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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. Donít bully other users into voting your way. Letís keep it clean. Donít 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.
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About MassDebateone of us since 1:12 AM on 03.14.2011

New header kindly contributed by falsenipple

Brought about as a result of a CaptainBus/Sean Daisy fever dream, Debatoid offers one proposal with two sides; two users give the case for and against the proposal and you vote for the outcome.

Debatoid changed its name to MassDebate, but don't fret; the principle of controversial topics, smart candidate and avid discussion remains at the forefront! Vive la mÍme chose et la difference!

If anyone wants to volunteer a topic or submit their interest in being a contender then please PM MassDebate, email captainbus AT gmail DOT com or message _SeanDaisy on Twitter.

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