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3:29 PM on 08.16.2011

MassDebate: Has genre distinction lost its relevance? - RESULTS

Welcome to the results of MassDebate! This week's topic concerned genre distinction, and proved to be a less popular topic than most. It could be argued that such a subject does not exactly fire the emotions. It's not as exciting as talking about sex or violence. Nonetheless, it is an important point of discussion to consider the language in which we describe our hobby.

Handy pointed out that the genre terms we use nowadays give little credence to the experience we are letting ourselves in for. Elsa insisted that genre classification as it stands is still valid, as the gameplay elements are what shine through in a title, no matter what. The consensus amongst the comments was that genre classification does more good than harm.

Congratulations to Elsa on her victory and commiserations to Handy on his defeat.

Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

Many thanks to everyone who commented on this week's topic.

MassDebate will be taking a short break and will be back later in the year. I have been concocting some ideas for a review of the Debatoid season and a MassDebate Special during the hiatus period, so don't expect to have to wait too long before MassDebate returns, but for now I must bid you goodbye, and see you soon.

Sean Daisy   read

1:49 AM on 08.10.2011

MassDebate: Has genre distinction lost its relevance?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

The proposition: Genre distinction has lost its relevance

Handy argues in favor of the proposition:

Games, even in just the last decade, have changed immensely. Games have expanded, so many games take so many elements from other genres that they’ve become hard to pin down in any one group. Sure some games will always fit nicely into their genre, Gran Turismo will always be a racing game and Street Fighter will always be a fighter. But so many games today borrow from other genres, or outright defy classification altogether that the whole system seems a little outdated.

Take Borderlands for example, best described as an online four player co-op FPS RPG, that’s a mouthful, and that’s with three abbreviations (co-op, FPS and RPG).

Genre descriptions don’t seem to give us a very good idea of the games they represent anymore. Look at games like Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII, both RPG’s yet they couldn’t be more different; an open ended third person shooter and a series of corridors with menu based combat.

Even within that categories’ sub-genres the games still don’t fit the description. Proportionately speaking, most Japanese role playing games don’t involve any actual role playing, the player makes no decisions that the story and it plays out in a linear fashion. Until the game proves otherwise – we just assume JRPG is shorthand for “Long-ass game with lots of numbers”

Who here thinks of Demon’s Souls as a JRPG? Because that’s exactly what it is and I’ve not heard anyone describe it that way, our perceptions of what makes a JRPG have changed to the point where the genre name no longer describes what we expect from the game itself.

Or games that take queues from other genres, like the games that experiment with sandboxes, what is a sandbox game? A game with an open-world in which players are given freedom, there are many optional distractions and missions can be tackled non-linearly. That’s great, except for L.A. Noire, and Shadow of the Colossus, and Mafia 2, and No More Heroes and so on....

And that’s not even taking into account that sandbox games are already just a mishmash of other genre mechanics only added to an open-world. Most sandbox games are an open-world plus other genres’ travel mechanics and combat system. For example Open-world + Driving + Third Person Shooter = GTA, Open-world + Free running + Hack and slash + Stealth = Assassin’s Creed.

Even Call of Duty – something constantly derided as a bland, run of the mill FPS – uses an RPG style progression system in its multiplayer. That’s the most popular feature of the most popular game and even that borrows from another genre.

Then there are the games that don’t fit in any category, what type of genre is Katamari Damacy in again? Rolling kleptomania simulators? What about Typing of the Dead? Mister Mosquito? Heavy Rain? Noby Noby Boy or Seaman?

There’s also the idea that the genre itself doesn’t matter to the consumer in lieu of what else the game offers. How many people have you heard saying they can’t wait to play Catherine, except for the puzzle parts? You know, the puzzle parts that make up the actual gameplay? I don’t really like FPS games but I know I can’t wait for Bioshock Infinite. Games can have so much to them these days that the genre doesn’t even matter that much sometimes.

And then of course there’s the wonderfully vague “Action-Adventure” genre, which encompasses pretty much every game ever made except maybe those train sims. Basically the fallback for when a game tries anything new or is a little hard to describe, because they don’t quite fit in any traditional genre, or maybe they fit into three or more at once.

Uncharted, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Darksiders, Yakuza, Dead Rising, Enslaved, God of War, what do these games have in common? Nothing. Yet they all fall into the Action-Adventure category, because we’ve got nowhere else to put them, or sometimes too many places to put them

At the end of the day, when you hear what genre a game is in you still don’t know what you’re in for. Only until you watch footage and read reviews will you start to get the picture. And I think it’s a good thing too, that games have expanded and evolved so much, it’s just that some of our terminology hasn’t.

Elsa argues against the proposition:

My initial thought when I received the note saying I'd been picked to argue that genre distinction has NOT lost it's relevance was "crap!". I've played Borderlands, Uncharted and other games that blur the lines of being in a specific genre, so my initial thought was that so many games now combine elements from various genres, that genre distinction is almost useless... but on further thinking I've come to the conclusion that genre distinction has not lost it's relevance - at all.

First off, why do we use genre distinction? One of the main reason is simply description. Genre distinctions in video games describe gameplay elements. An FPS game is a "First Person Shooter". The view is first person and a primary gameplay element in the game will be shooting. There may be puzzle elements (as in Portal), there may be RPG elements (as in Borderlands) but the easiest way to ascribe a gameplay description to those games is still to simply say "it's an FPS game" and gamers know what is meant. There are some people that don't like the first person viewpoint and it may make them naseuous or dizzy - regardless of other aspects of the game, they may not like the game simply based on the simple "FPS" descriptor. Some people love "platformers". The plots, settings and characters in these games can vary greatly, but when talking of a platformer, gamers know that the game will involve a lot of jumping, climbing, swinging, bouncing or some other means of traveling between platforms. Genre distinction is very simply a linguistic short cut and part of the language we use when describing video games.

Now that we've established the importance of the descriptive necessities of genre distinctions we come to the second reason that genres are important to gaming - classification, or the ability to group similar objects. If you purchase a new console that already has an established library, one of the easiest ways to find games you might like is to simply view the games available according to their genre classification. Books, movies and music all use genre distinctions as classification so that people can find similar media. Games are no different. The genre distinctions of games (unlike books or movies) don't revolve around plot or setting, but instead use gameplay elements - a more important classification system to gamers. Just as many movies and books have multiple genres, so too do games, but this does not negate the importance of having a classification or multiple classifications. There simply needs to be some way of organizing similar games so that people can find games with elements that they enjoy (or alternatively avoid games with elements they dislike).

Genre distinction in video games will never lose it's relevance. Over time it will increasingly become more and more important as game libraries continue to grow and as more and more games are produced. As new genres are developed, they add to our language. "Rhythm" games will incorporate responding to music as a primary factor in the gameplay, and "Motion Control" games are an indicator that we won't be sitting on our butts playing the game and may need peripherals.

Using genre distinctions is the easiest and best way we have of describing what kind of game it is, what other games it's most similar to. Genre distinction is part of our gaming language, our culture. This will never change. So, no. Genre distinction has not lost it's relevance. If anything, it becomes more relevant and more important than ever as gaming continues to grow.

Very simply... can you imagine describing a game without using genre distinction? Can you imagine looking at a large list of upcoming games without genre distinction? Would you rather see the listing for "Scivelation - release date: TBA 2011"... or would you rather see "Scivelation - shooter - release date: TBA 2011"?

Many thanks to Handy and Elsa for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (Handy and Elsa) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment HANDY or ELSA depending on whether you support the proposition (HANDY) or you oppose the proposition (ELSA). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with HANDY or ELSA may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 15th August. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 14th August for your vote to count.   read

4:39 PM on 08.09.2011

MassDebate: Are videogames addictive? - RESULTS

Welcome to another MassDebate! Unsurprisingly, videogame addiction proved to be a gritty subject and we had quite a fracas in the comments as people felt they could not vote either way, with a lot of to and fro on the intricacies of the argument. ManWithNoName illustrated the reward inducing mechanisms put in place to secure and compel the player, threatening the weak willed. Caiters explained that there are those who could suffer from addiction from the most benign of behaviours, which is no fault of videogames themselves.

It could be argued that both sides were a hair's breadth apart, but it is important to note that a hair's breadth is still distinct: Videogames are either intrinsically geared to render players to become dependent upon them, or they are not.

This is a website for videogame aficionados, thus the consensus of opinion would be that videogames can be enjoyed healthily by anyone. However, as mature folk I hope we can have more discussions like this where we can approach a topic which may be considering some of the less salubrious aspects of our hobby, yet consider both views on their merit. It is only by facing against criticism with eloquence that we can defend our pastime, or accept its failings.

Congratulations to Caiters on her victory, and commiserations to ManWithNoName on his defeat.

Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

"I think they are addictive. Wanting to keep playing them more and more makes it so. Of course that addictiveness isn't to the point where you "for most people" die, or anywhere near there."

Byronic Man
"The distinction is quite a pedantic one - we know that gambling can be addictive, does that mean gambling is addictive? Surely anything can be addictive, by that measure. Add the condition that only those which display the typical traits of addictiveness qualify, and video games surely still count."

dr spaceman
"Unfortunately, there's a couple times a year when someone dies or tries to sell their children in order to maintain their gaming habit, and it's hard to argue that such people are not addicted to their game."

"In essence, I don't see that video games are generally addictive. They certainly can produce addicts, and certain games are geared more towards addictive behaviour, but due to the fact that most people have played games and show at best low-level signs of addiction, I cannot support the proposition.

For a further comparison, many people get highly involved in sporting events (playing and spectating), board and strategy games, and other forms of entertainment (reading, collecting, etc.). While these individuals may be addicts, again I would hesiitate to call these activities addictive when applied to the general populace."

"Video games are no where near a hardcore drug, or pot or even caffiene in terms of an addictive substance, And since I cannot group them all in one group of 'addictive substance' I can't agree with ManWithNoName."

"I know a ton of gamers, and I simply have not come across many (or any) who I'd say are addicted, at least in a way that requires some kind of external impetus (as opposed to just a bit of willpower) to break the addiction."

Corduroy Turtle
"I remember watching an episode of a show called My Strange Addiction in which a woman was addicted to eating the foam out of couch cushions. Yeah. I agree that addiction can manifest itself in many situations but lets not slap that label on anything just because of a few glaring exceptions."

Isay Isay
"Any vice, ritual, stress relief be it drugs, alcohol, rageohol, workohol, etc. can cross over into addicition if one allows it to."

"Whether video games are an addiction or not, as long as you play in moderation and don't let them have a negative effect on your life it doesn't matter what you call the degree of your obsession."

"You can't point at food and say it causes addiction just because there are a handful of people who excessively eat. So in the same case you can't point at video games as being addictive."

"ManWithNoName presents a good argument that games are designed and marketed to exploit our naturally compulsive behavior. However I don't think participating in systems designed to keep us playing force us to abuse them to the point of having a psychological dependency. Labeling games as addictive just doesn't quite seem right."

"All forms of entertainment can be addictive to people in some certain measure, its just important that you should have all good things in moderation."

"When any activity begins to have a financial impact (spending money people don't have), when it starts to affect a person's relationships, when it has an impact on their ability to hold down a job or go to school... it's an addiction and a problem."

"I have to agree that games are at least somewhat addicting. There are plenty of reports of people playing games to the point of neglecting some key responsibilities in life and even playing to the point of death in some cases.

As mentioned, some personalities are more easily addicted to games than others and not everyone is addicted. However, we've all seen the documentaries about how people just completely lose touch with reality and sink into a game world. I've seen close friends of mine lose jobs over MMO addiction, flunk out of school and destroy relationships. It sucks. But when someone gets to that level and they shut out friends and family in order to play, I think its safe to call it addiction."

"Games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft can obviously be massively addictive, but it depends upon the person and what they get from it, some people can get a lot of enjoyment from being able to achieve and attain in either, but others will find nothing. I'm sure there are some people addicted to CoD who would find WoW boring and vice versa. I've known loads of people who were heavily into iPhone or smartphone games in general (you know the small, $1/£1 games you get) and they'll play them for hours upon hours whereas I can't stand games like that... but put me in front of a PC loaded with a copy of Half-life or Deus Ex and I can just go on and on.

So I would say it depends a lot upon the person and what drives them as to whether it's addictive."

"I think the majority of gamers are like Caiters said, just people who like fun. Who the hell wouldn't? But those same people are usually smart enough to balance out gaming with sex and backgammon and spelunking or whatever the hell normal people do these days."


So where do we go from here? Despite the general view amongst ourselves that videogames are not inherently addictive, there is nonetheless a strong feeling in the mainstream media that games are a corrupting menace, especially to the youth. They are an anti-social evil, ensnaring the young and impressionable.

Whether we believe games to be addictive or not, we know full well that the portrayal of videogames as pariah manufacturers is sensationalist and damaging. Like sports and hooliganism or intellect and elitism, it is a horrendous stereotype which communities like Destructoid loudly disprove.

Tomorrow we will be talking about something a bit different, and we will be asking if genre distinction has lost its relevance. I'll see you then!

Sean Daisy   read

1:38 PM on 08.03.2011

MassDebate: Are videogames addictive?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

The proposition: Videogames are addictive

ManWithNoName argues in favor of the proposition:

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has this definition for addiction:

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

The key words here are the reward, motivation and memory ones. Videogames play a Pavlovian effect on gamers. Take CoD as an example. You kill some people in the multiplayer and are rewarded with a new gun, with a music fanfare and imagery in the screen. That is your reward in the game. The more you play, the better guns and perks you have. That is your motivation, have better guns. The memory of the reward and improvement make you go forward, in hopes of getting more rewards and improvements.

Multiplayer games especially love to create an addiction to their games, as more people addicted to it, means more people paying monthly subscriptions and DLC. Cracked have an incredible article with all the mechanics used to create the addiction in detail, which I will not enter here. But it makes sense commercially speaking. How will you keep players doing the same things over and over again (paying for doing it)? You hard-wire their brains to keep playing.

Arcades did it in their time with the high score tables and points system. You get some points, get a life or credits to keep playing and putting quarters in the machine. Now games like World of Warcraft keep their players by offering occasional rewards. You are compelled to keep playing and paying for it.

We all know horrible cases of addicted players who died because they keep playing for days and not feeding themselves or gaming parents who let their children die because they were too busy with their games. But that is the more extreme cases.

Take the PSN outage for example. How many gamers became enraged because they could not play on-line for a few weeks? Many treated the problem as a life and death situation. This is sign of addiction. Or the achievements/trophies system? Many of us get out of our way to receive this meaningless reward. I mean, most achievements are not linked to a new unlock, it is just a pop-up image and a chime. And yet many of us actively seek for them. Reward, motivation, memory.

Caiters argues against the proposition:

There are two ways to look at addiction: a physical, chemical addiction or more of a behavioral addiction.

Let’s take a look at the physical side of things:

You release “happy” chemicals, like dopamine, into your brain when performing rewarding activities. This is your brain’s way of saying that you’re having fun and that you’ve done something right – and a feeling of elation usually ensues. This is the feeling that you get when you play video games, or participate in a form of entertainment that excites you. It’s also a feeling you can achieve via drugs – which is partially the reason why so many are addictive.

Addiction plays a role when a person is able to achieve a higher amount of dopamine in the brain compared with other “normal” activities. However, research has yet to prove that video games can cause the release of abnormal amounts of dopamine into the brain compared with activities, or even drug use. In fact, in 2007 the American Medical Association could not definitively say that playing video games can cause a psychiatric addiction. They stated that there is insufficient evidence to label the effects of gaming as an official disorder.

Are video games addictive from a physical standpoint? Research says no, for now.

Now let’s take a look at the other form of addiction, behavioral:

Behavioral addiction is usually attributed based on the mannerisms or characteristics displayed while performing a typically “addictive” activity that does not rely on drug use. These activities typically include sex and gambling, as well as shopping and some other everyday events. Based on history and personality type, some people are more susceptible to becoming addicted to an activity than others. For example, someone could be addicted to pruning their garden to perfection for whatever reason – due to a general feeling of excitement or perhaps some back-story in their history. But gardening is not an addictive activity – there is no proof that gardening makes you physically become addicted to the task of digging in the dirt.

I believe the same can be said for gaming, or sex, or any other amusing activity. The reason why we usually choose these activities over others is because they’re simply more fun, entertaining, or profitable than other tasks. Not everyone is created the same but a large majority of people would choose something entertaining like playing a video game over dusting, or having sex over sitting in a rocking chair, etc. This is also why parents are concerned about their children spending too much time with video games – because they are more likely to choose it over important (but boring) tasks like homework.

However, this does not mean that video games are responsible for addiction. People can become behaviorally addicted to anything based on their personality, background, or if they simply choose to. Gaming is not responsible for the addiction.

Are videogames addictive from a behavioral standpoint? No – only if you choose so.

Videogames are not addictive from either a physical or a behavioral standpoint. Just like any other recreational or entertaining activity, there is fun – and fun is just a feeling that we all want to achieve. There is no physical or behavioral trigger that is associated with the press of a start button. Videogames are simply pleasurable – and those who display “addict” behaviors are either susceptible or choose to do so of their own volition.


Many thanks to ManWithNoName and Caiters for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (ManWithNoName and Caiters) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment MANWITH or CAITERS depending on whether you support the proposition (MANWITH) or you oppose the proposition (CAITERS). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with WANWITH or CAITERS may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 8th August. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 7th August for your vote to count.   read

3:56 PM on 08.02.2011

MassDebate: Is there enough racial diversity in videogames? - RESULTS

Welcome to the results on a tough MassDebate! It was one of those debates in which the argument is dissected and criticised, with every avenue accounted for. Unsurprising, given the somewhat controversial nature of the argument.

More so than ever, videogames have pushed themselves into gritty realism. Gone are the days of blocky sprites and blooping noises, and here to stay are games with characters of human fidelity in appearance and interaction with the world. As a relatively novel concept in videogames, it would be glaringly apparent that, in order to be taken seriously, videogames need to represent the spectrum of humanity. To do this accurately would inevitably require a diversity of races, such as that which exists in the world today. This is where last week's MassDebate comes into stark relief.

Congratulations to Batthink and commiserations to Keelut2012.

Here are some highlights from the comments:

"Games really aren't that diverse when it comes to actual human races. Garcia Hotspur, for instance, is a Mexican bad-ass, but Mr. Garcia doesn't represent a race, only an ethnicity. As a Hispanic, how can you make a Hispanic look Hispanic if Hispanic is not a race? Garcia could be a blonde with blue eyes and still be Mexican. Is being Hispanic only defined by your name? I'm Hispanic, yet I don't have a Spanish name... See how complicated it is? "

"I want the diversity, but also the bravery, interest and dedication to bringing some actual culture to these pallet and cheekbone swaps to represent some beyond marketing demographics. I wish as much for the "white male" characters even."

"I feel like some races should tackle other occupations that don't align with stereotype."

dr spaceman
"There can never be enough diversity in video games, because attempting to represent all the different people who play video games is beneficial to all of us, spreading awareness and acceptance and hugs and kisses."

"You'll also notice racial diversity within games occurs most often in games with rosters or groups and often as supporting characters. Most developers are content to have a white male with a shaved head to relate to their playerbase, creating the canonShep effect."

"Places like IGN are still think it's a risky decision to use a black lead. I really hope people aren't that shallow..."

"I think it’s utterly insane that Yakuza is the only Japanese game about Japanese people who actually look Japanese, I don’t see how that’s a good sign when it’s the only game that does that even within its own country."

"Cole is more of an action-movie representation of the cool black guy. It's the Will Smith/Bad Boys approach, where the character fears nothing, treats everything knowingly like a game and generally has a quip for everything. Not that it wouldn't be realistic, certainly not in the context of the storyline, but I find him less relatable because he's hyper-realised character."

"The problem is not how much minorities are portrayed in games, because they are portrayed a lot. It is the quality of the portrayal. It still is heavily stereotyped, with Latins as drug dealers, Arabs as terrorist, Russians as unhappy former KGB/soldiers, etc...There is no diversity in the portrayal of the 'races' (a word I hate, I prefer ethnicity). "

Occams electric toothbrush
"I feel like a lot of games have become good at including an ethnic character but that seems to be where it stops. They rarely are fully realized characters who convey the views of their culture beyond the stereotypes we are all aware of. Maybe games aren't in a place technology-wise or writing-wise where they can have those fully realized characters but I think in time (and much sooner rather than later) we will get that true ethnic diversity."

"Overall, I do think that we are seeing racial diversity and the trend is in a positive direction (MAG allows for various races to play for any faction... unlike the old FPS division of blond white guys on one team, and middle eastern "terrorists" on the other team."

Byronic Man
"If the issue is that too many ethnic representatives in video games are just charicatures, I don't think you can argue against the proposition either because this problem very much includes vanilla-white characters, too. Overall, writing in the medium is just flat out bad - that's not a qualm of any overbearing ethnic uniformity."

"For a black character, [...Dudley from Street Fighter III/IV...] keeps a wide berth of the usual stereotypes. For a Brit, yeah, he's a pretty broad stroke - he's a scarfed kipper and cockney orphan sidekick away from becoming the nadir of easy dime-store British-ness. And I guess the value of trading one stereotype for another is questionable, but you should keep in mind, semi-offensive cultural stereotypes are pretty much Street Fighter's stock-in-trade. You're still coming out way ahead of India, Jamaica, Russia, and poor Brazil, who don't even get a Brazilian, but a green monster whose real name is Jimmy..."

"I don't think we'll ever have "too much" diversity in games at this point, and honestly I'd rather have a select few robust, diverse characters with strong depth vs a thousand lousy half-assed characters with color thrown on them."

"I would argue that it's more an issue of developers being afraid to create interesting and unusual characters because they're afraid players won't like them, and it'll ruin sales, than racial bias per se."

Mr Andy Dixon
"We should celebrate ALL diversity -- no matter how unbelievable -- lest we end up with a bunch of boring characters based solely in reality. These are videogames, after all; they're meant to be fun!"

Isay Isay
"I want a realistic, down-to-earth game...that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots."

Corduroy Turtle
"Look at Madden Football guys. I think video games are doing just fine."

Many thanks to everyone who contributed in the comments. Somewhat of a change from the billing, tomorrow we will be arguing: Are videogames addictive?

Sean Daisy   read

12:22 AM on 07.31.2011

MassDebate: Are videogames too focused on destruction? - RESULTS

Apologies for the lengthy delay on getting these results to you! I was planning on not holding this up much later than Wednesday.

It was originally intended that falsenipple was going to put forth the argument against the proposition for this week, but unfortunately he has not been available, so after a fruitless search to find someone to argue against the proposition in time I stepped up. I have to say I am surprised at how one sided the result came out, but it is not to say anything against Malik's argument, which I believe was sound.

Ultimately, the argument was going to be a struggle with a crowd who are accustomed to the variety of games that are out there, and are accepting of those titles that do have violent content. In hindsight, Malik had the tougher job; to try to convince us that what we have and enjoy isn't necessarily the ideal.

Many thanks again to Malik for his contribution, and commiserations on his defeat.

Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

"This proposition is akin to arguing that books are too focused on romance, due to the large number of romance novels. Sure, there are a lot of harlequins, but that doesn't mean that mystery or history readers can't find new titles consistently."

Occams electric toothbrush
"Malik makes a good point at the end about games covering a wider variety of subjects but I see that as the direction games are currently heading rather than just where they need to go."

"I don't think the "problem" with games being too focused on destruction is that they won't be accepted by a broad audience due to a lack of appealing content, I think the "problem" would be a lack of variety for the current gaming community, or having a harmful effect on the gamer."

The Silent Protagonist
"We don't really have a shortage of non-destructive games out there and many have endured and continued to appeal over the years. Animal Crossing, Tetris, sports titles, music titles - there's really too much to list.

I guess if I had any criticism of destruction and violence, it would be that its not really the only way a game has to be designed.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and the Deus Ex games are games I can actually play through and avoid killing most if not all the time. Peace Walker places an emphasis on building an army of mercenaries and you can't really recruit if you kill everyone. You can play through all of a Deus Ex game and two options you have among others are that you can avoid confrontations or talk your way out of a situation that could have otherwise ended in violence.

I think that's a commendable design aspect and something we could use more of."

"One of my favourite new games actually talks about death more than it does create it. The game is [i]Portal 2[i] and if I recall correctly you don't actually ever kill anything."

"It's funny that you both brought up The Sims, because one of my favorite things to do in The Sims was to destroy the houses and families that I created. I know that's not the way the game is meant to be played, but it's still an option for gamers. The same can be said about Minecraft and many other games that are supposed to be focused on creation rather than destruction (griefers, anyone?). "

"I'm a woman who likes to wield a big sword and hack annoying critters to pieces, or I love to play shooter games and hear the emminently satisfying sound of a headshot.

I am also a strong proponent that shooter games are not really violent or destructive games - they are more like sports. You play with a team and the mechanics of the game are to get kills and achieve certain objectives, while avoiding getting killed by the enemy (or losing your objectives). The rules of the game lend themselves to a war environment and guns... but that's just background noise and often the real "game" is all about cooperation, strategy and communication."

"Games are too focused on destruction. Is that a bad thing? When given the power of a god in this universe, what would you do. Some would create. Good for you. The rest of us however are going to shoot, kill and maim. Because that is our inherent interest when we are given power. To see how far we can push the boundaries of common sense. "

"While there really is an abundance of games without violence, i wish there were more big budget blockbuster games which could feature this. If nothing else, going without violence typically requires a little more creativity in gameplay besides kill things. Can you imagine a massive RPG or adventure title where killing isn't an option?"

"True, a lot of games are violent and about stuff that involves destruction/violence but the destruction itself is usually merely a byproduct of the action in the game and not the sole focus of the game. And on top of that plenty of games revolve around completely non-violent content and still appeal to adults en masse."

"The thing is, when developers or boardroom execs try to target an audience that goes within the boundaries of what Malik was trying to get at, I keep getting images of those horrible games marketed at kids/girls/ladies that have a 'forced' edge that not only puts off the group that the game was originally intended for, but everyone else too. Quality is also a factor.

I know those types of games are not what Malik would like, but all too often money and power overrides the reason that he wants brought about. It's not just the economics and boardroom policies that have to change, but the whole idea of recognising what the 'outside' target audience wants and expects."

Isay Isay
"Interesting topic to bring up on DESTRUCToid"

The results for the racial diversity MassDebate should be in on Monday as scheduled! Phew!

Sean Daisy   read

3:43 PM on 07.26.2011

MassDebate: Is there enough racial diversity in videogames?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

I'm afraid I am running late with last week's results, but I should have them with you by tomorrow. In the meantime, you guys deserve a fresh topic!

The proposition: There is enough racial diversity in videogames

Keelut2012 argues in favor of the proposition:

When thinking of the concept of racial diversity many people immediately jump to categorizations of black and white. If there aren’t enough black people included in a group, the group is racist. But there are plenty of other races to be considered in the demographics of the world. Some of them even have white skin but could not be more different from their Caucasian counterparts.

Every corner of the game-o-verse.

Diversity, or lack thereof, is an issue that arises often in the real world, and has been the inspiration of many protests, outcries, and revolutions. But I assure you there is no need to organize a march over the racial balancing of our video game characters, as there are plenty of them representing our international brethren the world over in every generation from the NES to the PS3.

Let’s start with the present. We live in an age of unprecedented understanding and acceptance, and although we still have a ways to go, great strides have been made in attempting to make all men equal (ladies, your day is coming soon I promise). This recent nonchalance of racial inclusivity is represented in our modern video game industry as well.

Three much-anticipated announcements/releases from this year star black men as their protagonists in the forms of Emmet Graves, Sgt. James Heller, and Andre Bishop of StarHawk, Prototype 2, and Fight Night Champion respectively. Perusing the C-blogs and talking with friends I get the impression that people think there is a shortage of non-white protagonists in the game world. But looking back I recall a number of memorable ones. I loved playing through Borderlands as the soldier Roland (black), with my friend playing as the hunter Mordecai (Hispanic).

Tell this guy he’s not black, I dare you.

Ubisoft’s latest Assassin does all his neck-puncturing in Italia, and passes down the flag to Jackie Estacado spreading The Darkness in New York. Garcia Hotspur from Suda51’s recent Shadows of the Damned is straight out of Mexico – perhaps like Travis Touchdown with his luchador moves and original spicy accent?

We’re four iterations into the Japanese-developed Yakuza series, and wall-running was equally dizzying in Mirror's Edge and Stranglehold with Faith and Detective Tequila respectively, both of whom are of Asian descent.

And of course there were these cultural gems.

We know Luis Lopez from The Ballad of Gay Tony has a natural tan. In fact, the only *white* GTA protagonist since 2001 was Johnny from The Lost and The Damned, and that was just DLC content. Going backwards in time we have Niko Bellic who I’m pretty sure is no all-American QB, Huang Lee of Chinese handheld fame, then CJ – the very incarnation of the hood, and finally Tommy Vercetti who wanted to be Scarface so bad he stored chainsaws in his pants.

Likewise the famed Prince of Persia has always been, well, Persian – even in the fourth iteration with Nolan North, if you’re willing to accept that as a valid entry in the series. Which might bring up a different interesting issue of un-diverse voice acting, since games like movies seem to assume that people are too stupid to realize not every other country in the world has a British accent. Though they may be right on many accounts.

Bullshit bullshit bullshit.

Time travelling further back we have the likes of Twisted Metal, Power Stone, and Gauntlet Legends – all of which featured a multi-ethnic cast of playable characters. Even our favorite princess-saving plumber who practically kicked off this whole craze we’re so addicted to is from the land of gondolas and good cooking.

Thank God for this TV show.

Nowadays many games let us design our own characters, choose who we want to be – The Sims, Fallout, Mass Effect, Oblivion, Saints Row – all allow us to select how diverse we want to be. But I think the more important point is that it really doesn’t matter all that much. We game to get away, and many of us seem to have forgotten that. Thankfully, the developers haven’t.

I still hold to my point that games are sufficiently racially diverse, but I’d also like to posit that they’re sufficiently *entirely* diverse. We play as bears, robots, aliens, hamsters, and demons. Games are made about flowers, about fish, about stars, and colors and music. They don’t care if you’re black or white. And until it becomes a problem we shouldn’t accuse them of it.

Batthink argues against the proposition:

Do you think every race on this planet is represented enough in videogames? Can you honestly say that your chosen hobby is doing a good job of displaying individuals you could identify with? Can you at least be satisfied that, if the character was a bit of a stereotype, you would still be happy with him/her if there was enough personality, respect or other element that would help them rise above being a joke?

Because in all honesty, I have enough evidence to say that quite a few racial groups aren’t.

I am not looking for a bland, homogeneous, politically-correct atmosphere where nobody is offended and everybody is nice to each other. If there is to be more characters of a racial persuasion that needs it, then it has to happen naturally and in its own time. I won’t even try to be that harsh to the stereotypical characters, because every once in a while, someone has to use those to make a statement and not simply for stirring up other’s sensitivities. Also, I’d prefer to talk about mainstream characters rather than those from independent titles, since they are more likely to gather the visual exposure from all types of audiences, and thus have the most influence.

Which groups do have enough representation? Well, it doesn’t come as much surprise that as the main superpowers in videogame development, Europe, America and Japan, both white and oriental characters are overwhelmingly supported. Delve a little deeper and there’s still a group within those areas that I believe still needs a bit of work on; the Russian and East European communities. They seem to be a continued victim of the eighties’ need for a bad guy, typecast in communist/gangster roles. Who flies the flag for them, other than Zangief? We have Niko Belic, the main protagonist of GTA IV, who, although has a better filled-out personality and his own code of values than many others, wouldn’t sit comfortable with me as someone I’d like to represent a group within videogames.

Revolver Ocelot, too, has a certain coolness that is not only present in the first Metal Gear Solid, but the third game in the series as his younger incarnation. But he is a bad guy. If these are the only two major Russian/East European individuals I can remember from memory and I need to try and look at wiki pages for Metro 2033 and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games to check for more positive examples, then we have a serious image problem. A problem that is being continued in the Modern Warfare games and Vanquish. Somebody over in a former communist country is listening to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ with a certain sadness in their heart right now.

There does, on a more positive side, seem to be more development for the Black and Hispanic societies in videogames nowadays. Regarding examples for the former, Valve started off with the everyman character of Louis in Left 4 Dead, then introduced football coach, erm, Coach and journalist Rochelle in the sequel. Feels pretty generous compared to the 16-bit era where you had to make do with Street Fighter’s Balrog and DeeJay. Yes, we still have the bad examples (Dudley from SFIII/IV, Cole Train from Gears of War), but with extra foundations being laid by Jade (Beyond Good and Evil), Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2) and Darci Stern (Urban Chaos), steps are being taken in the right direction, but steps that also need to be capitalised on.

Hispanics have had a more difficult time of it, but this is beginning to change too. For example, Garcia Hotspur, whom Destructoid member Bacon&eggs praised to high heaven in the recent Shadows of the Damned. Suda51’s characters have now risen beyond his love of the luchadore wrestler and developed into someone with appeal. But for every one of those characters, there are about five more games willing to play up the corrupt Mexican/Central/South American drug dealer or gang member. Like I said, times are tough, but change is coming steadily.

Which can be more than said for those of Arab and Asian persuasion. Other than Dhalsim and Hakan (Capcom stereotypes again), we have… the main character from Prince of Persia. There have to be better examples out there. Why not put yourself in the role of a Middle Eastern anti-terrorist unit, which I’m sure most of those countries have? I’m sure our very own Hamza Aziz would like a few guys of his own culture that he wouldn’t mind playing as.

As for others, they are very much left wanting. For instance, Tommy in Prey is the only mainstream example of someone who doesn’t play to any over-exaggerated pigeon-hole in the Native American protagonist, whilst the second Gears of War has the best delegate I’ve seen for the Maori in the form of Tai Kaliso. Shame he dies less than heroically in the game.

To summarise, the racial diversity is there, but there still isn’t enough of it. Since videogames have been a recent medium that have only come to prominence in the last few decades, it is natural that some issues still need to be addressed in mainstream gaming. Once again I must stress that it will take time. One day, I’ll be pretty sure that there will be enough diversity, but for now we’ll have to wait.

Many thanks to Keelut2012 and Batthink for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (Keelut2012 and Batthink) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment KEELUT or BATTHINK depending on whether you support the proposition (KEELUT or you oppose the proposition (BATTHINK). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with KEELUT or BATTHINK may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 1st August. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 31st July for your vote to count.   read

4:16 PM on 07.19.2011

MassDebate: Are videogames too focused on destruction?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

The proposition: Videogames are too focused on destruction.

Malik argues in favor of the proposition:

Over the past few E3s both Sony and Microsoft have been trying their hand at motion controls because of the massive success of the Nintendo Wii. They've both succeeded and failed to varying lengths at this point. I've personally never been a fan of motion control games and I don't think think they're going about what they're attempting to do in the most productive way, but I sympathize and wholeheartedly with what they're attempting to do: broaden the video game demographic. The reason this is imperative is because of not only how narrow video games have been since their gestation period, but of how narrow they've been getting over the past 7 or 8 years.

If you will peruse the Game Critics Awards for Best of E3 which is as official as official can be for E3 awards you'll notice a trend. Virtually every game that is nominated, sans a few handheld, social/casual and mobile games, all feature destruction to varying degrees. I will like to note that I'm not against destruction in videogames. Videogames could however just be so much more.

I know we all hate comparing other mediums to video games, but it must be done for this conversation to continue. You'll always people in the medium, be they fans or in the media, discuss that videogames will be culturally acceptable once all the old fogies are dead. I don't think this is true though. I believe videogames have far more in common with comic books than television, film and literature. The central reason for this is, the vast majority of what's promoted be the press and by the fans is only targeted towards a niche. I know the natural inclination is to point towards the fact that it's still the fastest growing industry and blah blah blah, that has far more to do with the fact that videogames are far more expensive than the other mediums and outside of the PC and handheld it's far harder and more time consuming to pirate (hell, download a demo of) a videogame versus a dozen albums or movies. Back to the point, as we all know comic books have been around for roughly a century at this point and they have never penetrated into the mainstream outside of big events like Superman dying or a film tie in. This is because they have largely, and still largely, only attempt to cater to the adolescent white male. There are certainly other people who enjoy the same comics and certainly other creators who don't fit into this scope, but the vast majority of what is paid attention and remembered are those stories that cater to them.

We have now reached the point that I have been building up to. If videogames want to continue to be an ever growing medium and sustain growth for people who aren't traditionally into videogames, then they're going to have to stop exclusively making the same videogames that we always have. And given that there is already precedent for 'alternative' game styles to be successful, there isn't any excuse to try. The highest selling game and franchise on the PC of all time is The Sims. And the majority of the people that actually play The Sims are women. Shock & awe, women are more likely to play games that contain situations that would be of interest to them. Another franchise that did extremely well, before being oversaturated, was the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchise and is being spiritually continued with Dance Central being the only viable game for the Kinect. The reason these have connected with people who don't traditionally game is because they do things that you don't do in traditionally in gaming. I know, the idea that not everyone is interested in space epics, swords and dragons, military shooters, and grittiness is a jarring bit of knowledge. But it is nonetheless true. Until videogames have the breadth in topics, locales, conflicts and characters of film or literature, they will never be as widely accepted for the simple fact that the majority of people aren't interested in the things the majority of videogames cover.

Sean Daisy argues against the proposition:

Before I begin, I understand that videogames that contain destruction are very successful in the industry. I'd be a fool to argue against that, and luckily I don't have to. My argument is to counter the proposition that videogames are too focused on destruction. Well, that's a whole different board game.

Firstly, let's reveal the elephant in the room: Videogames have always been destructive!

From Space Invaders through to Mass Effect 2 we have played cover shooters against space aliens. From Operation Wolf to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare we have thrilled at military action. Even "family-friendly" Nintendo's output, such as the Mario, Zelda and Metroid series, are technically violent and destructive games. Videogames have often been violent and destructive.

Videogames are, much like the majority of popular media, simultaneously an art, entertainment and a business. Predominantly, it is in the interest of the developer to make the games that people play and are entertained by, because that gets the sales and makes the money.

Violence and destruction is an extremely effective way of entertaining. Violence and destruction is stimulating. It is primal. Hollywood was born out of silent film slapstick. Cartoons that popularised violence paved the way for modern animation. Let's not pretend that these industries are looked upon badly for their introduction and continued use of violence to entertain their audience. Even games which would be considered family-friendly and non-violent, such as the aforementioned Mario series, Boom Blox and Angry Birds, revel in destruction.

The only people that can be blamed or thanked for the continued success of destructive games, though, are the consumers. If they keep buying them, then games are an industry serving their public, and they will continue to make them.

These really aren't the only games getting made, though.

There are very many games that have been developed that are not destructive. Rhythm action, simulation, platformer, sports, puzzle and driving games have all had a significant role to play in the history of videogames.

Here's the kicker though; they still do. They haven't gone anywhere. You can still go out and buy them!

Modern games such as LittleBigPlanet, Forza 3, The Sims 3, FIFA, Flower, Bejeweled, Farmville, Just Dance, Wii Sports Resort, Professor Layton, Brain Training and Minecraft (to really name but a scant few) are a constant reminder that non-destructive videogames have not gone anywhere, and are in fact as successful and popular as destructive videogames.

Videogames still have more than plenty of room for the gamer who doesn't like to predominantly shoot, punch, or blow things up. The Sims is in its third iteration and still going strong. Nintendo's paradigm shift to the casual and family market made its the most popular console going. The PC, Wii and DS have housed dozens of non-destructive games that all ages can enjoy. Sony and Microsoft, with Move and Kinect respectively, have similarly been desperate to get in on the act.

We're looking at the first era where you can talk about games with your family. Older and younger relatives may own a PC, a DS or a Wii. That wouldn't happen if videogames are too focused on destruction.

In conclusion: Not only are videogames not wholly focused on destruction, not only are non-violent games more popular than ever, but also those games that employ destruction are simply serving as entertainment, which is neither harmful to gamers nor the industry.

Let's not fight about it!

Many thanks to Malik for his contribution.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (Malik and Sean Daisy) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment MALIK or SEAN depending on whether you support the proposition (MALIK) or you oppose the proposition (SEAN). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with MALIK or SEAN may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 25th July. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 24th July for your vote to count.   read

12:31 PM on 07.18.2011

MassDebate: Has rhythm action gaming had its heyday? RESULTS

Welcome to your regularly scheduled MassDebate! The results are in on last week's discussion on rhythm action gaming and the general feeling was quite strong in leaning toward a rejection that we have seen rhythm gaming's greatest days.

Nostradamus did a lot of prediction work and he can tell you that it's not exactly straightforward. Anyone could come along and say what the future will bring but what the future does bring you is inevitably tricky to model.

However, history has taught us that some genres have their day in the sun. Platformers were once the height of popularity and it showed in the sheer volume of titles. Nowadays, platformers are a niche genre. Some have seen the spectacular rise and staggering decline in popularity of rhythm action gaming and predicted a similar fate. It seems, as far as our community goes, the jury is still out on that one.

Congratulations to Wolfy-Boey on his victory, and commiserations to GoofierBrute on his defeat.

Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

Alasdair Duncan
“I think we're talking about rhythm games having success in the mainstream, and I think that's passed. Over saturation killed it, to the point where all the people I know who invested in Guitar Hero and Rock Band bought one game and then baulked at the thought of buying a sequel with more plastic instruments.

Wolfey is right, rhythm games don't begin and end with just Guitar Hero/Rock Band, but their time in the sun has passed.”

“Quirky music games are still going strong in Japan, and will continue to do so, but most of them will not be localized. For everyone else we're going to get dancing games for a while until people get sick of that, and then the only music games we're going to get are Rock Band and the occasional XBLA or iOS music game. Music games are one of my favorite genre of videogames, but I can't ignore that the genre has pretty much died in North America. It makes me sad, but I can't ignore the truth.”

“I think there's life left in the genre, the world just needs a little break is all.

It didn't help that we had 36,000,000 music games released in a year or two, and each came with an expensive instrument bundle. It didn't help that all the most iconic tracks of the last 50 years had been featured on the first batch of games.

I don't think it needs innovating because the core concept of rocking out in your living room will never leave our collective desires. All we need is a rest, even the most hardcore of rock bands need a break between albums and that's all us lounge room rhythm gods need.”

Occams electric toothbrush
“I think rhythm games are just changing and growing. People love video games. People love music. It's like the chocolate and peanut butter of electronic media.”

“It's no secret that I love music games. As Wolf said, there is more than just Guitar Hero and Rock Band out there. Rez HD, Child of Eden, DJ Hero 2, Dance Central and more still sell today. The peripheral games may need a break but there are other music games that will keep the beat going (See what I did there?!).”

“Much as I'm not personally a fan of rhythm based games, I can certainly see lots of applications for these games with the growth of motion control on consoles, but also with the new tablet devices. I think that rhythm based games have applications for the blind and handicapped that haven't even been explored yet.

In addition to the use of music to provoke the rhythm, I can see that in gaming for visually impaired, there might be all kinds of games that use some form of auditory input to indicate the appropriate reaction, with additional output ... a story could even be told with the inputs being simple audio cues to evoke motions that allow the story to continue in varying directions.

I don't know that "rhythm" is necessarily music related... it can simply be timed reactions to auditory cues creating a new way of gaming.”

Corduroy Turtle
“I agree with a lot of Wolfy-Boey's statements and definitely agree that rhythm games still have life left in them. It is an evolving genre that will no doubt go through many more iterations and changes in the future. Wolfy did a wonderful job of reminding me of how broad the genre actually is and I was *this* close to voting for him.

But then I remember exactly how crazy it was at the absolute height of Guitar Hero and Rock Band's popularity. It's a peak that Dance Central, Zumba or Rhythm Heaven won't get anywhere near. Rhythm games have most certainly reached their heyday but that's not to say that there's no life left in them, just that the sensation crested at an insanely high point.”

“Like a past debate, people so readily dismiss the idea of innovation in a form they can't imagine at this time. What kind of rhythm game will we see in the future? We have no idea; it might be wondrous far beyond what we've seen so far. All it takes is for some creative individual to dream it up and build it. The same way stick-and-button controls may be gone in the future, we might get crazy rhythm games.

Besides which, popularity of these things seems to go in waves. Assuming we're using similar technology say, 20 years from now, video game companies then could re-release all the games we have right now (or a smart subset of them) and reach the same heights of popularity with the next generation of youngsters.”

“The fact that the dance games (particularly Just Dance on the Wii) are popular mean that rhythm-action hasn't had its heyday yet. One thing Move, Kinect and Wii have done right is to employ the human body (along with a basic controller) to get involved in those games. “

“Rhythm games have certainly cooled down, but they are hardly a thing of the past. Rock Band is still the best party game around, as in the case with my circle of friends it went from being something we did at a party, to something we would base an entire party around. They have a socializing effect and a draw to non-gamers that I don't think any other genre has.”

Tuesday sees MassDebate look more broadly and considers the proposition: Videogames are too focused on destruction. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Sean Daisy   read

2:46 PM on 07.12.2011

MassDebate: Has rhythm action gaming had its heyday?

Welcome to MassDebate! We take a controversial topic, form a proposition, and set two contenders the challenge of stating their case in favor of and in opposition to the proposition. After which, users may vote to decide which contender they support. Rules for voting are at the bottom of the blog, but it is recommended that you read the contenders' cases before you cast your vote.

The proposition: Rhythm action gaming has had its heyday

GoofierBrute states his case for the proposition:

There’s no denying that rhythm action games (or rhythm games as they are commonly known as) have left an indelible mark on the history of the video games industry. It has given us many excellent games, has generated billions in revenue for major publishers, and it has helped greatly in making gaming an acceptable pastime in the eyes of the general populace.

However, the days of the rhythm game being successful and relevant are things of the past. What once was a guaranteed easy buck for publishers is now a former shell of itself, with all but the most hardcore of fans still willing to put down the money for them. There have been a lot of theories that have been given as to why the rhythm genre has died down, but I feel that there are two primary reasons why it’s no longer a relevant genre:

1. Oversaturation: perhaps the biggest reason why you no longer see many rhythm games is also the simplest: the market was oversaturated by rhythm games. During the second resurgence of the genre (which is said to have started in 2005 with the creation of the first Guitar Hero), big hitters in the genre like Guitar Hero & Rock Band were releasing on a yearly basis, with four Rock Band titles in 2009, and five Guitar Hero titles in 2010 (seven if you count the spin offs DJ Hero & Band Hero) This wouldn’t have been a problem if it was for primary reason number two :

2. Lack of innovation/evolution: every genre has in one way or another innovated or evolved to make themselves relevant as hardware and technology evolve. Modern first person shooters like Call of Duty have regenerating health. Japanese style role playing games like Tales of Graces and The Last Story eliminated the random encounters with monsters, making battles a more strategic experience. Modern rhythm games on the other hand have done very little to differentiate themselves from their earliest beginnings.

Sure, the ability to sing along with the songs in addition to playing a instrument wasn’t something that was fully realized until Rock Band, and the music maker in Guitar Hero: World Tour was a very cool add-on, and shaking your hips in Dance Central to “Funky Town” is genuinely hilarious, but other than these minor upgrades, the only things that truly separates the original Dance Dance Revolution and PaRappa the Rapper from the aforementioned in terms of gameplay are the song tracks. You are still timing your button presses, voice, hips, etc. to the beat of a song and getting graded on how well (or in my case how bad) you did. And as stated in my first point, when these are games that are coming out on a yearly basis, it quickly becomes apparent to the average consumer that it’s in their best interest to spend their sixty bucks (assuming they have the instruments already, if not then much more than that) on a game that doesn't feel like an exact copy of the game they bought last year.

Now, despite me being negative in this entire argument, I do have a confession to make: I enjoy this genre and the games it has given us. Not enjoy as in “I have five started everything on expert”, but enjoy as in “if I’m with some friends and I’m in the mood, I like to rock out with some Motorhead and Billy Idol on Rock Band 2”. And I feel that a lot of Dtoiders and gamers in general have that attitude. But this isn’t a debate over whether or not these games are good or if it’s fun to watch a three-hundred pound twenty-something shake their hips to a Lady Gaga song. This is a debate over whether or not the rhythm action game genre has had its heyday. And I can say without a doubt that it indeed has.

Wolfy-Boey states his case against the proposition:

Let’s get this out of the first, shall we?

Yes, the Guitar Hero franchise- and all its subsidiaries- is officially dead (“resting” as Activision would say). The latest iteration of it's most formidable competitor Rock Band, while certainly successful, has proven to be a bit of a disappointment at retail. As a result of this, publishers have seemingly abandoned any sort clone/copy cat they had initially planned. All except for Ubisoft, of course.

These are cold hard facts which I cannot neither deny nor ignore. But it’s these same facts that have given birth to the popular notion that rhythm based games have somehow had their heyday and this where I have to draw the line between fact and myth. The reality is, contrary to what most would have you believe, music games have never been better. Here’s why.

Through the immense popularity and runaway success of the Guitar Hero games, people’s perception of what a rhythm based game is has been narrowed down to one thing and one thing only; expensive plastic instruments. Thus, when the series came to an abrupt (and unjust!) end, many were quick to assume that this would mean the demise of the music game genre as a whole. However, there’s a misunderstanding, the death of the “*Insert Instrument* Hero” games does not and has not meant the damming of the music game genre as a whole, but the death of peripheral based music games.

Yet the genre is currently enjoying quite a healthy life in both retail and digital markets. In fact, there are more music games now there ever were. Guitar Hero and it's kind may have had their day, but the impact they've had on the industry is absolute. Gone are the days where rhythm games are deemed financially unviable prospects. As an example, Rock Band 3 was labelled a disappointment because it sold only over a million copies worldwide. Compare that to the days where the most “successful” rhythm games were PaRappa The Rapper and Samba De Amigo.

Just as well, and true to the medium it's inspired by, rhythm based games have proven to be quite versatile and have shown to manifest in a variety of ways, rearing their head in a multitude of other genres like some shape-shifting baboon (oh, they exist). It's one of the few genres where there are no real conventions or preconceived notions developers feel obligated to follow. Take a look at the following games as an example: Patapon, Rhythm Heaven, The Bit. Trip. series, Elite Beats Agents and Everyday Shooter. Each one of these titles uses music in their own individual way to bring a unique experience to the player. With so much versatility, it almost makes it hard to believe that theses games could be even considered to be in the same league as one another. It's that same versatility that will also lead music games to newfound blockbuster success. Actually, it already has.

Dance games have become the hottest commodity in town, with Just Dance and Zumba Fitness dominating the market with an iron (upwardly pumped) fist. Now to those of you who may be thinking, "Dance games aren't rhythm based games" I ask you: How is not? The act of dancing in and of itself is a rhythm based game, encouraging one to "shake it like a salt-shaker" in accordance to the music that's being played. If thats not a rhythm based game, then I don't know what is.

So, do I think rhythm based games have has their day? Heck no! In fact, I'd go as far as to say that we're in the golden age of rhythm gaming. So sit back, turn up the volume and get ready, for the time of your life.

Many thanks to GofierBrute and Wolfy-Boey for their contributions.

Now, the ground rules for voting:

1. The users that set out the MassDebate (GoofierBrute and Wolfy-Boey) are not eligible to vote. (we can guess where their allegiances lie)

2. Feel free to comment at any point before, during or after you have voted.

3. To vote, begin your comment GOOF or WOLF depending on whether you support the proposition (GOOF) or you oppose the proposition (WOLF). The rest of your comment can be used to, you know, comment.

4. Only comments that begin with GOOF or WOLF may be considered in the voting process. Ensure you are spelling your vote correctly and placing it in capitals.

5. One vote per user. Only your first vote will count; there are no do-overs. Do not spam the comments. Don’t bully other users into voting your way. Let’s keep it clean. Don’t be a wang.

6. Your voting should be based on the strength of the arguments set out by the contenders. Though your opinion may go some way towards forming your decision, do try to be as impartial as you can muster.

7. Any failure to undertake these rules or any ambiguity surrounding your vote may damage the chance of your vote counting. Whether or not your vote ultimately counts is at MassDebate's discretion. Maximise your chances by voting correctly.

8. The vote total will be accumulated and the results given on Mon 18th July. Ensure you get your vote in by Sun 17th July for your vote to count.   read

8:23 AM on 07.10.2011

MassDebate upcoming dates: 12th July - 15th August

Hi guys! You may have noticed that MassDebate hasn't been around for a little bit. Well, to make it up for you I have planned ahead and set out the scheduling for the forthcoming MassDebate debates!

Check the names here because if you are on the list below and have a * against you it means I have yet to receive an email at CAPTAINBUS AT GMAIL DOT COM containing your submission. Please send it in as soon as you can, or get in touch to let me know where things stand. If you can't find time to do the submission, that is absolutely fine, but please let me know as soon as you can so I can make arrangements.

If this proves to be a winner then I'll try to schedule ahead more often in the future. Let me know in the comments if you like this method, or you would rather be surprised by the next topic.

[UPDATE: ZodiacEclipse has rightly pointed out that entering a MassDebate is now forum badgeworthy! By contributing to a MassDebate, you are entitled to a spiffy MassDebate badge which can be claimed at your local Badge Request Thread with the URL link to the Debatoid/MassDebate as evidence!]

Tue 12th July
Has rhythm action gaming had its heyday?
Results: Mon 18th July

Tue 19th July
Are videogames too focused on destruction?
Results: Mon 25th July

Tue 26th July
Is there enough racial diversity in videogames?
Results: Mon 1st August

Tue 2nd August
Has genre distinction lost its relevance?
Results: Mon 8th August

Tue 9th August
Are videogames addictive?
Results: Mon 15th August

MassDebate will be back this Tuesday!   read

1:40 PM on 07.03.2011

MassDebate: Is XBOX Live a dangerous precedent for basic online? - RESULTS

Welcome to the MassDebate results blog for the XBOX Live; dangerous precedent proposition. Boy was it a heated event! I actually waded in and had to ask that folk cool their tempers.

You would think that I'd find such a thing upsetting. Not entirely. If people are getting passionate, then it means we're looking at the right topics. Sure, it'd be nice if we all got along, but I'd rather people get over excited than we yawn through the experience.

Tempers flared, but wounds will heal and I hope after all this those who did get upset with each other and do the mature thing and do the internet equivalent of shaking hands. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but I presume it involves an eCard.

Congratulations to garethxxgod and commiserations to Byronic Man on an incredibly tight debate, hard fought from both sides.

Here are some of the highlights from the comments:

"My other options for online gaming are the PC or the Wii (I don't own an Xbox), but both of these options also give me free online services, assuming I pay the monthly fee I already have just to have access to the internet.

If I had an Xbox, I probably wouldn't pay for the online subscription fee just because I doubt I would use it enough for it to be considered a good deal. So I hope that Microsoft's competitors might decide to keep the free online service option available for those of us gamers who don't use those services as often as others. If they do all end up opting for subscription fees, I'll probably just stick with the PC for my online gaming."

"Byronic Man spent a lot of time talking about the cost of Xbox Live, how much it costs, the effect it has on your wallet, how much you have to pay for it, etc., but nowhere was I convinced that it was damaging to the industry."

"You already paid for the system, game and internet service, now you have to pay the maker of your system to allow you to play a game? Again? Didn't you do that already?"

"Take Call of Duty for example. Sure, it does have a single player campaign, but most people buy it for multiplayer. If i bought it for PS3, I just have to pay once, the price of the game, but in the case of the 360, i have to pay for the game AND for the right to use the on-line component. How about Battlefield 1943? It is on-line only and you have to pay Live just for the right to play."

"It's easy to talk about games like Gears and Halo, but look at other ones that languish without updates like Monday Night Combat. I paid my subscription fee, but the game I play still gets stuck on laggy servers (hosted on other players' consoles, no less) with loads of cheaters. The PC version, which can be played FREE on Steam, is maintained much better."

"I think that the subscription fees for Live started at a time when online gaming was still an "extra". Not many games had online and not a lot of people had strong internet service. Times have changed. Online gaming IS gaming and increasingly games have a stronger online component, with an increasing number of games being online-only. Paying for the "privilege" of online play no longer makes any sense."

"I prefer to think about the people who are running on tight budgets (even more so in this age where we have just hit a big recession) and offer my support to them. They are the ones who will be forced to shell out more hard-earned cash just to play games (which likely they will have paid money for) with friends over the internet (money for broadband, too), and keep in contact for them."

"At no point in the winding path of his side of the debate did Byronic actually address how, in comparison to a free service, Xbox Live's fees were damaging to the industry or setting a bad precident, instead choosing to offer backhand insults to the intelligence of people who choose to use it, even dismissing the features the service offers that PS3 does not while completely failing to address the focus: How any of this is damaging."

"The only dangerous precedent I've seen this gen was set by Sony, with their cost cutting laissez faire approach to network security. Let's be real here people."

"I will admit damaging is a strong word to use for the proposition but I can attest that a lot of people would be hugely upset if overnight all online services required more money and it would likely cause a huge loss of business, at least initially."

"The moment I stop believing that Xbox Live Gold was a good thing was when a friend of mine tried accessing Netflix, but with a silver account and was denied. He hadn't renewed his Gold membership, so was forbidden access for something he was already paying for.

Basically, what that means is, you have to pay Microsoft money so you can have the option to access something you already pay money for."

"Microsoft is right to charge for what they offer but I still can't understand how they get away with charging for the actual online play itself. If Live, Steam, PSN on PS3 and PSP, Wii online, DS online and online play with iPods all had a subscription fees, I'd honestly would be a single console owner and miss out on tons of awesome games.

One of my favorite games this generation, Warhawk, is an online-only game and still has a huge community playing without being that publicly talked about, something I think has to do with free online play.

Thankfully my most anticipated game, Starhawk, is going to have many of the features that makes Live great (parties and cross-server chat for example)."

"I understand the subscription may provide some excellent services like party chat and faster downloads, but those are luxuries apart from the game; the game that I already paid for."

"In the paid model, if the service has some degradation, the company is liable for the problem (maybe even legally so, though I'm clearly not a lawyer), and has a much stronger incentive to fix it. Again, I will venture that the consumer might have legal recourse for something like this."

"If Sony had swept past Microsoft, we'd be seeing a different picture in America. However, that's not the case and this model must be examined to see why it truly works.

Online content is one thing, but it's the reapplication of the funds in to Xbox services like indie game development, entertainment support, and filling in marketplace content that showcases how Microsoft is expanding with their service.

At the end of the day, none of us wants to pay for gold. However, we want what it offers. Microsoft is only manipulating demand which is a smart plan and ensures that money gets spent in the gaming industry. It would only be a dangerous precedent if a majority of us didn't want its features."

The Silent Protagonist
"If multiplayer is the core of what you want in gaming...
If a reliable network is at that same core...
If speedy updates are requisite to you...
And you want to play that multiplayer game for a long, long time...

... why the hell would you go with anything less than Xbox Live?"

Occams electric toothbrush
"I don't mind paying for a service when I see that my money is being used to provide a level of quality and ease of use that makes the entire experience worthwhile. PSN may be free but good lord its a cluster fuck of menus and frustrating download/install waits."

Corduroy Turtle
"Does XBOX LIVE set a damaging precedent by charging a premium for rudimentary online service?

No. You have plenty of free options. Enjoy."

"I don't understand is why you have to pay for a new account. I think that if you pay the fee every account should be enabled to play online that is connected that Xbox, take a family for example, 2 siblings that regularly play games online. I think if you pay for the service you should be allowed to use it as much as you want, letting someone else use the service should be part of it. It's not like they would be eating up any more resources, it's not like they're both playing different games independently online, they would need 2 different consoles for that.

Having 2 or more siblings have to share the same friends and screen name would in most cases hinder their online experience, seeing that playing online is mainly about competition & player growth, having your sibling alter your stats would ruin that experience for most."

"Xbox Live has been around for years now and neither Nintendo or Sony has gone to the "subscribe to our network in order to play" model. If Microsoft were setting some damning precedent where everyone would be paying to play online we would be there right now."

"XBox live is hardly setting a precedent as MMOs have charged a higher fee to play just one game for years before XBox Live came around. Heck, XBand did the same thing for the SNES and Genesis in 1995. Going even further back you could pay a subscription service to get games delivered via cable on your Intellivision.

Pay for online gaming access is at least as old as I am."

"A free service is vital, offering basic connectivity and patching to consumers. By doing so, developers have more freedom - they do not have to put in a multiplayer aspect to ensure that people paying for the service won't pass over their game. In summary, they can focus on great single-player experiences without having to shoehorn in multiplayer (a common complaint) or lose sales.

A free multiplayer system can HELP sell games. People that don`t relish multiplayer, but have the option, have a much lower barrier of entry. They can make the choice title-to-title, and by doing so may end up supporting more multiplayer titles. This is also a positive for the industry - having people avoid short single-player campaigns because they also don`t want to pay for the main portion of the game means fewer potential sales."

"I have been an Xbox Live member since I first received a 360 and I have not regretted it at all. Great servers, sales and cross game chat? Yes please."

Many thanks to all those who commented.

The next MassDebate will be fairly soon, but I have a few topics in the pipeline and I honestly am not sure which one I'm going to be able to set up next! If you put a comment in my call for participants and have not checked your Destructoid Inbox, then please do as chances are there is a private message sitting there waiting for you to read!

MassDebate will pop up again soon!

Sean Daisy   read

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