I wonder how long it takes from a gamer to look a box on the shelf and decide that something is shovel-ware and something else just has a bad cover.
This week it struck me that most gamers have a hidden skill - they can tell real games from shovel-ware. With experience we can judge most games nearly without thought. Our minds scan our internal database of knowledge, and then we have the answer. We know ‘Call of Duty MW3’ is a real game whereas ‘Heavy Fire Afghanistan’ is shovel-ware. We know Mario Cart Wii is a real game, but Rig Racer 2 is junk. The title, cover, developers/publisher either click as ‘correct’ or they do not. Even without knowing much we can look at the front and back cover and judge with great accuracy.
Sadly, what we know is not just instantaneous or obvious to others. You can tell a non-gamer about being careful about the existence of shovel-ware when buying, but without the skills and knowledge, it is hard to even start to judge. Moreover, to a certain extent it is hard to explain the importance of game reviews or even using simple tools to aid in selection. The very concept that most games worth considering are reviewed for quality is somehow a hidden concept too.
It is hard to fathom for gamers, but I think games are their own subject, like car engines or hang gliding. Common people know games exist and people like them, but what differentiates a good game form bad is puzzling to them. When you play CoD MW3 the screen looks 99% like ‘Heavy Fire Afghanistan’, you move the stick and you move, you pull the triggers too shoot…so what in the difference. We know the difference is huge, but in some cases, not even we, can explain it. An expert in shooters could break down the difference between MW3, Battleship, Medal of Honor, Killzone 3, James Bond, Marines: Modern Urban Combat, and all the other games by playing each for five minutes. However, to a non-gamer each of those games would feel the same as they shot wildly into the sky or dropped live grenades at their feet.
The next time some non-gamer buys you an unasked for game that is good thank them for solving the hardest problem in the universe. What we know is hard won knowledge, and even gamers can get it wrong...how else to explain why millions of idiots will buy Halo 4, right? (Please understand I had to end on a zigger for the trolls. ;-) ]