Bleszinski’s bro: Oh noes! No more hardcore!

Hardcore gamersI spent a few minutes today trying to figure out what Tyler Bleszinski was trying to say in his guest column for Newsweek. Something about the Wii’s success killing hardcore gaming. Even now, I’m not so sure I know what the heck I just read. Hardcore gamers are led Zeppelin? The rest of us are the Bee Gee’s?

First, it was that he was disgusted that grandmas were buying Wii games and that publishers were on the precipice of this casual gaming chasm, ready to jump in headfirst. But then he assured us that he knows hardcore games aren’t going away. Then Wii Sports was a tech demo and everyone is going to stop what they’re doing and make copies of it My head is spinning, but I think I know what the problem might be.Cliffy’s bro appears to be worried that hardcore gamers will become niche as publishers recognize the success of low tech, pick up and play Wii games. Guess what, they are already! In fact, they always have been. It’s my belief that hardcore gamers have become so insulated from the rest of society that they forgot how small their little island really was. When someone surrounds them self with only like-minded people, it becomes quite a culture shock — almost unbelievable — to them that they might actually be the group that’s not really driving the bus. B’s Bro even says as much in his column:

My problem is what this new crowd appears to be drawn to. Games like Wii Sports, Wii Play and Cooking Mama have become some of the biggest sellers, and that is what has me worried. If these are the type of games that become blockbusters, then you can count on other gaming companies who cater to the more hardcore gamer–aka me and the milions of others who’ve been driving this business–to promptly change direction

Tyler, the only reason you were driving the business in the last generation is because you guys were the only ones playing. That’s great for you, but there are ten times as many people out there who want something else. Ten times as many people who also grew up with video games (like me) who didn’t drink the “gaming is for young males only” Kool-Aid and stopped playing games around the time of the PS2. And when I say something else, I’m not talking mini games (Wario wears thin very quickly, I admit); I’m talking anything but the “meaty” fare Bleszinski describes in his column. People just got tired of trying to get into the gamer gentleman’s club, and who could blame them.

And I don’t really understand this point about fearing casual gamers. It’s a pretty vague term with little meaning a far as I’m concerned, but columns like this go a long way in framing it and making it sound like a negative label. When I think casual gamers, I think “those who are not hardcore gamers.” I don’t automatically assume they are grandmas and kiddies and girls, as Bleszinski does. As the years progress and Wii continues to sell, yes, there will be a monumental shift in how games are designed. However, there’s no indication a lion’s share of the development will be shifted to mini games, or cooking games, or anything.

For proof, look to the DS. It sold 650,000 units last month in Japan (or the US I can’t remember). The system is also very “casual gamer” friendly, and yet, the library remains diverse. I realize portables and consoles are apples and oranges, but there are parallels that exist.

But the times, they are a-changing. If Nintendo has its way, young males will no longer be the dominant segment of the console audience–and this transition appears to be happening faster than I expected.

Oh no, big bad Nintendo is taking gaming away from young males. The apocalypse is surely upon us. What ever will we do if young male gamers (young, male, American gamers) no longer rule the roost? Hopefully, we’ll see something new hit the fan. Maybe we’ll see something without a gun. I’m not against guns in games by any means, but when a console’s entire software library appears to depend on them for success, there’s a problem.

Hardcore gamers like the Bleszinskis probably attack and shun games like Wii Sports for all the same reasons people throughout history have shunned and attacked things: they either don’t understand them, or they fear them. The column sounds like a little of both. Hardcore gamers were but a small segment of a pie who’s main layer — everyone else but them — was made dormant by the fact that hardcore gamers are by and large attracted to a certain type of video games. It’s that dormant, much larger, piece of the pie that I’m interested in, because it reeks of innovation and games no one’s even thought of yet. And the fact that Bleszinski seems to think this untapped resource will only buy up mini games betrays far more ignorance than I would have expected from someone in games design (he mentions the term mini games several times throughout).

Where I think there is a distinct lack of innovation is in the games that the column cites as a godsend to the PS3 and 360: Games like Motorstorm and Resistance and Gears of War. These games all sold in spades at first, but will we be talking about them next year? Probably not. Not until the GoW sequels hit, of course. These games were all a flash in the pan — big bucks and marketing up front, nothing in the rear — and were wildly successful with the crowd they were intended for, and no one else. That’s a great trend for a fan club, but not for a business model.

Hardcore gamers and games won’t go away because of Nintendo, nor do I want them to. They just no longer control the direction of the industry, and that’s a great thing