I was going to write about Maschine Zeit some more, since I spent some time yesterday working on a little promotional material and trying to drum up some interest. It really made me miss a gaming store in Conshohoken called “The Roundtable” that had a great staff, fantastic atmosphere and fun events. I’d be willing to try and help promote that place, too, if they hadn’t closed their doors. I’d even try to reopen them if I had the credit to support a business loan.
Anyway, the reason I’m not is because of a debate that began over yonder regarding Zynga. Basically the argument was that people who play Farmville (among other things) aren’t “hardcore” gamers and thus they’re not legitimate. That’s bullshit, obviously. Video games are video games, from the tiny little indy projects programmed in BASIC to the massive summer releases that rake in millions of dollars from youth just itching to blow an alien’s head off rather than taking it out on their math teacher.
So in that I’m in agreement. But placing Zynga on the same level as other game developers is, to me, comparing apples and oranges. My ire might be increased due to Zynga’s performance in The Escapist’s March Mayhem, where the social network gaming company has defeated NCSoft (creators of Aion), Infinity Ward (Call of Duty), Rockstar North (Grand Theft Auto), Square Enix (Final Fantasy), and are facing off against a favorite of mine, Valve (Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead…)
This irritates me, and I’ll tell you why.
Zynga doesn’t develop games the way those others developers do, or at least they go for a different kind of game. Zynga’s games are technically video games, just like So You Think You Can Dance, Jersey Shore and Millionaire Matchmaker are technically television shoes. They’re aimed at a very specific demographic. I don’t mean to generalize, but a lot of the people who play Zynga’s games know very little about video games in general. They don’t realize how far things have come. They don’t understand why someone like me can sit back in awe of a Mass Effect 2 or Super Mario Galaxy or No More Heroes when things like Asteroids and Galaxian were the height of gameplay innovation.
To put it another way, here’s a post made over on the Escapist by one Catherine Lyons:
It’s about the culture America (and even the world) is taking that the cheap and tawdry is more important than the innovative and artistic.
“Twilight” gets throngs of fans, who understand nothing of the true genre (one fan even wrote about how Universal’s “Wolfman” was a rip off (despite the fact Universal was remaking a movie they produced back in 30s(? don’t know the exact year), and flamed them because “how could a silver bullet kill a werewolf?” and “the transformation sucked. Look at Jacob for how a real werewolf is supposed to look and morph like.”) It’s mediocre writings set a low standard for it’s fans, and they can’t recognize good material if it doesn’t have a romance between moody teenagers.
Other movies are giving into the “zomg3D” craze where movies that have nothing to really gain from a 3D environment slap together a 3D version just because they can.
TV is getting bogged down with melodramatic crap. The Hills, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Tyra.
WoW is watering down WoW (and by extension, the entire MMO community) with hand-holding and catering too much to their non-gamer base.
Even the news is more celeb gossip and political flaming than actual journalism.
We idolize people like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, and teach our children from a young age “Be a slut. It’s the cool thing to do. Aspiring to be the concubine of a man in his 80s is a worthy goal.”
Every day, the general populace moves further and further away from anything that makes them think, exert effort, or engage in more than a non-superficial way, and more towards the inane and uninspired.
Gaming seemed to be the last bastion of hope for artistic medium. Despite problems with WoW and Zynga bringing in people that know nothing of gaming into the gaming world and making them think that they know what they’re talking about, it seemed that our games were just getting better and better. More attention to detail, better plot lines, better gameplay.
Now, to see Zynga, who, for reasons I won’t re-enumerate here, doesn’t even deserve to be in this competition (and my assumption is that they were only thrown in there to fill a spot, and expected to quickly get kicked out) win against game houses who have reshaped the industry (Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty is one of the most popular war-based FPS’s out there, Rockstar has consistently pushed the envelope in terms of content and has redefined the idea of a video game again and again, and Square Enix has put out some very popular series that hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers) is like a film fanatic watching Twilight go up for Best Picture. Or a music fanatic watching Kidz Bop go up for a Grammy.
It’s watching our art from get pushed down with the rest of the world in this new world-order of “Thinking is, like, hard and stuff.” and watching as our passion falls to the tawdry mediocrity that is drowning our entire culture.
Anyway, that’s my two rather pretentious cents on the whole Zynga thing, and if they win March Mayhem I won’t be terribly surprised. Just disappointed.