Hardcore reviews of softcore games

I enjoy playing Endless Ocean. Not as much as reading a good novel or attending a nice opera. But more than any game that has been published in the last few years. I realize that this tells me more about the quality of those other games than it does of that of Endless Ocean.

Eurogamer’s review of Endless Ocean once again shows how inadequate games journalists are in reviewing games that are different. Within the context of a hardcore games publication, it probably makes sense to almost exclusively talk about the gameplay. And I think that anybody who judges Endless Ocean on its gameplay would arrive at the same low score (6). But is gameplay really the only thing that matters in a contemporary game? Have we come this far, developed all this technology, spent all these millions, just for some mechanic?

Perhaps Eurogamer’s audience consists exclusively of hardcore gamers. And Eurogamer may feel an obligation to view everything through the eyes of a hardcore gamer. Even if the majority of people who end up buying and playing the games they review do not fit in this category. But this is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you only talk about games from a hardcore perspective, other players will simply not be interested in what you’re saying. Or they would have to be as cynical as yours truly and scan for the word “boring” as an indication of a game that they might like.

Endless Ocean

Meanwhile the majority of gamers have no place to go. Mainstream magazines don’t have the space. And specialist magazines cater to the small hard core exclusively. With the ever-expanding reach of the games medium, the need for a non-hardcore games press becomes more and more urgent. The audience is ready. The publishers are ready. The developers are ready. But the press is lagging behind. This is holding back the industry because we all still care about what the press says. Even if we think that they only half-know what they are talking about. And even if we know that game reviews and game sales are two entirely different things. We still care. For one thing, press has an enormous effect on a publisher’s greenlighting process.

It’s amusing to hear Eurogamer express the exact same sentiment about Endless Ocean as I have felt when playing Bioshock or Portal or Zelda or Mario or World of Warcraft:

After sitting for minutes at a time, gently shaking the Wii remote to and fro over a digital rendition of a Red Gurnard or Bigeye Trevally, you do have to ask what you are doing with your life. As a hobby, brass-rubbing makes more sense.

Brass-rubbing. Or pretending to run around as a space marine in a science station on an alien planet? Or hitting endless series of excessively large insects on the head so that a number in the corner of your screen would increase? Or making a little dwarf jump from one platform to another so that he can jump on another and sometimes on another character’s head?

When a game makes you feel that you are wasting your time, is when you stop playing. But the point where this happens, is very different for different people.

It seems to me that hardcore gamers are well aware of the futility of the games that they play. But they want the game’s design to continuously distract them from this fact. It is the purest form of escapism: a game that absorbs you completely and doesn’t allow your brain any time to reflect on what you’re doing. Eurogamer literally complains about the fact that the designers of Endless Ocean are too gentle in this respect.

But what if you like being treated gently? What if you don’t hate your life and you don’t want to be knocked unconscious by your entertainment? What if you just want to relax in front of the television set, doing not much of anything, spending some time with your family, experiencing a story or looking at pretty moving pictures?

Eurogamer talks about a games’ pull, about it being compelling, about goals and gathering and collecting, incentives and rewards, and mini-games. But is this really why people play Endless Ocean? Why they like playing it? Reviews of games like this need to go a bit deeper. Or somewhere else. Just saying that the hardcore gamer will not like Endless Ocean -which is essentially what the Eurogamer review does- is not very informative or helpful.

And it’s not like they don’t realize this:

It’s an honest relief to play something that doesn’t shout in your ear, set any time limits, or feature a single explosion; a game whose raison d’être is just beauty and peace. Playing this game is almost like taking a holiday from gaming.

It’s that they don’t appreciate it. And apparently don’t care that other people do.

59 thoughts on “Hardcore reviews of softcore games”

  1. Some journalists do seem to understand the appeal of the game better, though. And warn their audience (much like the young man who sold us the game in the local games store did, in fact).

    As seasoned gamers, we’re constantly trained to discover the main goal of any title. What is the objective? What is the point? In Endless Ocean, that answer may sometimes prove difficult to come by, which is exactly why it’s a refreshing addition to the Wii library. Your primary quest is simply to dive and to explore, and everything beyond that is secondary. (Matt Casamassina)

    IGN spends a whole paragraph rightly criticizing the stiffness of the character animations on the boat in the game. And continue to spend another one talking about how beautiful the underwater worlds is. These are indeed things that people who might be interested in Endless Ocean do care about!

    After a somewhat slow start, Endless Ocean really picks up not in the actual gameplay, but in its expansive, laid back design. (Mark Bozon)

    IGN gives Endless Ocen a score of 8. It seems like I may have been too quick in judging game journalism. There is hope! :)

  2. The sad thing is, if “laid back, experience-a-big-world” were an established game genre, it would have been reviewed as such. Reviews from hardcore-centric sources would qualify with phrases like “if you like this sort of thing…” and continue on.

    So hopefully, games like this will continue to get made, and they’ll come to be considered a genre, and we won’t have this silly hangup to deal with. And likewise the non-gaming press will take more notice and broaden the spectrum of discussion.

  3. If you read the comments under the EG review, you’ll find that a very great deal of the readership disagree with the number under that review.

    I think that if you come back down to earth, you’ll realise that you’re not so different from everybody else. Seems like you cherry-pick the things that disagree with your principles and use them to generalise against a wider population, which isn’t fair.

  4. This:

    And it’s not like they don’t realize this: It’s that they don’t appreciate it. And apparently don’t care that other people do.

    Is unfair, too – a reviewer’s job is to give their opinion on a game, not to appreciate it from the perspective of something he or she is not. If you’re like me and you’re often not satisfied with a review, you should realise that the reviewer has different tastes to your own. I strongly believe that a games review site should have several members of staff review a game and give an opinion on it. If they did this and had a dedicated staffer who looked on things from an artistic perspective, that would be great.

  5. I have already corrected my mistake by referring to the IGN review which I do consider to be fair.

    I hope you are right, haowan. Maybe I am seeing ghosts from the past where every games journalist was a hardcore gamer and only FPS games got high scores. Maybe most games publications now have a diversified pool of journalists with tastes all across the games spectrum.

  6. For what it’s worth, you aren’t alone in your observations (and they’re not limited to endless ocean) …

    GameSetWatch discussed the problem here: http://www.gamesetwatch.com/2008/01/gamesetchat_how_do_wii_judge_f.php
    And Level Up responded with interesting points here:

    Mentioned in that level up discussion is this article:
    which also has interesting discussion of applying traditional reviews to Wii games. (it’s far down in the article; search for “Reviewers, meanwhile, are just adrift when it comes to certain Wii games”)

    Penny-arcade talked about a similar thing re endless ocean ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/2008/01/21 ), noting that “It’s not a game for our people, and it need not be plugged into the apparatus” (where apparatus = game reviews)

    So I don’t think the problem is simply a phantom of your imagination, but I also think it’s something that people are aware of and discussing, and hopefully (if gradually) addressing.

  7. I just read Mr Croal’s text. He basically says that you have to read the review’s text and place it within its context. This has merit in theory. But a little tour of other Endless Ocean reviews made it very clear to me that most game reviews are quite juvenile and sound more like forum posts than actual journalism.

    I have to agree with Simon Carless rebuttal of the Level Up article (bold by me):

    This isn’t – again – necessarily a bad thing, but most game reviews are written not from an art or aesthetic/personal viewpoint, but from a ‘would you like this game?’ viewpoint.
    But all game reviews need to evolve – perhaps further than N’Gai realizes – before they can break free of the chains of perceived objectiveness (with attendant score-based preconceptions) and embrace the personal, the lyrical, and the enjoyable.

  8. But…but…I like brass rubbing! D=

    Not for extended periods of time, but the few times I’ve tried it it was moderately enjoyable.

  9. When a game makes you feel that you are wasting your time, is when you stop playing. But the point where this happens, is very different for different people.

    Hehehe. I had just finished feeling this way about Oblivion when I started reading this blog tonight. I was running around that vast “fantasy” world when I started to think about how lonely it was. And empty, in spite of hundreds of thousands of man-hours that the developers spent creating content for the game. Then again, some times the “real” world feels like that, too.

  10. The typical gamer, and probably a typical games reviewer as well, does not understand these non-games, these interactive art project. Can we ask them to? Can you ask an average person on the streets to appreciate the deeper meaning of art? Should you want to?

    It is more surprising to me that a (hardcore-) games review site does appreciate a game like the Endless Ocean, instead of Eurogamer under appreciating it.

    I believe now the industry is maturing and broadening the audience it is serving that there will be more mainstream- as well as more specialist game press outings. Games like the Endless Ocean, The Path, Flow and maybe even our own Tori Emaki are catering to a different audience all together. Non-traditional games are broadening the gaming audience, so it’s only natural that the current gaming public is frowning on these new experiences.

    What strikes me in your article is the following sentence:

    ”But is gameplay really the only thing that matters in a contemporary game? Have we come this far, developed all this technology, spent all these millions, just for some mechanic?”

    I think that the answer is yes. The people who developed all that technology and spent all those millions have indeed wanted to perfect mechanics. It’s what they do with those mechanics that is still limited. But I think that’s all part of the maturing process of our industry.

    You’re right to ask yourself; “is this all?” No, this is not all, maybe the industry has been to narrow minded in the past, maybe they still are. But lets celebrate the fact that change is upon us and that the medium is maturing and that hardcore game review site are starting to appreciate non-traditional games, like some of the site mentioned in the comments above.

    On a total different note; I really enjoy reading all the stuff on this site and I’m glad that I finally found some time to reply and get involved in the discussion. :-)

  11. Welcome, Tj’ièn!

    My question was in fact meant to be rhetorical. I believe a lot of the games technology that has been developed, serves the narrative aspect a lot more than it does the gameplay aspect. Contemporary games feature beautiful landscapes, fascinating characters, expansive soundtracks, etc. And people enjoy these things enormously. To think that they would settle for ‘pure gameplay’ is naive. I believe a large majority of the people who play games, play them for the story, not for the game mechanic. I believe that we have come at a point where it only makes sense to make games in which gameplay is not important or even non-existent. I believe this is part of the maturing of the medium. Games have left kindergarten.

  12. Yes, I see. The idea of games without gameplay fascinates me, but are we still speaking of games then? Maybe it’s just semantics, or maybe we didn’t invent the right words yet.

    Hmm, it’s a thought provoking subject and I need to think about it, because to answer the question I raised above I need to know the a definition of games, something lots of people aren’t sure about as well…

    This is what I find facinating about your work, that it raises questions that aren’t inmediately answered.

  13. Endless Ocean still has a lot of gameplay. There’s missions and rewards, collecting, unlocking, etc. There’s just not a lot of pressure on you to do these things. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Endless Ocean reminds me of Grand Theft Auto.

    The idea of interactive projects that are not games is not new. In the nineties, they were called interactive CD-Roms after the medium they used for distribution. The success of the internet more or less killed that medium and took the art form with it. While games continued to evolve thanks to the consoles (who also used CD-Roms at that time).

    I actually find it kind of absurd to think that entertainment through interactive technology should be limited to games. When does an interaction become a game? When we get a reward for doing it? And why not simply design the interaction so that it is enjoyable in and of itself? Makes sense to me.

  14. EGM’s non-review is a typical response from a reviewer that doesn’t appreciate the game for what it is and that’s exactly what I ment say abobe. These kinds of ‘reviews’ is what seperates the more mature and capable sites from the immature.

    In response to Michaël, I’m all for just making enjoyable interaction and I also believe that it is not limited to games. I was just wondering if games without gameplay would be games, or some kind of new (or indeed old) type of interaction.

  15. As I’ve said before, the problem isn’t gameplay; it’s what sort of gameplay we design.

    Game designers have by and large stuck themselves into a loop of “gameplay=challenge”. They’ve managed to stick a whole lot of taboos and assumptions and so on into it, too.

    Gameplay- how we interact with a game, and the reactions from that, can be enlightening and interesting too. The problem comes when gameplay=challenge for the sake of it.
    Challenge should only be a means to an end, and in many cases it’s not a suitable means.

  16. I don’t think we’re disagreeing here. It just depends on how you define the word “gameplay”. Tj’ièn defines it in the narrow sense of interacting with game rules and challenges, I think. And Eden sees gameplay as a word for all possible interactions, it seems.

    It’s a pity that we lack a proper vocabulary because I do think that it is important to make a distinction between interaction based on game rules and other types of interaction. If only because many game designers seem to think that it is required for this interaction to be framed within the structure of a game, in the strict sense.

    In the end, however, and certainly for the audience at large, I don’t think it matters much. Games may be the dominant thing that people do with interactive entertainment at the moment. But that will change. There’s just too much potential in the medium. Give it a few more years and we’ll find this strange obsession with games quaint and weird.

  17. I’m thinking you’re right Michaël. I love the fact that these discussion tell a lot about myself as well. I probably have a narrow view of gameplay, although I’m still searching what games and gameplay are for me.

    Meaning, rules, choices, transformation are all trying to find a place in my head, amongst so many other concepts. I’m trying to get a hold of these concepts and just when you think you have some kind of grip on them another point of view comes along. Not that that is a bad thing, on the contrary, it helps deeping my understanding of games.

    Am I correct in saying that what you meant with the statement ‘games without gameplay’ was games without the narrow kind of gameplay, but including the broader definition? As in interaction? If so, then it makes sense to me. If not, please enlighten me… :-)

    As a matter of fact, like Eden said, it is time that gameplay/interaction gets more exploration than just gameplay=challenge. Challenge is just one possibility and probably the easiest to grasp if we look at today’s gaming landscape.

    So, no, I don’t think we disagree with each other. I want to be able to understand different views of games to enrich my own view. Much like a ‘traditional game’ (if there’s such a thing) am pretty goal oriented. I want to know what games are and what having fun really means… People seem to be able enjoy things without knowing why, that’s the question I’m trying to answer…

  18. You’re right, Michael.

    Tj’ièn: Challenge is the easiest to design for designers today. They can’t see beyond that point (well, a few can. I can, Jon Blow can, Michael can, etc..). But overall they can’t. A pity.

  19. Tj’ièn, I usually use “gameplay” in the narrow sense of the word, indeed. I do want to play in our computer-generated worlds. I just don’t see why this interaction should be structured as a game.

    I’m not sure, Eden, if designers are simply following the easiest path. I think a lot of people really enjoy challenge and so they design games around that concept. I think it is a conscious choice for them. They don’t care much about making games for non-hardcore gamers. But I do believe that there are far more “softcore” gamers than hardcore ones. So exploring interaction “beyond challenge” is definitely a wortgwhile activity.

  20. Actually Michael, I’d argue that they’re not making a conscious choice at all, but simple can’t imagine a game without challenge.
    So it’s not just following the easiest path, but the only path they can see.

  21. Conscious or not, poeple can relate to challenge easier as it is an easy concept to grasp, just like the good versus evil hollywood blockbuster movies, it’s shallow, it’s easy and it doesn’t require much thought from its audience.

    I think we all agree on the fact that it is a worthwhile pursuit to explore interaction beyond challenge.

  22. It’s funny that it is easier for people to understand “shoot the monsters, get high scores” than “nothing in particular, just walk around a bit, look around, play with things” as an answer to the question “what do I do in this game?”

    But we should be careful not to generalize this assumption because almost every time I see a non-gamer interact with The Endless Forest, they say “I’m not very good at playing games”. They say this before realizing that they don’t need to be in the case of The Endless Forest. So while challenge may be easy to understand, it also seems to be very intimidating for many people.

  23. Indeed, there are lots of people that like to be told what to do. It seems that they are somewhat scared if they need to rely on their own ideas, thoughts and reasons for doing (or playing).

    People who feel that they aren’t very good at games are intimidated by complex controls, rules and missions that have no meaning to them. I can imagine that the “look around and do stuff at your own pace” feel of The Endless Forest could feel liberating for those people. But people who enjoy being told “kill the monster” probably feel intimidated by The Endless Forest’s open nature as well.

  24. That’s probably correct. The Endless Forest is a game for explorers and creative people. And not everybody is like that. But judging by the success of games that do cater to these people (GTA, The Sims), I would say there’s plenty of room in the games industry to grow in this area.

    Your reasoning could also explain the (former?) dominance of young boys (or men behaving as them) in the gaming audience. My own son of 11 loves doing tutorials!
    I guess this is why the army can so succesfully recruit these kids…

  25. The open kind of gameplay is usually descibed as play belonging to toys. Will Wright even defines his own games as belonging to the toy category rather then belonging to the realm of games. It makes sense as with toys, they don’t define any particular kind of goal, rather it leave the thing you do with them open to the user of the toy.

    GTA, interestingly, can be seen as a toy (exploring the world, creating own goals within the space of possibilities) and as game (kill person X at position Y).

    Personally, I like this destiction and love to play with toys as well as with games. What your opinion on the destiction made between toys and games? And would you consider The Endless Forest as a toys, rather then a game?

    I like to know your thoughts on this.

  26. I understand why people use these terms. But I find the term toy far too limiting. I would like to see “games” that are so open that playing is only one of many activities that can be done in them. And I mean that in the sense that the game would support all of these activities (because theoretically, there’s a lot more you can do with a toy than play, but most of these things fall in the category of abuse and are not what the toy was designed for). Or the designer might even choose to not support any play activity at all and make a game that is simply dead serious.

    Or to quote our Realtime Art Manifesto:

    Realtime 3D is the most remarkable new creative technology since oil on canvas. It is much too important to remain in the hands of toy makers and propaganda machines.

  27. I don’t think it really matters what you define a creation as.
    To quote the great violinist Kreisler- “the name changes, the value remains”.

  28. Games once had the same sound to it as the word toy, didn’t it? Maybe to the general public they still have that ‘for kids only’ label stuck on it.

    Eden, that’s a great quote :-)

    Btw, I’m still reading your manifesto. Interesting stuff.

  29. This isn’t anything new, though. Hardcore gamers had the exact same problem with Myst 13 years ago, that all they were doing was walking around looking at things. When Myst became a phenomenal success, they got territorial and bitter, and wrote things about it that were much more scathing than the EGM review for EO.

  30. I’d also note this is the problem that an awful lot of gamers seem to have with the more recent Final Fantasy games, that they are just “walk through the pretty environment, watch a bit of the story, walk through another pretty environment, watch more of the story”, with the actual fighting feeling tacked-on, underworked and there just to satisfy the obligation to make it a game.

  31. All the more reason why we should have reviews that allow games to not be games. If hardcore gamers would stop nagging, then the Final Fantasy designers could finally make a game without gameplay and get it over with.

  32. Great post. I think what you’ve identified here is that there isn’t yet a mature journalism/critical community that looks at games, not in the way there is mature criticism of film, television, books, music, etc.

    Here’s another similar example for you to enjoy, from personal experience:

    I worked on a game called Thrillville: Off the Rails. We made the game for kids 8-12. We spent a lot of time with kids, talking to them, putting the game in their hands, ramping the difficulty and tweaking the experience accordingly.

    Here’s the conclusion of a review that was sadly typical:

    Like any tolerable children’s entertainment, Off the Rails contains a smattering of moments that will make adults smile: a robot-related mission is called Paranoid Android, and a Pac-Man style minigame is set to the Monkey Island theme music. Yet the much-vaunted social interaction – what should be an incentive for grownups to play the game – disappoints. The dialogue is clever, but this is no branching, subtle conversation (like, say, KOTOR); rather, it’s a series of semi-amusing non-sequiturs.”

    In other words, like the rest of the game, it’s perfect for children, for whom things don’t have to “be integrated” or “logical”. A series of semi-amusing, unconnected activities: sounds a lot like a sandbox, which, once you graduate middle school, loses its charm unless you can bring your gat.

    It’s amusing (and depressing) to me that the reviewer recognizes the game as children’s entertainment, and then bashes it for being children’s entertainment.

    The metacritic average of the game is a 73. Thanks for the “6”, GamesRadar … and for using screenshots from the PS2 in your 360 review! That actually affects sales.

    We actually did a great job with kids. The brand is third to Barbie and Spiderman for kids’ titles. The metacritic user score is an 87. Oh well.

    But I honestly don’t blame the gaming media. The products game developers are creating are capable of speaking to as broad an audience as any other media. However, we’ve only just begun to create experiences that honor that. Up until now, we’ve been talking to the same people over and over and over: hardcore gamers. It only follows that they are the only people with enough background to create viable businesses reviewing our products.

    This will change over time, as the audience continues to broaden. Demand for legitimate, mature criticism will grow along with it.

    In the interim, we just have to suffer fools who seem to willingly miss the point.

  33. Well I think it’s a bit ridiculous to expect them to cater to people who aren’t their readers. Six year olds aren’t the core market for people who visit 1up, or buy game informer or what have you. The core market for those magazines are young men who buy a decent number of games in a given year and whose tastes do run more hardcore.

    It really frustrates me when I see people who are making games say that their game was made for a speciffic audience and they didn’t review it in reflection of that audience without realizing that these websites and magazines are written for a speciffic audience and produced in reflection of that audience. I’ve done some freelance work for some smaller publications and yeah I never think about what someone who doesn’t play games is going to think about my game because they’re probably not regular readers of a gaming website.

  34. Listen. Reviews on games like Endless Ocean are hardcore because websites and magazines–in fact, pretty much any gaming media–caters to the hardcore. In case you didn’t notice, gaming is still small compared to movies or music–there IS no “mainstream gaming media”. The average gamer that goes to Gamespot or 1up is gonna be your “hardcore” demographic. The reviewers also fall under your “hardcore” demographic. The people who are actually going to buy Endless Ocean or a children’s game don’t use reviews to make up their minds. They say, “ooh look, a pretty dolphin!” and plunk down the cash. You are wrong for expecting gaming media to review games from a mainstream point of view.

    Now that we have that settled:

    “What if you don’t hate your life and you don’t want to be knocked unconscious by your entertainment?”

    What the hell is that? According to you anybody who enjoys a “hardcore” game hates his/her life and wants to be “knocked unconscious” by his/her games? Do feel free to clarify that.

    Seriously, what the hell is that?

  35. Maggie Greene posted a criticism of this post on Kotaku. She finds the hardcore reviewing of all games justified because it reminds her of what happens in movies: blockbusters get criticized but still attract a large audience.

    As I have said before, I disagree with this analogy. Movies are reviewed for their artistic and creative merit. Artistic films are not necessarily popular. And that’s fine.
    Hardcore game reviews are not about artistic value. They are about how “action-packed” and “cool” a game is. It’s the same as if movie critics would judge all films by action movie standards.

    I’m happy that the hardcore gaming press is paying attention to this new breed of games (which I wouldn’t call casual, by the way). But I think we will need a new breed of journalists to be able to handle them well. All in good time, I’m sure.

  36. Huh, I’d never thought of using video games to distract myself from the swirling misery that is my life as a person who is not Michaël Samyn. I usually just sit down and read an engrossing book with compelling characters that simply sweeps me up. Either that or an excellent art house film who’s poignancy may allow me to feel someone else’s pain for a little while. Better still, I sometimes stroke and inflate my ego so much by generalizing about an entire population’s reason for picking up a hobby based upon zero research and 100% supposition that I can actually believe for a while that my life has more meaning that the multitudes I see around me every day. Really, that’s the only way that I can convince myself that somehow, finishing another pundit-style blog post will have any more purpose than defeating a final boss.

  37. Brian, if you’re going to attack somebody personally, then please have the courage to identify yourself instead of hiding behind some disposable email address. If you have something constructive to contribute to this discussion, by all means please do. But if it is just me you want to talk about, I’m not interested.

  38. The problem here is the fact that a game like Endless ocean is more like an interactive game you might expect to find on a movie DVD or some similar media. Games, as a rule, are meant to be interactive to the point of requiring thought. And I mean more thought than it takes to walk out of your house and pull your car out of the driveway.

    If someone wanted to simply sit and watch and enjoy fish swimming, or not really engage themselves, they could purcase themselves a fish tank, or even a fish tank screensaver, and be equally engaged. Or, for even less money than the game, they can buy a documentary on oceanic life from the Discovery Channel.

    The problem, I think, is that Endless ocean seems less like a game than a parody on the life of a diver. Life is boring, people play games to escape it. Why should we pay money to experience life when we can have it for free?

  39. Not to be overly cynical, but if you read a website which, partially even by your own admission, appeals to hardcore gamers, you can’t really complain when it reviews a casual game from a hardcore perspective. If you want a casual review, you read it in non-gaming-specific press, or from a specific casual-gaming or popular media site. Hardcore gamers are going to want to know whether this game is worth purchasing for them, and when they do, they’ll go to such a site. I think that personally, hardcore gamers are getting a bit sick of the influx of passive or mundane mediocre games when so much more potential is contained within the platform. If you want passivity then you sit in front of the TV and watch a program, or watch a DVD or read a book or one of the many other passive entertainment forms. The only reason why casual games appeal to the mass audience is because they are essentially non-games, for non-gamers, appealing to an audience that wants the same old stuff presented in a new medium. This isn’t what hardcore gamers want, and I think reviews from and for hardcore gamers are going to reflect this.

  40. I firmly disagree that Endless Ocean is passive. It simply is interactive in a different way. I understand your point about hardcore gamers only being interested in hardcore games. But I think that is quite a sad situation. And I think it is in part the task of the press to open the eyes and minds of their audience to things that are not exactly what they might expect.

  41. Oh geez, Michaël, how embarrassing for you. I think I’ll continue to follow this thread of discussion and chime in after you posts to clear things up for you. Your speech is hardly eloquent and your logic process seems quite methodical, but so slow its bordering on annoying. Most of your posts are recycled ideas and just reiterations of your previous thought processes, the redundancy is enough to keep anyone from reading all the way through. Moreover it seems you lack far more perspective than those who have you done you the favor or even acknowledging your article, as you often respond with the same damn ideas you’ve already said plenty of damn times, even though said commenters have provided new insight and avenues of thought.
    Tom had a new and powerful perspective which you brushed off. You disagree with him that EO is a passive game, and refuse to expunge on your claim, instead claiming “oh you hardcore gamers just need ur eyez opened! DuH!!! TIS SAD!”

    The only sad thing here is your lack or perspective and your inability to communicate effectively with your fellow man. As such, I’ll be providing all new insight and paraphrasing for all your new posts, just so others can get a sense for how close minded you are and how absurdly simple and binary the logic is that goes on in that cramped head.

  42. I agree, Rumsey. And I apologize. But the reason I brushed this off is that this thread is not about my opinion of Endless Ocean. That’s an entirely different topic.

    This thread is about the games press. It is not a secret that I am highly critical of the value of socalled hardcore games. One of the things that I dislike about them is that the genre tends to be incredibly myopic. You accuse me for recycling my own ideas. Well, as opposed to the hardcore genre, my recycling at least doesn’t cost millions upon millions of Dollars.

    It’s too easy to dismiss anything that is not a hardcore game as “casual” and to refuse to take it seriously. I can only interpret this reflex as defensive and motivated by fear. That stems me very optimistic. I am sick of the stifling effect that the dominance of the hardcore ethos has on the games industry and culture. As a creator, as a player and even as a human being.

    I don’t think casual games as such are a valid alternative. But some games, like Endless Ocean, contain elements that I find interesting. And I’m happy to see that many games journalists are not as stubborn or afraid as you or Tom or the Eurogamer journalist.

  43. I detect a certain elitism, perhaps even hostility, in the OP. Conversely, the reaction this garnered was far more so. Even so, I am compelled to point out that hardcore gamers are generally not people who have terrible lives and want to hit themselves over the head with a brick. A fair percentage of humanity enjoys a challenge. Not everyone likes passive entertainment. Now I hear you protesting that Endless Ocean is not passive entertainment, but it is still – as some have mentioned – laid back. I am acquainted with a number of people who never watch television *precisely* because that sort of entertainment, for them, has no appeal. It appears to me that what you really would prefer was if the tastes of others conformed more to yours.

    Also, I would like to make a distinction: There is nothing “hardcore” about playing exclusively shooters and racing games. Sure, it requires some time investment – to achieve the instincts necessary to excel in these games, but the hardcore is the one who always plays a game on max difficulty, the one likes being penalised for failure – the roleplayer and the high-stakes player. Halo 3 is not hardcore. The old Prince of Persia game – where one has to start over upon death, without any checkpoints, or saved games – is hardcore. Diablo II on harcore mode is hardcore. Reviewers cater to the ones with money. Casual gaming has not, until recently, started becoming a significant market. The Übergamers (neither the hardcore nor the casual) are the ones who purchase the games and generate the hype.

    I am not certain if I got my point across. I am fully aware of the… disjointedness of my post, and I apologise in advance for any annoyance caused thereby.

    And… let us not start a flame war, people. Hmmm?

  44. To begin,
    I read your critical review of half-life 2, and as one who considers himself a “hardcore” gamer, I find that I couldn’t agree with this statement more:
    The game is designed in such a way that there is hardly ever any time for reflection on or enjoyment of the environment and the story. It relentlessly pushes you on and never leaves you alone. Up to the unavoidable point where it all becomes very predictable and therefor tedious and annoying and ultimately boring. Half Life 2 is basically one long path with obstructions in your way.

    I found myself very disappointed with half-life 2 for this exact reason. It created such an amazing environment/world only to funnel you through it with little to no regard for this intriguing landscape that absolutely promoted a desire to just wonder about. To see what it had to offer (though being a gamer, I did want the opportunity to also experience relative engagements/combat throughout my experience as well). All I could think of was the missed potential in that game, and it quite honestly broke my heart. I still can’t imagine why it was received so well in the modern gamer community, as even the character-character interaction was not only forced but in a way that detracted from what little enjoyment might have been left in the game.

    I think it is a very difficult in today’s game development industry to balance production time with perceived entertainment values (and consequently sale numbers). And the easiest way to get entertainment value is to squeeze out a more or less “intense” but brief action-packed experience with about as much interaction or reflection towards strategy/thoughtfullness towards achieving one’s goals as any given diehard movie.

    I hate that most games these days have become nothing more than cheap action flicks which – though undeniably beautiful and oft times convincing – offer no real distinction from game to game outside of when/where it’s happening, along with tons of HUD candy/minor gameplay gadgets, or widgets to distinguish a game as NEW and Genre Defying! You’re basically watching what game developers have set before you unfold at your desktop in what does appear to nothing short of brief distraction.

    However I’m not sure how much less distraction or escapism we’re talking about when enveloping ourselves in a game of exploration and immersion into the environment than from jumping into the combat suit of any given generic space marine and saving the galaxy in a few short hours of selected combat.

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