... a casual gamer.
But how can this be? I regularly spend time gaming when I should be sleeping. There are three consoles hooked up to my main TV and another two hooked up to another TV. I own a Game Boy Advance and a Game Boy Advance SP. I have been known to go home during my lunch hour to play games. My game closet is overflowing with discs and peripherals and strategy guides. For most people I know, I am the definition of hardcore gamer because I play a lot of video games. But to the gaming community at large, I am definitely an anomaly as I do not play the "correct" games.
That's not to say I'm some kind of snob who refuses to play a game that's "popular" but I have very little interest in Halo 3 or Metal Gear Solid 4 or Grand Theft Auto IV. But like any good Nintendo boy, I'm salivating at the thought of Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy. However, are those games considered less hardcore because they're on the Wii? No doubt, we've all heard the argument that Smash Bros. is not a "real" fighting game. And then there's the "kiddy" argument.
But as I said, AAA games don't really thrill me the way they used to. Believe it or not, the 2007 game I'm looking forward to most is EA's reworking of The Simpsons. That's another thing, I honestly enjoy licensed games. Hardcore gamers aren't supposed to like licensed games. This fall, I am also looking forward to Beautiful Katamari and Culdcept Saga (the Magic: The Gathering meets Monopoly game), two games that scream "quirky Japanese fare."
So what can I do? Is there some kind of program that will return me to the hardcore gamer I used to be? A "No Hardcore Gamer Left Behind" mandate if you will. Can a heavy does of Halo, Metal Gear Solid and Tom Clancy games make me acceptable to other gamers? Is it because I'm getting older? Is it because I got married? Was I ever a hardcore gamer or was I just fooling myself in between play sessions of Marble Madness and Earthbound?
The real question is, what's the definition of a hardcore gamer?
Is someone hardcore because they read blogs and forums and follow the industry religously? Does the type of game they play even matter? Or is it the total amount of playtime that's most important?
All I know is that I play games. I may not be the prototypical "gamer" that exists somewhere in a steretyped form in the public consciousness, but I am here to play. When it comes right down to it, I guess there's not something wrong with me. As games change and grow and gamers grow up and get older and change themselves the games will continue to change with us. And for those "casual hardcore" types like myself, this can only be a good thing.
I guess there isn't anything wrong with me. Bring on Brain Age 2. I can't wait to use my DS to crunch numbers in my head or play a piece of music with the stylus or tell time on an analog clock or memorize a bunch of numbers and try to regurgitate them back to the awesome Dr. Kawashima.
What can I say? I'm excited.