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View Full Version : Explaining specific games to people who don't play them



jubeh
12-31-2011, 01:14 AM
My opinions on games have changed so rapidly and so suddenly this year that I thought I would write a series of posts about them. I guess this is the first one.

Its about explaining video games to people who don't play them.

And no I'm not trying to justify the existence of games, or explain why people play them. I'm talking about picking up a game off the shelf and explaining it to a person who doesn't regularly play games.

This is a problem I've thought about a lot but one I didn't consider worth writing about until I had to explain Viva Pinata to and older man at work who admittedly never played video games. I got to roughly the polite, retail equivilant of, "AND THEN THE PINATAS FUCK EACH OTHER," before he just shook his head and put it back on the shelf.

You could easily point at me and tell me it was my fault that I wasn't able to communicate the values of the game. I could easily say go fuck yourself because it starts way before me.

First point -- Trailers don't tell you shit.

People who play games know this. If you want to know what a game is really like you need to hunt down gameplay videos or a Let's Play. What do the gaming illiterate get?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5St9phiHHE

Oh cool looks like a fantasy action game with some rpg elements. Never mind its actually a game with tons of dialogue choices and slow, tactical combat. The only thing the trailer gets right is that by playing this game you will see ridiculously bad sex scenes.

And I repeat -- we know this. But what about random dad who wants to play games so that he can relate to his kids in some way? Or how about chick who watches her brother play games all the time and wants to play one herself?

Now we've all seen this point brought up a lot, and somebody will say that games just don't give you enough to work with to make good trailers. The problem is that the indies figured it out.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJLNnaHQtqE

I couldn't possibly argue that you can make a good trailer for every game, but at the very least publishers could try creating trailers that aren't blatantly misleading. Like I say all the time in the context of game design, stop sucking cineme's dick. Game trailers don't have to resemble movie trailers even a little bit.

Second point -- Gaming journalism is embarassing for everybody

I don't feel like I have to say anything here but I will anyway.

Gaming reviews are all about the score, and the score only matters to people who already care about games because scores no longer exist to influence your decision. They exist to reinforce the decisions made by people who already want or own the games being reviewed.

At best buy we have this awfully shitty magazing called @Gamer. I remember reading the first issue and immediately felt disappointed for paying 5 bucks for some of the most dangerous toilet paper I had ever purchased. But upon reading some of the newer issues I started to get it. It's a magazine for the lowest common denominator. Its for people who are familiar with games but haven't made them a part of their lives yet.

Its still super shitty, and panders to daft teenagers but they got that right. If only there were media that spoke to people on that level, but not insultingly.

Third point -- Aller sur une grande aventure!

The backs of game boxes are useless now. Worst case scenario is all the screenshots are from cutscenes. Best case is a giant tag line written in like nine different languages.

So why change?

The obvious benefit to developers is that they'll reach a wider audience. They won't necissarily sell more copies (because misleading customers is probably a better strategy there), but they'll get more people playing.

The benefit for the working guys like me is that they don't have to explain to grandpa the differences between call of duty 3 and modern warfare 3.

The benefit for you guys is that your pastime becomes something you can talk about with people who may have had a passive interest in it but could never dive in.

-=-=-=-

Feel free to chime in with your opinions.

Hayashida
12-31-2011, 02:46 AM
yeah um I think games should be described like how you would describe a movie to someone since so many game developers are basically trying to make movies.

jubeh
12-31-2011, 03:01 AM
Yeah see you can describe a movie in a few words.

Look at the description here for viva pinata

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viva_Pi%C3%B1ata

Hayashida
12-31-2011, 03:23 AM
Depends on the game. And I guess the same goes for movies. Some movies would be hard to explain and others would be easy. Basically Call of Duty is the game equivalent for the Transformers series

Delphinus
12-31-2011, 09:58 AM
Look at the description here for viva pinata

"you look after animals and plants as part of a garden"

Sylux
12-31-2011, 12:32 PM
The only thing the trailer gets right is that by playing this game you will see ridiculously bad sex scenes.

There's a mod for that you know.

jubeh
12-31-2011, 05:56 PM
"you look after animals and plants as part of a garden"

That's about the equivalent of picking up an fps off the shelf and saying you shoot mans with guns.

CypressDahlia
12-31-2011, 07:00 PM
TBH I don't think onlookers really care about the content of games but rather if the person they're gifting them to likes them or not. Moms probably don't even know or care what's in Call of Duty, which is why so many 8 year old boys own it. I mean I don't think you can get clearer than the ESRB sticker on the front of packaging and people can rarely even interpret, nor do they pay it much mind. This relates back to the whole ratings debate.

jubeh
12-31-2011, 07:25 PM
Based on my experiences working in retail for the last 3 years I could not disagree more.

CypressDahlia
12-31-2011, 07:42 PM
Well what do your experiences say? I'm pretty sure older people who come up to you asking about games are asking not for personal interests but to see if the person they're giving it to will like it.

jubeh
12-31-2011, 08:05 PM
My personal experience shows that parents are much more concerned about the games they buy for their kids than most people would probably think. ESRB rating are fine when you're dealing in broad points, but when you look at the different levels of violence between black ops and gears of war 3, its something you have to talk about. Customers are unpredictable. Some don't mind most violence but when dudes are getting curb stomped or cut in half they get upset.

If you've ever been at a store you've probably overheard some little kid trying to explain stuff to their mom, and the mom asking exactly what it is they're talking about. Especially if it's something that seems abstract to non game players like dlc and shit. Obviously I'm not a parent but it seems like most of the time parents are just trying to find ways to get their kids to shut their faces so actually asking them for an explanation of something is an obvious expression of concern or even interest.

But anyway I don't remember writing anything about gift giving at all. It's about people who want to get into games but can't because the barrier is not only high, but stupidly expensive.

CypressDahlia
12-31-2011, 08:38 PM
Well I was just talking about explaining specific games to people who don't play them, which could also include people buying games for other people.

jubeh
12-31-2011, 08:44 PM
Okay well I probably dont have enough room in the thread title but its people who want to play games but dont play them.

CypressDahlia
12-31-2011, 11:06 PM
I gotcha.

Inksprout
01-01-2012, 04:08 AM
The thing that amazes me the most about people who don't play games is the sheer ignorance some have to the whole concept. I mean I could understand even if it was 5-10 years ago but there are people out there today who literally don't know the first thing about it. My friend had an interview with a guy from a job agency and when she said she was studying making games he goes 'Board games or card games?' and then when she explained it was computer games he asked if she was going to work for one of the really big companies after uni, which is a ridiculous question (though I guess more reasonable then assuming she meant board games).

More relevent to this though my old housemate used to only play GTA games. It would annoy the hell out of me because I'd hear him talking about how they're the best games ever made, even though he'd never played any others. I tried to get him to play Bioshock because he's a writer I thought he'd really like it but I failed miserably to convey the appeal of the game to him :(

Sylux
01-01-2012, 09:25 AM
I don't even bother cuz I mean yeah :\

Fenn
01-01-2012, 08:41 PM
I really like this thread, because I think it addresses something every gamer thinks about even if we don't vocalize it.

Game Trailers: I don't think we'll see the end of cinematic trailers any time remotely soon because those types of ambiuous, flashy trailers are exactly what can attract less-informed gamers or non-gamers, just like a flashy movie trailer for a bad movie.

Gaming Journalism: I'm with you here. It's like no one has been born in the last half-century who enjoys both writing and video games. 1-Up.com has some decently-written articles, but for the most part gaming mags and sites are practically adversiting tools.

Game boxes: Boxes? What about Game manuals? They used to be chock-full of helpful info, now I'm lucky if they have a layout of the controls. The boxes are lame too, it's more lame, base advertising meant to draw you into buying it on impulse and pizzazz.


I agree, game companies just don't understand how to bring anything beyond Wii Sports and Kinectimals to the casual crowd.

Sylux
01-01-2012, 08:55 PM
That game group Frictional Games funded by Nordic (;)) enjoys writing (http://www.megaupload.com/?d=TXTJ2AIB) and game creation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M627-obxNzg).

Inksprout
01-01-2012, 10:03 PM
I got a subscription to a mag called game informer and it's pretty descent. They have opinion pieces as well as reviews and other random stuff. Their reviews are ussually really good and fair in terms of how they break things down and acknowledge the good and bad of games. The writers obviously spend a lot of time playing the games and loving gaming themselves. They have some good letters from readers too. I think magazines that are overly specific like xbox magazine and others for specific console mags are the biggest victims of being used purely for advertising.

The thing about marketing and game boxes etc is that they are often not designed by the game designers. The people that make the games don't get to make the marketing which is part of the problem. Some marketing douche who works for the publisher takes over and markets it according to whatever stupid rules they've decided on. So if they've sold a similar game to a particular demographic before they'll just market it the same way again and not care about ricking it with other audiences. They want the safe bet profit not to take risks in marketing.

Sylux
01-01-2012, 10:50 PM
I love how nonchalantly you said Game Informer even though it's the most broadly known VG mag in the world hahaha but yes unfortunately that sort of thing happened with Mass Effect: the first one independent of EA wasn't as hugely publicized and was good but ME2 was a whopper deal and less good and Mass Effect 3 is the biggest and will probably suffer being the worst too

jubeh
01-01-2012, 11:16 PM
Game informer is owned by gamestop. It's a magazine meant to sell games just like @gamer is.

Also their reviews are embarrassingly poor. I'm not calling you out or anything, it's just my opinion.

GunZet
01-02-2012, 12:18 AM
I also got a subscription to GI. Gotta agree on some of their reviews being poor, but they have some interesting articles once in a while. But 99% of the time I'm just looking forwards to the badass cover art.

Sylux
01-02-2012, 06:49 AM
I have a subscription to OXM derp :I

Regantor
01-02-2012, 04:01 PM
I remember an entire article in nintendo game cube magazine about alternate uses for your N64 controllers, including as blingly necklaces. Those magazines were great precisely because they didn't take themselves so seriously... Now it's all marketing and staying on good terms with the publishers. Guess you can't really say any one crowd is to blame, through. It's just the price of popularity.

Anyway. Main topic. Video game effects on parents are ammusing. According to the express opinion of my dad, Cave Story is 'too childish' whilst No More Heroes is 'much to gorey and nasty', even the Euro version with the black pixie dust instead of blood. Wii Sports and Battlefeild 3 are amoung games he classes as 'the best'... Which, okay, fair enough, are not outright horrible; But what happened to 'too childish' and 'too nasty'?

I guess my overall point is that I don't think the general populace just dislikes depth, I think their are outright alienated by the whole artistry thing. If a game doesn't appear to take itself seriously, it must not be that important, huh? It's kinda like "Why doesn't the man in the TV want to be my freind today? ;_;"

Can't be arsed hunting down the exact clip, but I remember one Freelance Astronauts LP of Wii Sports Resort that summed this up perfectly; "...They should just yell GOOD JOB! and WELL DONE! weither you hit the target or not!"

Delphinus
01-02-2012, 04:40 PM
I guess my overall point is that I don't think the general populace just dislikes depth, I think their are outright alienated by the whole artistry thing. If a game doesn't appear to take itself seriously, it must not be that important, huh?

So exactly the same as any other form of media? Sadly, most people are neither artists nor interested in culture beyond "dislike" and "dis i like". Club music is top of the charts; sob stories or the latest thing by a big-name author comprise the vast majority of bestsellers; the summer blockbuster is nearly always terrible and terribly middle-class.

Junk media, it's like junk food. It's a sad reflection of cultural degradation, and quite possibly of the collapse of western civilisation to decadence, obesity, and passivity.

Fenn
01-02-2012, 08:26 PM
I remember an entire article in nintendo game cube magazine about alternate uses for your N64 controllers, including as blingly necklaces.

The old Nintendo Power Mag was AMAZING! They used to have partial length guides, fun and silly topics, it was a real entertainment mag taht was fun to read. I remember one 2-page spread article gave a "tour" of Nintendo Power HQ as if the game characters worked there. They had pics of Bowser looking for a parking space and super shrooms in the cafeteria lunch line.

Then they changed and became just like all the other magazines: everything was a preview or a review. It was "Coming Soon!", "Buy this game!" "Look what's coming out now!" Once a game was released and got it's review, you didn't see it in the mage anymore.

They've fallen into the middle now, they have fun pages like character profiles and the awesome Fan Creations sections, but I still miss the lighthearted and labor-of-love style of the old issues. I think the Internet is partially to blame: why waste print on guides and strategies when you can get those in 2 seconds with Google?


So exactly the same as any other form of media? Sadly, most people are neither artists nor interested in culture beyond "dislike" and "dis i like". Club music is top of the charts; sob stories or the latest thing by a big-name author comprise the vast majority of bestsellers; the summer blockbuster is nearly always terrible and terribly middle-class.

Junk media, it's like junk food. It's a sad reflection of cultural degradation, and quite possibly of the collapse of western civilisation to decadence, obesity, and passivity.

Precisely. I mean, I enjoy a nice bag of chips or a sode every once and a while, just like I enjoy going to see the newest Fast and Furious when it comes out. But that's occasionally. It's the overindulgence and complete disregard for health and quality that's ruining things.

Regantor
01-02-2012, 10:00 PM
So exactly the same as any other form of media? Sadly, most people are neither artists nor interested in culture beyond "dislike" and "dis i like". Club music is top of the charts; sob stories or the latest thing by a big-name author comprise the vast majority of bestsellers; the summer blockbuster is nearly always terrible and terribly middle-class.
I totally agree, but what I was really getting at was a specific feature to video games; They don't just beef up the 'hero' as super mecha godzilla jesus, modern producers seem to think that beefing up you personally is somehow what makes a game good...

Like, take a look at Fable. The much-lauded karma system is actually pretty damn shallow if you think about it, mostly because it had to be an action game. It had to be about you smashing all the evil guys/good guys in the world to become the best evil guy/good guy yourself. All of the features that aren't directly involved in you killing things and feeling awesome about yourself are simple sideline affairs, because dog forbid that you'd do something not directly related to improving your ego.

jubeh
01-02-2012, 10:12 PM
Side note: It was awesome that in the original fables that you could smash doors when in most games they are indestructable.

Fenn
01-03-2012, 11:05 AM
Why do developers feel they have to cater to either casual or hardcore gamers? A feel like a game that balanced both could be really successful.

ClockHand
01-03-2012, 12:34 PM
Why do developers feel they have to cater to either casual or hardcore gamers? A feel like a game that balanced both could be really successful.

Because they are indeed, targets. They both search different things in games and they both play differently. Yes, socially we shouldn't make the discrimination, but in marketing the discrimination is need so they can reach their target in a efficient way.

Obviously I do believe that a good game will please both targets, but the reality has shown that good games don't sell that well.

Sylux
01-03-2012, 02:37 PM
Why do developers feel they have to cater to either casual or hardcore gamers? A feel like a game that balanced both could be really successful.

Mass Effect 3 will include a feature that skips longer bits of combat so the player can skip straight to the story dialogue, and the mode can be included back for a more hardcore battle experience experience.

Inksprout
01-03-2012, 07:51 PM
I think its more of a marketing issue. While good games will probably appeal to both 'casual' and 'hardcore' (I despise using these labels) it is difficult to market to both parties simultaneously. Obviously there are some games that are very thoroughly designed for one audience or the other and probably wouldn't take off. The thing with games is they ussually design them for a specific target group as well. There is a pretty big rift between some of these groups which makes it hard to design a game with both audiences in mind.

ClockHand
01-03-2012, 07:54 PM
Its like filming a porn for everyone. JAJAJA.

No, but in reality is a marketing problem.

Celestial-Fox
01-05-2012, 09:46 PM
The thing with games is they ussually design them for a specific target group as well. There is a pretty big rift between some of these groups which makes it hard to design a game with both audiences in mind.
I've never really thought about it, but that's true. I'm interested in how what Sy said about Mass Effect 3 will play out, though. It sounds like it'd be fairly effective.

Sylux
01-05-2012, 09:48 PM
Yeah cuz first playthrough you can amp up the action so that it feels really epic and like you actually accomplished something when you beat it and you get those tingles and then the playthroughs after that can be for other relationships and all-renegade or all-paragon

Celestial-Fox
01-05-2012, 10:09 PM
I like the idea of having options for differing replay experiences. Hmmmm, I might check it out, especially since I'm able to game again with the new TV my roommates and I just got. C:

Sylux
01-05-2012, 10:11 PM
Have you played the first two? Don't play 3 without 1 and 2, yo.

Celestial-Fox
01-05-2012, 10:18 PM
...
NO.

/goes to find monies



Oh, and I forgot to mention, Jubeh, that the OP is really good. I made someone else read it. C:

jubeh
01-05-2012, 10:18 PM
Ty tho I still don't think people see it as an issue.

Aether
01-11-2012, 09:24 AM
I've never really thought about it, but that's true. I'm interested in how what Sy said about Mass Effect 3 will play out, though. It sounds like it'd be fairly effective.
You could even say that it's...

Massively Effective.

Anyway, after reading this thread about something I had not ever thought about; I think it touches on some good points. The entire concept that ads have to be flashy cinema ads in order to sell is ridiculous, but it does make you think, "where does the problem with that begin to manifest?". I think Clock (can't remember who said this but whatever) hit the nail on the head. The game designers seem to have little-to-no input in how the ads are. Anyway, I would love to touch more on this, but I have to get off the train soon. I'll have to come back tomorrow.

Fenn
01-11-2012, 11:18 AM
Part of the problem is upper management and the business aspect. You either have developers who love games and design but have little understanding of sales and marketing, or business majors who love money but couldn't tell Pokemon Black from Blackjack Poker. It's very hard to find someone who understands gamers as both players AND consumers simultaneously. It's even harder to find big publisher CEOs who truly understand the game development process.