Why Trying to Make Videogames Accessible to Your Dad is a Lost Cause

Family

It was always an odd thing trying to reason with my dad as to why I play so many videogames. To where he would always say, “Go read a book!” And my response was, “But I don’t know how to read!” It was always leading up to a stifling conversation, sorry, argument that never really solved anything. Now that I’m way older and have matured somewhat for a man pretending to be a dinosaur on the internet, my perspective has changed immensely.

It was even more apparent when I saw this clip from a show across the pond on Channel 4. It featured an upbeat Charlie Brooker bringing over to test out his PS4 with Jon Snow, who seemed more out-of-place than a baptized Christian baby in a Jamaican rave club. I’m not going to say much from here on out until you finish the video, go on then…press play…just see what happens.

Alright, so several things of note here. One, Jon Snow has no idea what a ‘kid’ is. Two, this videos reminds me so much of the arguments that me and my dad would stumble into when it came to playing modern videogames. However I kept thinking about this, and in general it’s the same argument I see a lot of young gamers have with, to put it bluntly, old people.
Several years ago Roger Ebert gave his opinion as to why videogames can never be art. Now I disagree with that statement, but it seems like a good chunk of the internet took that as to him labeling the medium as ‘nothing but garbage’. Keep in mind the majority of people commenting on the internet aren’t necessarily your grandparents or crotchety old uncles, but instead are composed of young adults and mostly teenagers. It’s a technological disconnect that ultimately leads to…

“Why can’t you take my games seriously?”

And the answer should be ‘why does it even goddamn matter’, but let me explain in an orderly way that may make more sense…possibly.

Context in Videogames Makes About as Much Sense as the Jackalope –

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Think about your favorite videogames, Red Dead Redemption, Portal, or The Last of Us. Those are some fun games, but examining them through an older lens you start to see things that just don’t make sense. Like how come John Marston can easily skin a bear off-screen in less than 10 seconds, how come the Clickers don’t notice Ellie, or why would GLaDOS be programmed to make cakes?

Well in a videogame you have to provide convenient supplements to the mechanics in order for them to be, well, videogames. Hence why we have explosive red barrels in so many shooters, why there are tons of disposable health pack stations in action games, and why there are so many rats to kill in RPG’s. Those elements serve their purpose to the player, but for those who are unfamiliar with the medium it just seems…stupid and insanely questionable. Just like the Jackalope.
That’s because of the automatic comparisons those make to older mediums, like film or books. Once you’ve become acquainted with something for so long and grew up with it, anything new that comes about much later gets looked at with intense detail simply because it may be the new thing you hate. Hell I do the same thing with iPhone games, like why would anyone want to play a game in which you fling a bunch of roided-up birds at a group of retarded pigs? I know the answer to this, however not a whole lot of older people do nor would they care since they could just watch Philomena a billion times over instead.

So regardless of how well you could easily pitch a game to your 50-year old mother, the moment your mom plays Gears of War be prepared for a lot of, “Why does everyone in this game have a six-pack? Why would you attach a chainsaw to a rifle, isn’t that a bit overkill?” Or in actuality, “Are all these characters based on Vin Diesel or something?”

Game Recommendations to an Older Generation Becomes Pointless –

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I’ve been there before, the idea of trying to have one of your parents sit down and listen to a bunch of gibberish that would sound insane even in a bum-house. For instance, try explaining the plot of Metal Gear Solid in the most sufficient way possible. And let’s say if you do manage to persuade them about checking out the game, are you willing to spend over $50-60 on something that could possibly be resold the day after? It’s a huge financial risk to try to pick out a game that your parents could possibly play for more than 30 minutes.

This is why I ultimately recommend smaller games like Journey or Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. One is a nice relaxing game that can appeal to anyone, while the other is a straight-up shooter designed for those who love 80’s action movies. They’re not too long, they can be played any time without injecting a disk, and they’re damn good games to boot.
However while these smaller games don’t cost as much as the full retail games, this idea can also backfire. Especially if you think it’s a good idea to introduce them to indie games like Braid or Limbo. Nobody likes a hipster as much as the next guy, but even your parents will wax off that ironic mustache once they have ‘rage-quitted’ for the 50th time.

Games are Still Marketed Toward Young Males –

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Oh what’s that? You’re enraged by the idea that videogames still are considered just for teenagers and racist children on Xbox Live? Well sucks to be you, because publishers still think that’s the case.

Sure we’ve come a long way since Duke Nukem and Doom, but let’s be fair here, for every Bioshock Infinite there’s a Call of Duty or Battlefield just right around the corner to prove why the medium is dominated by young males. In fact let’s take a look at a commercial for Call of Duty: Ghosts, and see if it does appeal to older folk:

Well you do have Frank Sinatra playing in the background, and there is a dog, but it just for some reason seems to be missing that old-timely feeling. I think it may have to do with the dozens of explosions, the hip banter between the team mates, and the celebrity cameo appearance by Megan Fox. These are the types of commercials that get played over and over on sports channels, which makes sense since those are the type of rowdy crowds these publishers want to purchase their games.
Videogame covers are also susceptible to this, including some like Bioshock Infinite and Mass Effect 3.

Comparison

Let’s see, do we have both characters holding really masculine or advanced weaponry? Check. Do they have intense looks on their faces? Check. And finally do they seem to be leaning downward as if they’re about to grab a shiny quarter off the ground? Check!

Oh yeah, games are totally marketable for older demographics. But once you put the game in their hands, it becomes a different and disappointing story.

Games Are Much More Complex Than they Used to Be –

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One of the most frustrating things was watching my dad play Ghostbusters: The Videogame. Not only because was it a mediocre game, but he seemed to be having a difficult time grasping the controls. Each time I saw him play that game I just wanted to grab the controller and say, “Look, there’s a right analog stick for you to control to camera! So now you can spend less time doing the moon-walk and more time catching ghosts!”

Little did I know, or should have known to be completely honest, this was his first time playing a PS3 game. Despite how easy it is for me to grasp the idea of utilizing a modern videogame controller, he didn’t know that, and furthermore it takes time to become used to a different layout. Think about it, arcade games back in the late 70’s and 80’s were fairly understandable to use because each button on the interface told you what it was for.
The outline for those games were simplistic not only in design, but also in the way they spelled out their objectives. Like Space Invaders – prevent aliens from invading earth, Street Fighter – compete in a world tournament to become the champion, and Pac-Man – um, you’re a yellow puck who eats power pellets in order to eat blue ghosts. Okay, not all of them made sense, but they were simple and told you well enough of what you were in for. Nowadays, that’s no longer the case.
Game genre’s have evolved and bled into each other, so much so that trying to explain to someone of my dad’s age how an action game like Arkham City is different from a hack & slash game like Devil May Cry can be quite the hassle. Because from his point-of-view it’s, “Well aren’t both games about beating up bad guy’s?” It also doesn’t help that manuals have pretty much become extinct, and that in order to understand the controls you have to look up an e-manual online. It’s Natural Selection in videogame form, except instead of leaving your inferior genetics behind, it’s your crappy skills at Madden or Call of Duty.

Before someone says, “Oh, well should games be dumbed down then? Is that what you’re asking?” Absolutely not, but that’s the reason why…

You Get Games Like L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain

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If you love L.A. Noire or Heavy Rain, I have no problem with that. I may personally disagree with your opinion, but don’t let what I say hinder your experience or enjoyment of those games.

…Are they gone? Okay, I strongly disliked L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain on multiple factors, but the key one here is their failed attempt at trying to reach a mature audience. L.A. Noire premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, a place made for older and mature folk who really like a bunch of artsy shit. Kidding, that’s the Cannes Film Festival!
Anyway, L.A. Noire was the first game featured at the film festival, and while on one level that is impressive, on the other…it’s a fucking videogame. This isn’t the only time that’s happened though, Beyond: Two Souls was also featured at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013, which was made by the same studio that did Heavy Rain. All of these games were grasping for that older demographic in hope of attaining a new market of gamers, however they also forgot that they were suppose to be making videogames. L.A. Noire was an open sandbox game that had about as much freedom as Farming Simulator 2013, and forced you to go down a linear path. Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls were worse about this by replacing actual gameplay with quick-time events while stringing together a mesh of ideas that wound up disintegrating the main plot.

Hm, what’s the common theme here? Ah yes, products based around fantastic performances, incredible motion capture, and beautiful photo-realistic graphics. But suffered immensely due to lack of substance or no substance whatsoever. These were games that rubbed glue all over themselves and were launched into large batches of tired tropes and clichés we’ve seen in a billion other movies. While stripping what little meat of gameplay is there, and substituting it with this blatant illusion of choice and repetitive quick time events. Sadly, this was the only way it could have gone since, well, it’s a bunch of old fuckers trying to play modern videogames! How else would you expect them to buy your product, relaunch the Atari 2400 and port the games on there? Actually, I kind of want that to happen.

Although there may be hope, well…

Some Games are Being Taken Seriously, but You may Not Like the Answer –

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Yes, you people finally won the argument about why games should be taken seriously! But what games are we talking about exactly? Well let these fine gentlemen explain.

So does Wii Sports and Wii Fit count as the pinnacle of gaming then? In case you forgot, most old people were having a grand ol’ time playing bowling on the Wii with their grand-kids. In fact them and families in general were the driving force behind the Wii’s success. The console that at one point was dismissed as some piece of motion-sensing plastic, was harboring the demographic that every publisher was trying to attain. That’s about as hilarious as the Wii U’s software line-up, kidding, sort of.

It’s like what I was saying with the arcades, these games were simple and easy to get into. Not only that, but while Wii Sports was never as in-depth as Fight Night or Tiger Woods PGA Tour, it was still a challenging game. If captivated seniors, parents, children, except for that one hardcore gamer who was upset no one noticed that he was playing Half-Life 2 in the corner. And I hate to break it to ya…

Nobody gives a Shit About How Important Your Games are –

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You can convince my dad all you want about playing Red Dead Redemption, and surprisingly that almost happened, but nothing dwindles curiosity more than constantly saying how great Red Dead Redemption is while he’s trying to do something. I’m sure people around your age will believe you, oh I’m sure of it. The problem though is that there’s a difference between being passionate about something, and shoving a property down someone else’s throat just because you want to be recognized for your vastness of gaming knowledge.

I know Shadow of the Colossus is a brilliant game, and I really enjoyed Bioshock. But let’s be real here, people like Jon Snow, Roger Ebert, and even my dad gave little shit’s about how important that one mind-melting moment in Halo meant to you. The only people who can make up their minds and decide if they want to further their knowledge of gaming is themselves, and that’s it. You can try convincing them by saying that the story is great, by appealing to them through nostalgia or stripping gameplay from the product, but by the end it’s a lost cause.

Videogames require a ton of patience and work just to get through, which is something your mom and dad who work almost 24 hours a day barely have time for. Hell, I barely have time for it and I played a good chunk of 2013’s games! Look, they’re of a generation that grew up in a different time than we are in now. As for you…

Just…Let it Go –

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You want to show the world why videogames have become ‘the medium’, the ‘end all’ of entertainment. To a point where movies have become less epic than what you see in most videogames. I get that, I’ve spent so much time playing Mass Effect 2 that it’s been fairly hard for me to become invested in other universes because of how much time and thought was put into that experience. The medium needs to be proven to everyone why it has become one of the biggest gateways to how they’ve become the person they are today. It’s the idea that ‘I’ve immersed myself in this world, and I want to share it with others.’ However, there are other people around your age playing those games and having a blast!
More people than ever are playing videogames, so why does the concept of proving why videogames are important even matter? Sure you do get some old grumps or dumb politicians who dismiss it as either brain-cell deteriorating garbage or Satan’s personal entertainment of choice, but in the end we’re all going to brush that over. Let bygones be bygones, let morons be morons, and enjoy your freaking game.

That’s it. The idea of having videogames being taken seriously is a moronic endeavor, because all that’s happening is every studio will put out the same game. It prevents creativity from flourishing, and will probably makes things even worse than they already are. Let the medium flow naturally, and in return you’ll get some very analytic and thought-provoking stuff. By asking the question, “Why can’t you take my games seriously?” You’re only opening yourself up for more disappointment and ass-whoopings from your mom. And depending on where you stand with your mom, you better pray it’s the former here.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never be able to persuade my dad why I spend most of my days grinding levels in Skyrim or making my soldiers unintentionally commit suicide in XCOM. And I’m actually fine with that, though I would like to see him play Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Hm, looks like I know what to get for Father’s Day!

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