Monday, January 31, 2011

Rambling - Radar Gaming Implements Moving Hobbies

This is vaguely gaming related, right?
I am a gamer.

I like Halo, but it was not my introduction to shooters.  I like World of Warcraft, but it was not the first game into which I devoted significant portions of my life.

Games are not my hobby; I am a gamer.

So often I get the impression from other people that my values are completely backwards from theirs.  This is not an opinion that they express, or anything that they indicate to me any way, but an observation I frequently make when I notice the differences between my life and theirs.  There is simply a fundamental difference between the way I view games and the way other people seem to view them.

Gaming has rather quickly become a much more powerful force in the media, general life, and public consciousness than it ever was even ten years ago.  The release of Black Ops had people waiting in line for its midnight release.  Tell any game designer in 1998 that any person would wait in line to buy their game at midnight the very second it was available, and they would scoff.  Tell them that stores would spend money on lavish midnight releases, and those developers would laugh in your face.  In the 2010's, this is common.

Yet for all this pervasiveness and acceptance (barring the obsessive "dem gamez is rew'nin r kidz" crowd), video games are more or less still a hobby.  This is evidenced primarily by the success of the Wii, and the development of the Move and Kinect, in that they appeal to a wider base of people who are unfamiliar with game pads.  These people, they can be called casual gamers, like to have fun with games every now and then, but they are not interested in spending the time with games to learn the ins and outs of how things work.  They do not, for example, care about the arguments for various button-use layouts that vary from shooter to shooter.  In fact they are likely to become annoyed just trying to figure out the control scheme of one game, let alone the pros and cons of its implementation as compared to another shooter with a different control scheme.  Hell, these people are unlikely to be interested in any shooter to begin with.  They want a game they can play now & then with friends or family at a party, when there is nothing else to do.  Things that do not require controllers at all are a boon for casual gamers.

Stepping farther than the casual gamer is the hobby gamers.  They are much more interested in gaming than casual gamers.  It is a genuine hobby to them, and they can often spend quite a bit of money and time on their games.  They are the majority of people at any midnight release of any game, and for a large part they are the crowd that made gaming what it is today.  Numerous enough to have an impact, their buying weight managed to grow the medium by leaps and bounds when they embraced such games as Halo and WoW.  These games, among a few others, managed to force gaming into popular culture like never before, and it is only as a result of their wide acceptance that video games on the whole have become much more accepted.  Hobby gamers might actually care about the control scheme of a shooter, or prefer one to that of another game.  They are not, however, usually inclined to spend much time arguing about it or contrasting differences.

Finally we come to gamers.  I say not hardcore gamers, or true gamers, or any other sort of chintzy and unnecessary term, because gamer is simply the best term to describe people who might fall into this category. Just that; gamer.  For you see the primary difference between a hobby gamer and a gamer is the priority to which games are placed for each respective individual.  A hobby gamer does lots of things, including playing games; a gamer plays games, and does other stuff too.  This is the difference, and it is a very key difference. A hobby gamer likes to hang out with friends, spend time with family and loved ones, and they play games too because it's another fun thing to do.  A gamer almost invariably includes games into any of the above scenarios, or will occasionally take gaming in their place.  The argument about control schemes is a real one for a gamer, because it has an impact on something that matters to them.

Keep in mind, I'm using the control scheme argument as one example.  There are a great many gamers who couldn't give a fuck less about what control scheme any shooter uses, since shooters aren't a game type they care much about.  They might instead argue about the superiority of their favorite edition of Civilization, the comparative greatness of RPGs from the west or the east, or why they think Fortitude, Reflex, and Will should be a saving throw or a defense.  I merely use shooter control schemes here as one example to express the levels of interest that people from each category might hold.

When gaming first became A Thing That Someone Can Do, it was as everyone knows a very simple and basic event.  Pong kind of embodies that whole era.  People were excited for a while, and wondered what the future might bring.  Then most people simply went about their lives.  Those who would fall into the casual gamer category had no interest in such things for the most part.  Hobby gamers had an interest, and they manned the arcade lines with quarters in hand when the time came.  Gamers took this New Thing and ran with it.  Small communities were developed around the idea of Gaming (what a strange term, this New Thing has!), and many discussions were had.  Discussions held away from hobby gamers and far, far away from casual gamers, all of whom would give a gamer shit for dissecting the intricacies of a game system far too much.  That's nerdy.

Yet with the advent of the modern generation of games, everything has changed.  Finally, finally, we are getting everything out of a game that we had ever hoped to get.  Technology is capable of giving us games that actually cause emotional reactions, and can tell stories just as well as books and movies but in a whole different way than ever possible in human history.  These are the things gamers have been yearning for, even striving for, since The New Thing came into being.  Unfortunately these games are expensive.  Making games cost more time, effort, personnel, and money than ever before; on par with movies.  This means, logically, that buyer interest must drive the efforts of developers, at least to some extent.

Gamers are a small minority of the current customer base.  Hobby gamers make a much more numerous portion of the customer base, and their interest has steered the hobby to a point where we get Black Ops (not bashing the game, mind you, just saying it should be as hyped as it is).  Yet it is casual gamers who are the potential problem.  Through the sheer combined weight of their wallets, they could forge a nigh-unbreakable grip on the game industry if they ever became much more interested than they currently are.  Do you get what that means?  Casual gamers don't actually care about gaming.  They don't care about the thing over which they could very soon have unbreakable control.

This is akin to me having a control over the future direction of football.  I don't give a single shit about football, it means absolutely nothing to me.  How frothing mad would it make a die-hard Raiders fan if I could dictate the direction that football took in terms of presentation and even implementation?

This ramble has no real point.  I am simply lamenting the fact that gaming, which I love, is in danger of soon being controlled by people who don't care about it, completely ignoring those who care about it most.

As a side note: never drink old dew.  This is a lesson I've learned for the eightieth time.  Fuck.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Content - Atravos, Terror of the Duskmoore

I realize it's been some time since I posted anything on my blog, but that is not without reason.  On one hand, I have been putting in many extra hours at my actual pays-the-bills-for-now job.  More importantly, there are several projects I've been working on, each of which keeps me busy in its own right.  These projects are the important part, more important in many respects than the job that pays my bills.  As a brief rundown, I'm working on:

  • A publication called Beginnings: Part 1.  This consists three short stories about characters in the Divine Lands setting.  At present the work is nearly finished, I'm just waiting for some editing input and some cover art (which looks gorgeous so far, and it's not even done).  Two of the stories in my blog, Mechises and Janon, make up the bulk of this project.  I realize this is kind of lame, but in all honesty I never thought I'd be publishing those stories, and it seems bad form to take them down now just to ask people to pay for them.  After some thought, I've decided I'm just going to make the work super cheap.  Win for you!
  • The second project I'm working on is a pointless just-because bit of game design.  I am a fan of the Warcraft setting in its many forms, and I love the whole story.  So, just because I like making things, I am building the first level of the Warcraft 1 orc campaign using the Warcraft 3 engine.  If there's enough response (read: any response at all), I might even continue the project.
  • Finally I am working on a collection of YouTube videos.  These range from readings of the history of my setting, to silly sketch comedy.  Completion of these might be a bit down the road, but they're coming.

The main purpose of this post, however, is to present to you a document that I worked on for the last day or so. It's nothing much in the way of fiction, but it should be interesting to anyone who likes game stats.  The dragon Atravos is a character in the Divine Lands campaign setting.  He's not among the more important characters, but he does play his role and I am fond of the vicious beast.  So, as an exercise in comparative game design, I built his stats in three different editions of D&D.

If you're interested, feel free to download.  It's a simple PDF, nothing special, but hopefully someone out there will find it as interesting as I do.