Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's so great about mainstream?

You know, it's bad when you listen to the radio so much that you pretty much know the order of what a deejay will play and when they'll play it. This is what i've discovered while basically driving up and down the whole length of Nebraska doing random odd tasks like picking up and dropping off my niece at her summer job, my sister-in-law at her work. other family members at random times, and just cruising around downtown with one of the two friends I currently have since I've moved here from Virginia (Yes, it's sad. I know). Today, as I sat in the passenger's seat of the old rusted Voyager, jamming out to the 90's alt rock station, I kind of hit a point of realization, which as you all know is basically the spark that starts a rather lengthy discussion about whatever rant-based editorial that I'm probably notorious for at this point. It's okay, reader you don't have to look around bewildered and wondering if you came to the wrong site. This has as much to do with videogames, as it does music, movies, television, and fashion

What the hell is so great about mainstream?

Think about it for a sec; mainstream music, which is basically the top 20 stuff we would hear on the radio, has taken a serious nosedive of quality over the years slowly being distilled down into a "winning formula for success". Then that success is basically shoved into the ears of people on rotation on the hour, every hour. Even the guy who's named after Thailand's master of Tiger style kickboxing figured it out!

Which is why we went from a diverse array of musical styles and instruments, to pop princesses and boy bands, to "I don't know what this is, but it's got auto-tune so it's cool". Rap went from a bunch of guys telling us about the stuff I could see out my window growing up, and what I would see when I visit family in West Philly every couple of years. Now Rap is a bunch of guys that sound like they suffer from speech problems talking about women, and telling people how rich they are. Back in the day, these cats would of been the ones that got robbed daily by the real gangsters and thugs who aren't out there broadcasting their riches for everyone to see. Look at the fashions of today. People are out there wearing neon colored clothes of the 80's and all these different fashions, but compared to what people actually wore back then the fashion movement looks and feels so hollow by comparison. Back then you could easily tell that the style was about diversity and embracing the ideals of the time, and now in the hands of a bunch of kids trying to look "cool" it's pretty much been relegated to pure parody.

Mainstream movies are basically retooling movies of years past to be relevant to today in remakes and such, but often fall short because either the people in charge have no bloody idea what made those movies of the past strike true with audiences of the time ( The reboot of Friday the 13th had Jason running, instead of walking fools down), or they're trying to shove these lifeless automaton actors into roles that were brought to life by people who were ten times more capable in their day. This isn't an old man rant, this point is making more and more sense with every movie that gets shoved into our collective faces. Which leads me to the issue of games pushing for mainstream acceptance.

As things stood last console generation and partially this gen, we've seen that gaming was only  for males aged 14-25, and that's the constant sweet spot that companies were hitting again and again. This is pretty much the same mindset that seems to go with mainstream TV, movies, music, and fashion. Anything with any sort of mainstream popularity is made for a set number of people in a targeted range of age or gender based on cultural relevance of popular ideals of the time. This is why you often hear the phrase " ______ is so hot right now!" It's hot right now because tomorrow it might fall flat compared to whatever else people are crowding around. Do we really want to push so hard to make gaming a "passing fad" ? I'm sure to you who are reading this gaming is definitely not the "pet rock". It sure as hell isn't a Troll doll, either.

Satoru Iwata made an excellent point that if gaming were continued to be focused on a particular segment instead of being expanded so that more people could be brought in then gaming will most likely follow the fate of many mainstream trends. Ironically enough Robert Kirkman made the same point in his manifesto to the comic book industry and community.

We haven't even discussed the level of quality of games which seems to be dwindling down the more we push for mainstream acceptance. The games that are popular right now breed the ones that are being made in excess. Breakout hits end up being mined and repackaged into other games to boost sales, with little emphasis on what made this game resonate with it's audience in the first place. Walk into any store at this point and ask yourselves what do you see more of? is it new and fresh games that seem exciting to play, or is it clones of X and Y game that got popular years ago? Sadly enough the common answer would be the latter.

So what's so great about mainstream? I don't really know for sure. You may read this as me being totally against gaming being mainstream, and that's not the case, but I'm not saying that gaming is meant to be some sort of indie underground thing either. Neither are any better than the other, and controllers need to be put into as many hands as possible to ensure that gaming doesn't die off or go into serious decline much like comics, music or anything else. Gaming does need to shed it's skin of being only for basement dwelling Geeks, Nerds and Otaku. However, the end result of mainstream validation  may or may not justify the means in the way people think it would. Instead, we should focus more on expanding gaming for the sake of the future instead of popularizing it for the sake of right now.

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