Casting Out the Inner Eye of Judgement
Imagination is the key to gaming. Playing games, designing games, making music for games it all comes from the creative source within us all: our imaginations. Video games have always inspired young players and inventors to push the boundaries of electronic entertainment until one day that elusive interactive holodeck of dreams can be ours. Baby steps towards this universal gaming goal are coming faster and faster these days. Yet, ever since the 80’s marketing menagerie of dashing the hopes of tech wonders actually living up to the hype, game journalists and gamers themselves have become so jaded and so critical of every new gimmick or niche title to come out it’s almost hard to see why these “gamers” even like games anymore.
So, it’s no surprise that when some new promise of re-enacting another nerd fantasy (think the Star Wars claymation chess game of Wookie arm ripping action) gamers will either unite in applause or collectively bash the concept so far and hard into the ground as to release liquid magma into the faces of all who oppose them. I’m talking about the Eye Toy and it’s first major step into wooing the gaming populace The Eye of Judgement
Penny Arcade’s Tycho was positive in his excitement about what this could mean for tabletop gamers and people who are drawn to the idea of placing a card on a table and have its true power and essence explode onto their tv screen in streaming colours and fantastic magic action. And I agree, this is truly amazing! It brings all of us closer to setting our little figurines down and having their animated antics appear for us on the high def fancy screens we’ve all come to know and yearn for.
My only problem with the this new type of gaming is what it means for the younger generation of gamers. I’m referring to the kids who watched the Clone Wars (www.starwars.com/clonewars) animated series before ever seeing A New Hope. These gamers lack the experience of the older generation in terms of dreaming of satisfying games but having to endure decades of painstaking baby steps towards the PS3s, Wiis, and 360s of today. This young generation has the expectation of the shiny and new emblazoned upon them.
So, a game that turns their decks of cards into awesome action on screen comes as no suprise, nay, it’s expected. This is intuitively accepted as “Of course, why didn’t I have this sooner!” The time of using one’s own imagination to enjoy the gaming experience is diminished once again. On one hand young gamers miss more and more of the classic “I have to use my own mind to animate my adventures”. Yet on the other hand, older gamers finally achieve another step towards having their wild imaginatons punch through into reality for all to see. The experience of the game is the same, but the perception of the game’s significance is different. Why does this matter to me?
The real issue I’m so concerned about is the future of gaming and accepting the fact that gaming history doesn’t seem to be as important as the gaming present. That the experiences of that past, the hardships of old are just one of the many sacrifices that technological progress has always had to make. Can I sit here and say people can’t enjoy power windows because they never had to manually roll up a window before? No, that would be ridiculous. Opening and closing the window hasn’t changed, just the way you do it. And the same is true for playing games. Should I sit here and be jealous because when I was a kid I just had three Star Wars movies and kids now a days have six, an animated tv series, an upcoming live-action series, a library of books, handheld and console games, and more worldwide merch than the 2008 and 2010 Olympics combined? Or should I be thankful that I exist in a world where people actually get to enjoy such an abundance of source material for their imaginations? Some people are going to hate gimmick gameplay, some people are going to love it, but at least it’s there, at least it exists. And at least some one, some where will play it.
The fact is, the future is fast approaching and gimmicks or no, new gaming challenges await us all and one of the first to tackle is letting go of the hierarchy of gamers that I myself seem to be locked into. I think we all need to remember that we just play games. No matter how old we are or how long we’ve been doing it, everything comes back to that simple fact. We all use our imaginations to enjoy the stories, enjoy the gimmicky technologies, to enjoy ourselves.
It is okay to be a 36 year old Pokemon player and it’s okay to be a 27 year old Wii master of Cooking Mama. These things are just fine and dandy in the new age of play and should be embraced. You don’t have to play every single Final Fantasy to know you enjoy a good long cinematic RPG. You don’t need to play every single Metroid to know Samus is the hottest alien ass kicker since Ripley. And you can play The Wind Waker and think it’s the best thing ever and never have set foot in Hyrule before. You can just as easily lead a squad of Advanced Warfighters into battle and then turn around and have the most rockin Pinata Garden this side of Azeroth. You can play whatever you want, just as long as you play.
The name Eye of Judgement is far more fitting for this moment in gaming time than at first glance. Because this is the time for us all to take a step back from the hype, move away from the critques and just be thankful that we get to enjoy any of this crazy stuff. We’re all at the forefront of the playable frontier and we get to explore and enjoy new worlds every single day. That’s a really special thing and something we all share. Take a moment to remember that and let go of all the things that are wrong with this or that, who’s “hardcore” or “casual”, and just be happy.
You are a gamer.