The Only Thing To Fear In Gaming Is Fear Itself

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

The Only Thing To Fear In Gaming Is Fear Itself

There is a growing concern these days over exclusionary behavior in the gaming market. Given the state of the last several years, it's really not surprising that such factioning behavior would take place, but in some ways, it's actually hurting the industry. In others, however, it's actually something of a help.

While the names of the factions have changed over the years, the essential message remains the same. When the conflict was casual versus hardcore, the hardcore players were concerned that valuable resources would be diverted from the hardcore market to produce games for the casual players. Ostensibly, the hardcore players would have no interest in the resulting games, and a primary source of entertainment for same would be lost.

Now, in the more current conflicts, we have the "dudebros" with their constant demands for first person shooters and little else. We have an odd doctrinal conflict shaping up in terms of gender politics. Yet at the same time, the underlying refrain is still as audible as it was when there were hosts of mini-game based titles coming out for the Wii: more resources going to them means less resources going to us.

This is what seems to be at the root of every one of the doctrinal conflicts of late. More dudebro games means fewer RPGs and other games coming out for the "games enthusiast" crowd. More casual games fewer hardcore games. More games that are geared toward female gamers means fewer games for the male players. Every doctrinal conflict seems to boil down to a basic if / then proposition, a zero-sum game in which there are winners, and there are losers. When "other gamers" get their say, another set of gamers loses their own say.

And indeed, this is hurting the industry. It's been said more than once that more perspectives will provide new experiences, and by taking the approach of a zero-sum environment, the gaming market is deliberately limiting its exposure to said experiences. Who knows what we're missing out on by a protectionist stance?

Yet at the same time, this is also helping. I know, it's puzzling to consider an almost xenophobic stance valuable to the market, but stick with me on this. When a market becomes very clearly delineated--games for dudebros, games for casuals, games for the ladies and so on--opportunities crop up in the wider market. In much the same way that there are several places to get a hamburger based on one's particular tastes, so too can the gaming market open up in such a vein. After all, it's still a hamburger, whether it's Red Robin, Five Guys, or Wendy's. But each of those choices offers up a slightly different spin on the dish. Red Robin offers unexpected variety, Wendy's focuses on speed of delivery, and Five Guys almost combines the two, neither so extensive as the other can provide, but a blend all the same.

With clearly delineated market segments, developers can focus on projects of choice and deliver the product that best suits the talents under said developers' control. That makes for better games overall in those specific market segments. The market can focus its own resources more closely, and newfound independent developers can step into specific roles without having to split focus on different segments. In much the same way that some studios specialize in horror films, game studios can focus on first person shooters or open world games.

While this combative stance may be indeed harmful on some levels, market segmentation may not be such a bad idea. The more studios can focus on certain games, the more refined these experiences are likely to be. There's certainly something to be said for inclusiveness, but exclusivity has its points too. Either way, there's no call for fear in gaming...aside from the content, that is.
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