There’s a group of gamers that I’ve identified among my own friends that I think is rarely talked about. And I’m not really going to talk about them — I’m going to describe them instead.
In my experience, this group generally is made of people in their early 30s. Now since I happen to be in my early 30s and so are many of the people I know, that may or may not be significant. But the reason I mention it is because they all were introduced to gaming in the 80s. At some point in the late 90s, they stopped gaming, for whatever reasons. If you did them right, your 20s and late teens should be a blur anyways, so they probably can’t remember the reasons.
But now they’ve come back. And they bought Wiis. That makes a lot of gamers dismiss them as “casuals,” but they’re not. You’ll see.
They play a lot platformers and the Nintendo staples such as Mario Kart. They will play shooters — most of them played Doom if not Wolfenstein after all — but they have no interest in anything resembling story or plot. They skip it immediately, the instant the scene starts, every single time. They don’t even understand that there are games where doing that kills the point of playing the game. One of these friends tried out Alan Wake on my Xbox — I can’t remember what I was doing, but I wasn’t watching him play for most of the time. When I did come back, I watched him skip one of my favorite cuts without even giving it a moment. When I asked why, he told me he didn’t want to watch a movie. That games were about playing, not listening, about running and jumping and shooting and dying, but not about watching. Eventually he had turned it off and was doing some multiplayer in Snoopy’s Flying Ace (XBLA), I asked if he didn’t like Alan Wake. He said, it’s all right, just didn’t feel the need to go any further. But don’t you want to know what happens next? What happens next is that I shine a light at another shadow guy and kill him in the woods, right?
While that’s true enough, I felt like we weren’t even talking about the same game.
But oh, they may like games that others dismiss as casual, but there is nothing casual about the way I’ve seen these guys play Wii. They commit to games, defeating platformer levels that seem intentionally designed to only be successful if you’re lucky. They uncover all the hidden little items, and they do not turn to the internet to find out what they are. They die over and over and over and keep playing that level.
And the more I watch them, the more they remind me of me in 1990.
So what do we call these gamers that the gaming world has mostly abandoned? Retro hardcore?