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Kiamet avatar 10:45 PM on 09.24.2011  (server time)
Oil on Water: Big Industry, Small Community (Response)

This is a response to Jim Sterling's article on Shadow of the Colossus.

Once, the gaming community revolved around brands and mascots - fanboys defending Nintendo, or Sonic, or whatever else. That phase is over now (I would hope), but gaming became intrinsic to our lives during our childhood through to adulthood. Gamers want to bring the medium with them as they get older - something that should be as simple as buying new games for themselves, that are tailored for adults.

Nowadays, the adult gamer knows what they like - just like they have their favourite TV shows, books, or films. The variety of genres in those mediums is massive, and each year the gaming medium is catching up to them by finding new ways to play, and new people to play them. The amount of sub-cultures in a more "established" medium like film is also huge: you have sci-fi fans, fans of rom-coms, fans of classic westerns, the list goes on. And for the most part, these groups leave each other alone. No single sub-culture can convince all the other film-goers that their genre is the best. There is no unified "movie-watching" community - it's just too big. After all, who do you know that has never watched a film? This is what a "medium" should be - too big for anyone to be right or wrong. My question is, will games ever get this big? And do you want it to?

For decades, games have been pushed around by sensationalist or dismissive media - branded a fad, a threat, and a waste of time. In these news stories, the violent games speak for the entire medium. The gaming world's response to that is, time and time again, to choose their own ambassador for gaming - a chosen game that will legitimise the medium as an art form, and not just a toy. Either way, the gaming community remains "small" - the news will call first-person shooters "gaming", and passionate gamers will call artistic games (like Shadow of the Colossus) "gaming". Isn't deciding the fate of an entire medium around one "champion" too simple a solution? When the controversial "Serbian Film" was released, no one had to bring up "Schindler's List" to defend the honour of film-making.

The community rallies around these "champions", and those who support these chosen games are considered "true gamers". To me it's nothing less than the adult mutation of fanboyism. Only now it's not Mario vs Sonic, it's the World vs Video Games. Of course, having a passionate and close community is a wonderful thing, too. But such a community will always remain small, unless we learn to leave each other alone. I don't have a solution to the way gaming is portrayed in mainstream media - I think it's a problem that will eventually solve itself, but for now we should just carry on playing what we will, and make our "small" community "bigger".

Games will "grow up" not after they've won an Oscar, but when someone who has never played a game is just as uncommon as someone who has never watched a movie.

Oh, and what do I think of Shadow of the Colossus? It doesn't matter.

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