May 28, 2010

What's wrong with whimsy?

The Boyfriend sent me this link to a reviewer who doesn't understand how adult reviewers are loving Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Essentially, this guy doesn't understand how adult gamers, and by gamers not casual gamers but gamers who play anything and everything on the market worth playing, enjoy Super Mario Galaxy 2.  He complains about the button configuration, but doesn't really argue about why it's not an adult game.

I have a question for the author, Doug Elfman: What should adult reviewers like?  What game is the be all end all of reviewer praise?

I have a lot of problems of the kind of assumptions that Elfman makes.  First of all, in my humble opinion, Elfman thinks games with bright colors, goofy sounds, and no gunfire can not be appealing to "true" gamers.  Second, if you don't like using both hands playing a video game, don't play video games.  I don't know of any console who 80% of the time only uses one hand.  I can understand some of the frustration of a Wii controller, because most people used to the old controllers take a while to adapt to the scheme of it.  But that's old news.  If that's your only complaint, that has nothing to do with adults not liking the game.

There is this perception that there is something juvenile about video games.  Some games are, but some are not.  The industry is juvenile, yes, especially since they have a problem with representing their audience as something other than a horny 17 year old that hides in his basement.  But if you actually play video games, you know that the act itself isn't juvenile.  Sometimes it's like a movie, sometimes it's like reading a story you love, sometimes it is merely shooting everything in sight (L4D is fantastic for this) but it usually involves some brain power, problem solving and coordination.  It's a little more active than a book, probably why it's even more distracting and engrossing.  Books aren't juvenile, TV and movies (which are more passive) aren't juvenile.  Why is it video games are considered such?

It's because the perception of such is perpetuated not only by people outside of the gaming culture, but by the people in it as well.  And when we say a fun game that happens to have goofy sounds and bright colors is only for kids, we forget that there are plenty of adults that read comic books, watch cartoons and even read young adult books whose actions aren't considered childish.

I think it's childish to not consider things that are different than your usual repertoire.  Especially if your usual repertoire helps the industry stay more narrow minded, kind of like what this article I read recently was trying to say.

And getting back to the title of this article, what's wrong with an escapist medium where everything is simple, and whimsical and magical?  That's the Mario universe.  It's not fantasy in the traditional sense, but it is a great world to go to after work or school where there are many demands and sometimes you feel like you're stuck in a hamster wheel.  Sure, you're off to kill bad guys, but they don't even bleed all over the place!  They just go POOF and you're done!  You even get gold if they go poof!  Or stars!

Whimsy is completely entertaining even as an adult.  How has the Wizard of Oz stayed such a movie classic?  It's light hearted and fun!  No one would tell you that it's only for kids just because it is brightly colored and has goofy characters.  It's a cinema classic!

If we start subjecting video games to the same kind of scrutiny that we give of mediums, these kind of comments will come less often.  It'll happen in time.  Soon, the idea of a video game being too childish to play or enjoy will become less of an accepted thing.

Wow, I typed a lot more than I expected.  Thanks for reading!

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