Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wed section:

On page 23, Soderman discusses the self-reflection of daily life and its involvement in the role video games can play for the "casual gamer". He introduces Bolton's idea of the "third shift". Following the work shift and the home shift, the third shift are the lulls in the day that precipitate "relentless self-critical attitude", a constant questioning of one's use of time during the day. The question arises whether casual games provide a release from the third shift, allowing the mind to focus on something else other than self-critical thought, or whether the third shift is positive, and is being sacrificed by gaming. I find this critique most interesting.

First, let me say that I do not buy into the idea of "time-management" games having any positive effect on time-management in real life. Instead, for games to be considered positive (besides a fun hobby), I think they must serve some purpose akin to Bolton's idea.

Second, I think that this issue being raised provides a more accurate distinction between casual gaming and hardcore gaming. Personally, I had difficulty buying into the casual/hardcore distinctions that involved primarily appearance vs. software. The idea that the hardcore gamer is (almost) only interested in the gameplay, rather than graphics or storyline, seems exaggerated. For example, I think most would agree that Halo has become a popular game for many hardcore gamers. A large part of this, I would argue, is the graphics and storyline improving from sequel to sequel. Similar arguments could be made for the majority of first person shooter games that have many hardcore gamers obsessing over.

Furthermore, I suggest looking at the original game Donkey Kong. In the documentary King of Kong, two individuals are featured in their quest to be the Donkey Kong champion (with a committee and everything). I would argue that for the most part, Donkey Kong fits the description of a casual game. It is very simple: avoid the barrels and fireballs to reach the top of the level. At the end of the levels, you save the girl. The mechanics of the game are quite simple as well; the barrels will fall at different places depending on the character's location, fireballs chase you, and there is a small degree of randomness. However, after seeing the film, I am convinced Donkey Kong gaming is one of the highest levels of hardcore gaming (I mean they made a movie about it). The player's understanding of the mechanics allowed them to make the game much more than casual.

Because of these examples, I would suggest that the issue Bolton brings up should be an important consideration for distinguishing between casual and hardcore gaming. When the game is used as a break from "third shift", the game seems very casual. When the game does much more than this, consuming the player for hours on end, the gaming seems hardcore. With the altered distinction, I think the feminine/masculine relationship is also more appropriate, and could be discussed in section.

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