This is a re-posting of our Spearhead this week from ForwardsCompatible.com
Written by Matthew Mason
Editor, Forwards Compatible, The Question Block
Each week Forwards Compatible takes a topic and thoroughly explores it. The Spearhead opens these discussions by posing thoughts and ideas that will be expanded upon and responded to in the Second take and Roundtable.
*This was an article I submitted to Game Informer in the name of professional integrity. It was something I was so proud of that I felt I needed to try and get printed for many eyes to see. Unfortunately, I don’t think I had enough credentials to meet their criteria as a professional journalist, I haven’t heard a single word since. However, just because GI didn’t find my article to be up to snuff doesn’t mean a lot of people can’t read and expand their thinking. Without further ado, here’s my submission, entitled “Kids is Not a Four Letter Word”. – Mason
My wife may have looked on with suspicious eyes during Father’s Day; but my son gave me the gift that keeps on giving as far as being a gamer is concerned: a shiny, new game in the form of LEGO Indiana Jones. I don’t think she bought the whole concept that a nigh thirty year old man would want to play a video game based around plastic toys that have an uncanny ability to find itself under bare feet that itself is based on a film series created when Steven Spielberg still cared about movies. Conspiracy theories aside, it’s a well-made title that I had an amazing time playing through with my son. It hearkened back to a time when I was his age and nothing mattered but the end of the level and the challenges and smiles it took to get there. Eventually it set off the rusty cogs in my cobweb filled mind, and I began to wonder: where the hell are all the good kids’ games at these days? Why are titles aimed at everyone so few and far between? Am I meant to suffer through Naruto games until my children are old enough to appreciate the finer things in life?
In this day and age, it’s safe to assume that the majority of games worth playing are either rated T or M. Statistically there’s probably more E games out there than anything, but quality-wise the needle points towards the older side of the age-related metronome. I blame it on myself and my generation; publishers are always out to reach the “target demographic”, which invariably are people my age as our years carry on. It’s a little ironic to think there might be a marketing exec stalking me from behind the elm tree in my front yard. From NES to PlayStation to Xbox 360, the bottom dollar is always spent on us. Which, in the end, is a sound business strategy; who wouldn’t want to shill for those who are willing to spend the money to fund their empire? And while I get to enjoy magnanimous, groundbreaking titles like BioShock, why is my son forced to play something dredged from the bowels of licensed marketing hell? Just because the six to twelve year old set has to beg, borrow and steal to get a new video game doesn’t mean that the couple that they do manage to snag in the course of a year has to be utter garbage.
While one could argue that Nintendo’s got everyone covered with their brilliant and universal games, there needs to be a wider spectrum of quality titles for various consoles and age groups. I hate to use the awful “back in my day” line, but no one whined that Super Mario Bros. 3 was “kiddy fare”. It was a time when game play reigned supreme, and a good time could be had with nary a hooker or head shot in the mix. But nowadays those types of games are the exception, not the rule. Originality is reserved for older people whilst the children get a shoddy play with a tacked on license involving Nickelodeon or Disney. Even these types of titles rocked the gaming world before there was such a thing; I doubt you’ll find anyone who has a bad thing to say about Duck Tales for the NES. Licenses were coveted prizes and not some lemon to squeeze a few bucks out from. But, I should get off the old school bandwagon for a moment before I start spouting off about climbing a hill both ways to get to the game store. In the snow.
Some developers “get it”; striking out to create something that’s a blasphemous amalgamation of hardcore and casual playing styles. LostWinds manages to be creative, inventive and challenging, and it’s all wrapped in a ten dollar downloadable game. It proves that being simple doesn’t mean it can’t be engrossing. Sony and Microsoft are tapping into some really cool D.I.Y. customization for titles like LittleBigPlanet and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts that lends itself to both a community of devout followers and to those who just want to dink around for thirty minutes or so. As to whether the fickle hardcore community will bite remains to be seen. Regardless, there are some PR reps that realize younger gamers can’t live on Carnival Games alone. Which I appreciate, because in our gaming world, my son lives in the equivalent of a third world country.
To summarize, which is what one says when they don’t know how to end an essay, gamers need to kill off that stigma that there are standardized rules that dictate some imaginary criteria we need to have in order to enjoy games. Just because a game has characters with googly eyes or doesn’t have a deep and comprehensive plot involving existentialist undertones or political intrigue does not mean that it’s a mediocre game which should be avoided at all costs. So, please, get over yourselves, before my son has to play through another damn SpongeBob game. And I have to watch him do it.