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TheExcel avatar 1:50 PM on 07.20.2008  (server time)
Why the E3 Ennui?

Before I begin, I would like to file a complaint to whoever designed the new layout. It took me 15 minutes to find the "post new blog" button, it having been moved from the top of my blog page to somewhere in the middle of the community blog listings and the ambiguous "blog archives" tab. Seriously, stop moving stuff around.

I'll start by saying that I haven't read most of the E3 reports as I haven't since I first learned how to use the internet, but I have heard enough complaints about the event in general to warrant this post. I think most of them are unfounded and some of them even childish. The most common complaint I've been reading is that the hardcore gamer demographic got the shaft because of a bigger focus on "casual games" than is customary to these events this year. I'm not going to say that E3 should return to its past glory, because that's been said plenty of times already in better ways than I can think of. I admit that not much of E3 excited me this year, but given E3's scaling back two years ago, this should come as no surprise. After all, I don't play many of the decidedly high-profile games that E3 has historically showcased. However, I just have to post my responses to these attacks on E3.

Hardcore gamers felt "left out" this year? That's just absurd. This grievance is the one I have most issue with. By all accounts, though I don't care much for the label, I am a hardcore gamer, by virtue of my preference for shmups (a decidedly "hardcore" genre by nature) over simplistic games (although I do enjoy a round of Picross DS or Planet Puzzle League every other day). I'm not going to discuss the histories of and differences between the two, but I think most people are forgetting about the most basic rules of supply and demand, namely the ones regarding demand. When the first "hardcore games" were created, they were made with no prior knowledge of what makes a game as such. These games, like everything else made by a business, were produced and released on a risk. However, they got their following in droves and companies continued to make challenging, deep, single-minded games to this day. The fact that anyone likes playing games that requires months of training and practice through trial and error is the main reason that they exist. In short, hardcore games exist because hardcore gamers exist. On the other side of the coin, only a few years ago, it was discovered that the people who felt unwelcome by these daunting titles would feel comfortable playing something that requires no previous gaming experience or the dedication to learn its mechanics. Almost overnight, casual games in the form of one-step matching puzzles and color-matching games gained popularity with people with neither the time nor courage to try a hardcore title.

It's not like it's the end of gaming as we know it. For one, there's still the Game Developer's Conference, the Tokyo Game Show and E For All, among others. Don't tell me that the casual gamers don't deserve any spotlight in E3 or refer me to Jim-Sterling's diatribe against casual gaming, because no matter what anyone says, the casual gamers are gamers, too, as blasphemous as that sounds. Sterling wrote his post out of frustration so I'm going on the same ticket and doing it myself. As far as I can tell, hardcore gaming is in no danger of shortage or losing ground to the casual market. There are plenty of hardcore games scheduled for release in the second half of 2008 and what trailers you saw in E3 should be an indication that more are on the way, as they have been for decades. Those highly underrated games that didn't sell well but should have because they're that good didn't lose out to casual games because casual games don't get the same kind of advertising as those games do. Those games weren't produced for casual gamers, they were made for hardcore gamers, and it's not like they're nowhere to be found. I don't know why these games didn't do well financially but I am certain that casual games are not to blame, but I digress. Even if you disagree with everything I just said, then try to see it this way. Bad games and shovelware exist for a reason, and that's to put a standard on the games that strive to be nothing like them. There has to be a standard of quality for both ends of the spectrum, otherwise what games you think are "okay" would become the shovelware. The proverbial bottom of the barrel has to be defined somewhere, so it may as well be the casual gaming industry instead of your precious hardcore companies. The same is true for every other kind of popular media, which is why terms such as "B movie" and movies like Meet the Spartans and Battlefield: Earth exist. Just remember that fact, and you can be proud that you only indulge in the top-shelf software for your console(s) of choice. If you can't even do that, just ignore them, because nothing else I can think to say will convince you otherwise. Casual gaming is not going away and neither is your hobby, so just suck it down and enjoy what you have.

On a related note, Nintendo was judged as having the worst performance this year, after having had the best reception in previous recent conferences. I won't argue this point, and correct me if I'm wrong, but somehow everyone's interpreting this as the beginning of Nintendo's demise. Many people thought that Sony's 2006 conference was the beginning of the end of the PlayStation 3, yet the current sales figures of that console say otherwise. Some people have also noted Mario and Link's absence from this year's event, but haven't you people had enough of them for one decade? Both of them already have no less than two high-budget games in their names in the last four years. Give them a break and let Nintendo do more with them than you're already familiar with.

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