Holt’s example shows that even in the world of serious games, we still have very particular idea about what a game experience should feel like, what form its gameplay should take, and where and in what context games should be played. This is what Justin Peters means too when he lays down the following accusation in his Slate gaming column:
In taking the fun out of video games, companies like Persuasive [Games] make them less alluring to people who love games and more alluring to people who don’t.
I love video games and I love the games industry, so I used to worry about this a lot. I wanted my games to find a home in the traditional commercial sector. I wanted to delight or impress my big league colleagues. I even thought that maybe one day my style of game would justify a place on the shelf next to their games. And maybe some day it will.
I still have nothing but respect for my more traditional industry colleagues, but I’ve stopped worrying about impressing the games industry and its pundits. Or at least, I’ve stopped worrying about impressing them first.
Instead, I’ve started focusing more on the people who might be interested in different kinds of game experiences. People who fly for business more than three times a month, or people who read all of the Sunday newspaper, or people who have kids with food allergies, for example. I am sure these people read magazines and watch television and listen to the radio. But it would be short-sighted to label them ziners or tubers or airwavers. They are just people, with interests, who sometimes consume different kinds of media.
I have started to take rejoinders like Peters’ as compliments instead of criticisms. Gamers are predisposed toward a single response to video games. Those people who don’t love games, to use Peters’ words, simply don’t love the games that gamers love, or they don’t love games in the same way.
I wouldn’t say that I love magazines, but I do buy and read some. If video game playership is indeed broadening, then video games will no longer fall under the sole purview of the video games industry. There will no longer be a single court in which the legitimacy of games will be tried. There will no longer be three great video game gods to whom all creators and players will pay homage.
Instead, there will be many smaller groups, communities, and individuals with a wide variety of interests, some of them occasionally intersecting with particular video game titles.
Some might argue that as video games broaden in appeal, the demands of players will only increase. Casual games or educational games or newsgames will have to become more and more gamey, more like commercial video games of the current variety to meet the increasingly sophisticated demands of these new players as more and more of them become gamers.
But as video games broaden in appeal, being a “gamer” will actually become less common. The demands of players will surely increase and deepen, but those demands may bear little resemblance to the ones gamers place on games today. Just think of the casual gamers asking for zen instead of challenge. In the games industry of tomorrow, the gamers will be the anomaly. Instead we’ll just find people, ordinary people of all sorts. And sometimes those people will play video games.