The first thing I would like to say, as a disclaimer, is that I generally like Jim Sterling. This isn’t about bashing Jim Sterling. I think he’s a good writer; even if I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s saying, I enjoy reading his articles and I admire his ability to say exactly
what he thinks - especially when it is at odds with the popular opinion. I also enjoy his new video series, The Jimquisition
. In fact, I’ve agreed with all of the points he has made in the show up until the most recent episode, titled “Why you’re dumber than casual gamers.” The title is self-explanatory (If you haven't yet seen it, <http://www.destructoid.com/the-jimquisition-why-you-re-dumber-than-casual-gamers-180616.phtml>).
As someone who enjoys video games, I don’t like to be called dumb. But as I stated earlier, I don’t mind hearing other people’s opinions, so this blog isn’t necessarily about why Jim Sterling is wrong. The problem I have is that he cites irrelevant information to prove a point that shouldn’t have caused any debate in the first place.
Jim Sterling’s argument as to why we, the “hardcore” gamers, are dumber than the “casual” gamers, can be broken into two distinct halves. The first half of his argument concerns how much money we spend on video games, while the second half concerns the nature of the games we play. My goal is to rebut each individual part of his argument to demonstrate why his point isn’t correct.
So the first half of his argument is a question of value. “Value,” as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells me, is relative monetary worth. In other words, the value of something is how much money people are willing to pay for it. A new BMW, for example, may be priced at $70,000. That’s great, but if no one is willing to pay $70,000 for it, it isn’t worth that much.
The first point Sterling uses to prove why causal gamers are smarter than hardcore gamers is that the casual gamers pay much less for their games than the hardcore do. This is true. But casual gamers are called “casual gamers” because they aren’t serious about video games, so of course they don’t spend much money on them. Spending money on things you like is perfectly acceptable, and isn’t an indication of intelligence or shopping-smarts. People who love movies will spend money to build a DVD collection, while others will be content with renting. People who love books will spend money to create their own personal libraries, while others will be content to borrow from a public library. Likewise, hardcore gamers will pay $60 for a new video game the day it comes out because to them, it is
worth that much.
The second half of Sterling’s argument is that casual games, like Farmville
, are no more pointless than hardcore games. This concerns what I believe to be the most significant factor that divides the casual gamers from the hardcore: the substance of the games that each group plays. Sterling asks, “Can you give me a solid reason why leveling up your farm [in Farmville
] is any less relevant than leveling up some character is Final Fantasy
?” Unfortunately I can’t; I’ve never played Farmville
, so I wouldn’t be able to fairly evaluate it. But I have played quite a few Final Fantasy
games, and Final Fantasy VI
is one of my favorite video games. Like it or not, video games are art; they have too much in common with other artistic forms of story telling and expression not to be art. Like other forms of art, video games can be critiqued. A video game can be the subject of serious conversation and debate, and like other forms of art, the games that cause the most interesting and thoughtful conversations are said to be more substantial
, or deeper
I’ve never played Farmville
, but I have played simple, casual games before. If Modern Warfare 2
is a summer blockbuster action movie, then Final Fantasy VI
would be a thoughtful fantasy epic. The proof is in the pudding; there are countless theories and interpretations of Final Fantasy VI
, but none (that I know of) of Modern Warfare 2
. Or of Farmville
, for that matter.
I don’t think that casual gamers are stupid. In a way, I do think that they are ignorant, though. Here we are, witnessing the creation of a new art form that possibly has the potential to be more powerful and engrossing than anything of its kind. Yet many people are content with the shallowest, simplest type of that art.