11.29.2006

Too Complicated?

Even though I haven't posted in a bit, I'm pleased with the amount of hits I've been getting anyway. I would gloat right now about Sony's PS3 debaucle, but I think I've done that enough in previous posts predicting Sony's soon to be fall from grace.

I really hate the PS3 commercials. Not only are they creepy, they don't convey what the system can do. If you look around, you can find the 3 minute promo Sony used to convince investors that the PS3 was worthy of their monetary support. Though 3 minutes is way too long for most media outlets (the 30 second comercial spot being king), Sony should have taken the millions they spent on the crap their marketing department came up with and just paid for the air time. The 3 minute promo sold me on the product and all they showed was one game.

But on to the reason for my post:

I read a book this morning on computer game graphics by Liz Faber. Though I gave you an Amazon link, don't bother buying the book. It's from 1998 and makes two assertions that left me in stitches.

The first was that Daikatana was going to be the first person shooter, displacing the legendary status of Doom. I remember that piece of crap. The only thing Daikatana managed to do was find itself a very tiny, yet rabid following. Doom, even for all it's flaws is still the top dog. And for good reason. It's flaws are what make it great. It's easily exploitable code gave rise to millions of WADs, including "Barney " Doom, "Happy" Doom, and "Star Wars" Doom where the gun became a lightsaber.

The second assertion actually blew me away with it's stupidity. Faber claims that with the advent of Final Fantasy VII, video games were now too complicated for young gamers.

What?

Okay, just because you found the materia system a little difficult doesn't mean my sister, at ten years old, didn't breeze through it. The materia system is, in fact, the most difficult to understand magic system that the Final Fantasy games have ever presented us with. Even so, young players, many of whom had FF7 as their introduction to gaming did not find that game, or the many that followed, complicated at all.

I know a great many of the people who read this blog aren't even old enough to vote, let alone drink, and don't find any game presented to them complicated. The very idea that a game would be 'too tough' for them is insulting. Content too mature, yes. But too complicated? I'll just hand you a fire extinguisher and hope the flames don't get too bad.

As an aging gamer, some of the newer games are a bit too much for me. Those games require more of my patience while I master the controls. But that's only a dexterity issue. The gambit system of FF12 is no more complicated than the skill point system of Star Ocean 3.

The only thing I find that young gamers have a hard time grasping is the story of a game. Video games today are interactive novels. And just like "Hamlet" and "War and Peace," Shadow of the Colossus and God of War are hard reads. A young gamer may enjoy aspects of the game, but the totality of the experience is lost of them.

With this in mind, I am a big supporter of keeping games rated M out of the hands of minors. Though Generation Y is vastly more intelligent than their predecessors (as noted by the drop in violent juvenile crime, drop in teen pregnancy, and rise in teens who pledge and stick with abstinence), there is content that just shouldn't be available to them. Though I'm sure my little sister can handle Grand Theft Auto, I don't want her to ever think that the way women are treated in the games is appropriate.

And that's why games are rated by the ESRB. Certain age groups have a basic maturity level that allows them to separate different levels of fantasy from reality. The ESRB does a great job handling the ratings. The ratings are simple and easy to understand and found on both the front and back of the box.

The fact that they are so simple is why I find news articles about parental inability to read them disturbing. To be honest, I believe that this can be chalked up to basic laziness. There is no reason a parent, upon walking in a game store with no prior knowledge of a game, cannot take it from the shelf, turn it over, read the ESRB label, and determine whether or not a game is suitable for their child. If the parent has questions, there is no reason why they can't ask the clerk for help or advice.

I know that every single person out there knows a real, live, hardcore gamer (every member of the staff at my library can point me out). If you are a confused parent, find that gamer friend and ask for help. Don't be kept in the dark by politics and rhetoric when you can get the skinny yourself. And you should be absolutely ashamed to have to be told basic parenting from a gamer's blog.

At this point, the only thing too complicated is the reactions of parents and politicians to games.

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