Variety Is The Gamer's True Spice
We all have our personal preferences when it comes to gaming, but can any true fan really stick to only one game, genre, or platform? It's a question that's difficult to answer; those who exclusively play MMOs or FPSs 40 hours per week will say they're hardcore (and clearly, they are), but does that voluntary restriction make them less of a gamer? I say yes.
Look, it goes well beyond experiencing different things. Those who claim to be gamers will also claim to be experts on the subject, and just because you sit there playing World of Warcraft or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare a gazillion hours without sleep doesn't necessarily mean you're an expert. In fact, in my experience, it means you could know next to nothing about the industry and the best software available. In fact, if you really think about it, how can such people know much of anything? Sure, you can read up on stuff as easily as the next person, but with only second-hand information at your disposal, you can't label yourself an "expert" on anything. But of course, besides the MMO addicts, there aren't many people out there who only play one game, so perhaps this initial argument isn't viable. Perhaps the question revolves around those who only play one type of game.
Despite all the strides we've taken, despite all the genres sitting on store shelves, there are still plenty of gamers who simply refuse to play any title from a certain category. I've never been able to understand this. I really can't stand flight, fighting, and most music-based games, but does that mean I've never played an Ace Combat? Does that mean Soul Calibur IV isn't in my collection? Does that mean I've never picked up that nifty little guitar for Guitar Hero? Of course not. The bottom line is this, and I'm sure I've said it before: gamers play great games, regardless of the platform or genre. On top of which, there are benchmark titles that absolutely anyone who calls themselves a gamer should play, and that includes titles from all four major platforms today. You don't have to finish them. But simply putting your hands on the controller (or mouse/keyboard, whatever) should be a requirement when it comes to things like Grand Theft Auto IV, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Crysis, etc.
About six weeks ago, I did an editorial on the true definition of the term, "gamer." This is an off-shoot to that - in a way - because I've recently come across people who have explicitly stated they "won't play" any game from 'insert genre title here.' Essentially, they believe they'll never have any fun with any game from that category, so they won't bother, no matter what the critics say. But where's the open-mindedness in that? Shouldn't we realize that gaming continues to evolve right under our very noses, and that tomorrow's RPG will probably be nothing like yesterday's? Heck, that's already true. I still know gamers who will never touch a FPS for a variety of reasons, and this viewpoint absolutely baffles me. Now, there was a time when I'd play a ton of RPGs back in the PS1 days, but that in no way stopped me from sampling any number of the great titles back in that era. I still think the likes of Twisted Metal 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo 2, Resident Evil 2, and Wipeout XL are some of my favorites ever.
So here's the thing: if you're a game collector and you call yourself a gamer, I believe you're doing yourself a disservice by ignoring games you think you'll hate. So much has changed, and let's not forget that our personal tastes can change with time, too. To swear off any one genre, to sear off any one platform, or worse, to only play one or two games for months on end online, drops your stock as a "gamer" in my eyes. Of course, I am not saying everybody should play titles that all the critics love, but I am saying that the benchmark titles I mentioned earlier go beyond reviews. They're widespread phenomena, and there's a reason for it...you should discover that reason, love it or hate it. The next time I hear someone trying to lecture others on a genre they despise, without ever having played anything from that genre in the past decade, I'm gonna have some kind of breakdown. Spread those wings and try new things. Personal opinion is one thing, but some people just need to accept change and grow with the times; you hated Super Hang-On so you won't try Gran Turismo: Prologue? Oookay.
P.S. Any number of examples can be formed using the preceding formula. Try it; it's fun. :)
9/17/2008 Ben Dutka