Are Video Game Publishers Pushing A Social Agenda?
If you hadn't noticed, multiplayer has become a supremely popular option this generation and for some titles, it's not even an option; it's a necessity. Next to the obvious increase in technology, this remains the single biggest change between video games of the "golden age" and modern-day gaming.
But I have this conspiracy theory in my head now: it's easy to call it a natural progression; something that was bound to happen, simply because it's typically more entertaining to play against other humans than is against AI-controlled opponents. Many say the future is all about virtual reality, for example. Plus, given the aforementioned advances in technology, multiplayer in games has become more than possible...it has become an amazing leap, and one that offers experiences we could've only dreamed about back in the '80s. However, many veteran gamers - like yours truly - still view this hobby as a solitary activity; i.e., something you do when you're alone; a hobby that gratifies you and isn't reliant upon any outside factors. Let's face it, folks: gamers were indeed geeks back in the day, and when you're a geek, you don't go to parties and hit the clubs. You stay home and find ways to amuse yourself. Hence, video games.
But the stereotype has been eroding away ever since, and multiplayer is the biggest reason for that appreciated disintegration of an annoying stigma (even if it was accurate back then). These days, it's just as common to find Rock Band at a party as it is alcohol - okay, maybe not quite, but closer than you think - and I have no problem with that. But has anyone stopped to consider the possibility that publishers and maybe even manufacturers have been planning this revolution for a long time? Think about it. They want to appeal to the largest audience possible, and although they can't kill certain stereotypes and can't make video games that "everyone" will be interested in, they can still alter the product and the approach. Therefore, they tear down the walls between gamers and "everyone else," and provide us with crossover products that help to bridge the gap. In this way, the industry explodes into new territory and, last time I checked, this is exactly what has happened.
I just keep getting this sneaking suspicion that a bunch of designers got together in a secret meeting back in like 1990 and all made a solemn vow. It may not have just "happened," it could've been a carefully orchestrated agenda by the industry bigwigs that allowed their paychecks to increase tenfold over a certain span of time. And remember, most all devs and even publishers back in the day were gamers themselves...they were probably sick to death of all those stereotypes! You always hear about how developers are being pushed into adding multiplayer, and how a few devs even complain about it. One can easily say, "oh, they were asked to put it in because consumers wanted it." Fair enough. But what if they were asked to put it in before the vast majority of consumers had even heard of it? We could go 'round and 'round here, but I'm just sayin'...
5/17/2009 Ben Dutka