Bhagpuss’s recent post and also one of his older posts that I can’t remember-because for some reason I never, ever bookmark things I want to refer to later-remind me of a theory I’ve had for a while now but I haven’t quite been able to articulate, so I’ll give it a shot now. This also touches a little bit on “Gevlon’s final post,” which I haven’t read yet, but Bhagpuss quoted some of it.
My theory is that there are basically only two kinds of gamers. Speaking broadly here, in gross generalities, of course. And with the obligatory acknowledgment that the term “gamer” here is used in the most broadly generic sense, and not in the increasingly-offensive pejorative sense. Your specific mileage may vary.
The first kind of gamer has an interesting or engaging day job or activity that challenges them. I’ll call them Working Gamers for lack of a better term.
The second kind of gamer doesn’t. I’ll call them Bored Gamers. They might have a job too, but let’s say it’s an “easy” one.
Those two kinds of people seek entirely different things from their games. I’ve been in both situations, and I’ve observed that the type of game I want to play changes drastically.
As a Working Gamer, after a challenging work day, I don’t want to be challenged in my games. I want EZ-mode. I want familiarity. I want rote repetition. I just want to unwind and relax, click a few buttons, and watch the scenery go by. I want to sit back and watch the cut scenes, or even better, turn on Netflix and not even pay attention to the game at all. I don’t ever want to lose progress. I don’t want to learn mechanics. I just want to walk from point A to point B and get stuff without using a single brain cell.
On the other hand, when I’m bored during the day-a Bored Gamer-I want a challenging game that taxes me intellectually. I want things to be hard to learn. I want to study strategies. I want to work to overcome obstacles, using trial and error and learning from my mistakes. I want the satisfaction of mastering a difficult system. I want to use my cleverness and determination to attain impossible goals.
Most game studios seem to cater now to the Working Gamer. At least, big studios do. It’s not surprising, because those gamers have the money (they have jobs!) and the numbers, so it’s perfectly logical for big business to chase them. It’s the summer blockbuster mentality. Anthem, for example, the current hotly-debated title, is going to appeal a lot more to a Working Gamer than a Bored Gamer.
The trouble is, *both* Working Gamers and Bored Gamers eagerly preorder *every* new game, expecting that they are made for them. And when they inevitably *aren’t,* there’s a big backlash.
Unfortunately for me, I’m firmly in the Bored Gamer category right now. I don’t have much intellectual challenge in my day unless I create it, so I crave games that will give me a mental workout. I pretty much live for the challenge of learning new things and mastering them, whatever it might be. New programming languages, new games, new video projects, whatever.
I think the general sense that “games used to be better” is based in the reality that in the old days, most gamers were Bored Gamers. They were kids of college age or less. So most of the games catered to them. Gamers have been growing up over the last couple of decades, so they’ve grown up from Bored Gamers to Working Gamers.
This is where I refer to what I *think* is in Gevlon’s post, based on the quotes in Bhagpuss’s post: But sometimes, Bored Gamers remain Bored Gamers as they get older. They might not get a sufficient challenge in their non-gaming life, so they continue to look to their games for that challenge. But the market changed around them, and most of the big games aren’t made for them anymore.
Speaking in broad generalities, of course.
There *are* still games for people who want mastery challenges. They’re more rare now, maybe one or two a year*, but they exist: The Dark Souls series, obviously, RimWorld depending on your settings, and Dwarf Fortress are three I can name off the top of my head from recent experience. Those are literally the last three games I played actually. It’s not that studios don’t make good games anymore, it’s that studios make games that more people buy. And more gamers are Working Gamers now. You have to be more selective in your purchases if you want Bored Gamer games. You can’t just buy every popular new game that you see.
Note: There are probably a thousand exceptions that will destroy this entire theory if I stop and think about it for two seconds.
* In the old days, one or two big games a year was actually normal.