In recent years I’ve been hearing some labels describing video games in ways that I never thought I’d actually hear in all my life of being a gamer. For a majority of time it’s always been between “hardcare” gamers, the ones who play all the badass console and pc games. And the “casual” gamers, those who love to play the more casual phone games, puzzle games, web games, etc. Now I’m one who even back then wasn’t really into that sort of labeling what kind of gamer you were. You played what you enjoyed and that was that. Nowadays it seems labeling has turned into something more towards the games themselves and not really the type of gamer that you call yourself. You either play “kids” games, or what I guess you could call the “big boy” games. I might have a pretty decent understanding as to what defines a kids game over everything else so I’ll go over the differences and then try to make sense of why this labeling has come to be.
Let’s start off with what defines a “kids” game. The way I see it, pretty much anything released by Nintendo or a game that has an ESRB rating below M (PEGI 18). Basically, if there’s any hint of bright colors, happy characters, mild violence, little to no blood, it’s most likely a “kids” game. Doesn’t matter how hard or easy the game itself could be, but the presentation will just scream that it’s probably an easy game and gamers should just not even bother with it because it looks boring and stupid. Sorry to say it, but that’s the attitude I get with a lot of people.
Kingdom Hearts? Kids game...sorry, but that’s how it’s being viewed by a lot of gamers nowadays folks. I know it’s an epic RPG series with a lot of amazing characters and deep storyline as well as some amazing boss fights that can get absolutely brutal if you’re not skilled enough. But for people that have never touched the game they will not look back because when they see Disney characters running around, “kids game, bye!”. It’s sad, but that’s just how people view it nowadays. I’ll admit I might have been in that same boat slightly after KH1 first released on PS2 until I decided to import the Final Mix version and give it a shot myself and boy did I change my judgment real fast (would you believe I actually shed tears in the end?)! I guess what I’m saying is yes, I can see why people would judge the game based on what they see without actually playing it for themselves, but if you don’t have the heart to at least give the game a good day or two of playtime you’ll never understand why games like this are so popular.
Let’s talk about all those Mario games. It honestly wouldn’t matter if we’re talking the retro games from the 90’s or the more recent installments on the Switch. If Mario’s involved it’s probably easy and presented as a kids game. Now….presentation I can see for sure, Mario wasn’t always so geared towards children in the older generation of consoles. Granted most games back then were played by preteens and early teens so there was really no need to present the fact that the games were made for kids (there wasn’t even a rating system at the time!). Later on in his career, maybe during the Gamecube/GBA era, he started becoming a little brighter. All those remakes of the classic Mario games on the GBA? They were changed slightly with the added voice lines, slightly altered music (most likely due to the GBA’s limited sound chip), and made easier, which didn’t really keep true to the original’s difficulty. You could save after each fortress or castle as opposed to, well, not saving at all (except in Mario Advance 2, which saving was kept intact). This, along with additional features added to each game made it much more accessible to kids who didn’t grow up with the older generation of games, however I feel having them released on the GBA made them appear more kid-friendly than they really were. Not exactly Nintendo’s fault due to the limited capabilities of the GBA and converting a handful of SNES games into a portable system, but I feel it was these conversions that lead gamers to believe that all old games were as easy as they were when they were released on the GBA.
Now let’s shift gears and talk about what everyone’s here for, the “big boy” games! I’m talking games such as Apex Legends, PUBG, League of Legends, Rust, Escape from Tarkov, Dark Souls...I think you get the idea. These are the kind of games that have defined today’s modern “gamer”. This is the area in which the news and other media outside of the gaming community have observed as today’s world of gaming. It is also the area in which the gaming community is most vocal compared to the rest. Why this is I haven’t quite figured out yet, but it’s probably because most gamers are attracted to this side of gaming whether you’ve been playing games all your life, a casual gamer, or just starting out in gaming.
I feel this shift in gaming started back in 2001 when the Xbox first landed on store shelves and Halo: Combat Evolved was the holiday game seller for that year and winning Game of the Year in both 2001 (literally a month since release!) and 2002. Fans would start growing year after year as Halo 2 and 3 were released up through 2007. During this time Guitar Hero, a rhythm game once developed by Harmonix, released the 3rd game in the series under its new developing team at Neversoft (The same team behind the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series). With this release gamers were suddenly split. While most were still earning substantial kill streaks in Halo 3, More gamers were being drawn towards the amazing rocking soundtrack and skill required to master Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. According to publisher Activision, it became the best-selling video game in 2007 as well as being the first game with over a billion dollars in sales. By March 2011 Guitar Hero III became the top selling game with lifetime sales of up to $830.9 million.
Following the quick success of Guitar Hero III gamers returned to the shooting arenas in 2009 with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. This was probably the one game that caused an explosion in popularity with both gamers and non-gamers alike, as well as the FPS genre as a whole. The game was mostly praised for it’s multiplayer deathmatch and went on to win a variety of Game of the Year awards in 2009. Now let’s pause for a moment. Both Guitar Hero and Call of Duty were published by Activision. As for Infinity Ward, the game’s developer, they were the successors of Neversoft! This explains the exceptional success of Modern Warfare 2 over its predecessor Modern Warfare 1. However, Modern Warfare 1 was released just 1 week after Guitar Hero III, so gamers were pretty split between two games that year. Regardless, both games were winning their own share of Game of the Year awards in their respective categories. 2009 was pretty much the start of the FPS boom in the gaming community. Call of Duty was the ringleader and everyone followed suit with each new release that Activision brought to the table from Black Ops, Ghosts, and all the others in between.
By early 2016 a new genre of action games would peak the interest of gamers in the form of (what was formerly known as) H1Z1: King of the Kill. It was an early look at the Battle Royale style of gameplay where 99 players drop to an island, and have only 1 goal, to survive and be the last man or woman standing. It started out as a simple battle royale mod for the DayZ mod in Arma II. The mod was such a success that it’s creator, Brendan Greene (better known as PLAYERUNKNOWN), moved on as a consultant for the Daybreak Game Company in the battle royale mode of it’s latest project “H1Z1”. Shortly after H1Z1 split into two separate projects, Greene moved on to fully develop his dream game and the mega-hit titled Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) was released.
You can probably figure out the rest from there, PUBG to Fortnite to Apex Legends, and many more Battle Royale games being released in between. It suddenly became the new genre of games that people fell in love with and would never part with, alongside the standard FPS deathmatch gameplay that’s still around to this day. These are the games that a majority of todays gamers are really into. Because of this, game companies that are desperate for money will try to create the next big action title whether single player or multiplayer and do anything in their power to get gamers to buy their game, regardless of whether or not it’s actually good. As we all know this is too close to reality with gameplay reveal trailers being way too cinematic and lifelike for the final retail release to even come remotely close to matching. But hey if it looks awesome, buy it! These companies make millions of dollars so they would never lie to their consumer market….right?
So what’s with all of these other games that are outside of the FPS and Battle Royale realm? Why are they even being made? Well believe it or not, there are more than just 2 or 3 genres of video games out there. It’s like asking why are there comedy and romance movies when all the money goes towards the big action and horror films. To the mainstream normies, if they get wind that you’re a gamer, you are clearly someone that plays nothing but FPS and Battle Royale games. But wouldn’t you know it...as someone who’s played those types of games, they take up about maybe 5% of my attention when it comes to overall gaming and the various genres that I play on a daily basis. Gaming is a very huge market and hobby to get into, and if you’re not open enough to try games that you wouldn’t normally play outside of your comfort zone then you will be missing out on a lot of games you might call you’re favorite. This is especially true if you really truly devote yourself to the FPS and action genres. There are so many indie games out there that have very unique play styles that you would never find in a AAA title that probably deserve a lot more attention and credit than they are receiving. Best of all they’re a lot cheaper, being no more than maybe $20-30.
I’ve been playing video games for probably longer than most of you have been alive and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by some games that have caught my interest when I otherwise would have looked over had I just stuck with the games that I was comfortable with. A good example of this is that I don’t normally play sports games, but I’ve fallen in love with the SSX series and MLB SlugFest. Had I not actually seen and played these games for myself I probably would have passed them off as just another batch of sports games like everything else on the market. All I’m suggesting is to not be afraid to sit down and actually look through video games as a whole and see what might pique your interest. Take a small step outside of your comfort zone and don’t denounce a game simply because it doesn’t appear to your liking. The gameplay alone might grab you, the visual art style, while it may not be dark and gloomy, might appeal to you. Don’t let the judgment of others keep you from playing the games that YOU want to play and that YOU enjoy! I promise you nobody will make fun of you if you were to sit down and play a Monkey Island title. And if they do? They're probably insecure that you're actually expanding your horizons as a gamer outside of the mainstream norm.