Submitted by Duion on
After writing the recent blog post "The dumbing down of games" I started asking myself the question: Is it the dumbed down games that create dumbed down gamers or is it dumbed down gamers that require dumbed down games?
It most likely is a combination of both, the question is more what is the bigger factor or the root cause.
The problem of dumbed down games was one of the main reasons I started doing game development myself, since it is something I like to do and where I thought I could make a difference. I thought "So many people complain about the grievance of the gaming industry and the bad quality of games, that if someone makes it right, there will be a huge market for this" Of course I did not think it will be super successful, but at least there would be a niche of people interested in it and help out with it, but in any case I was so damn wrong and nothing happened, instead people still complained it was not good enough, even though the core problem was solved almost as good as possible. In fact in the software world, most problems would probably be solved with open source software, you need just a little bit of common sense, since if the software is free, there is hardly any way to exploit it for money and exploit people with it, well sure there is, but it will be very hard. People often complain about open source software, but don't realize that open source software dominates the whole computing world. Even if it would not dominate, just the fact that it exists proves to some degree that open source software written by some hobby guy in his cellar can compete with software written by huge billion dollar companies. However this is mostly true for consumer software, not for open source games, so I tried to change that, but then some weird things happened, which leads us to what I originally wanted to write about in this blog post: The dumbing down of gamers.
I now think the main reason we have this misery in the gaming industry is not the industry itself, but the dumbed down consumers. As a game developer I of course started to do research how to improve my product and get people to use it etc and after long time of research I came up with good methods to do that, but then realized those were the same kind of shady manipulative tactics the mainstream gaming industry used, which was the thing I was totally against. I then came to realize that cheating, manipulating and being immoral is most likely an absolute necessity in becoming successful in the business world. Not only that, but also necessary is to go along with whatever is currently the trend and/or what the consumers demand, which in return is what is trending anyway. So and if the industry is cheating and manipulating their consumers and giving the consumers bad products is the trend, than you have to do that as well, since the consumers are so used to it that the absolutely demand what they get.
I don't really know who started it, the dumbing down consumers or the industry dumbing down their consumers which in return makes it necessary to produce dumbed down products, but what I think I know is that you as a producer cannot really turn around the trend, even if you tried to, you would lose customers and then go bankrupt. The consumers on the other hand have more power, but they are less coordinated so they will not change the situation either.
This blog post turned out a bit different than I planned, since I wanted to write about experiences how dumb gamers have become, but this was already covered in my last blog post "The dumbing down of gamers" you only have to think about it from the other perspective. Almost everything listed there is not intentionally dumbed down, but it actually is what you need to do as a game developer now. I experienced this first hand.
When I was a lot into gaming it was around the years 2000, so I'm coming from the 90s perspective and mentality, which was a lot different than today. In the past a game was like a typical software, you would buy and then you were mostly on your own in order to figure out how to have fun with it, which of course mostly accounted for multiplayer. You would find friends, play with them, arrange custom games, host your own servers, make own rules, make own levels, make own mods etc. However nowadays the mentality is much different, games are now more seen as a service, the consumer wants to be instantly entertained without doing much of his own, so it is your responsibility as a developer to entertain the customer or invent software that entertains the customer automatically. Ideally the customer just has to press a button which will install the game automatically and automatically put him into a game with players, settings, location where he will be entertained without having to bother to actually learn the game or bother with options menu or else. It is probably similar to webdesign where I read in an article that your website must catch the customer within 10 seconds, or he will be gone. This means the customer to your website needs to be able to figure it out within 10 seconds or it needs to catch him entertainment wise somehow. With games it is probably different, but not 10 seconds, but probably a couple minutes.
There are delusional comments/reviews by people on my game, things like "The levels are all too dark, its unplayable this way" and then they stopped playing the game in total. The irony is, I have lots of levels in lots of different time of day and I intentionally made night levels darker so that there is a challenge and I made the dark, 100% dark to prevent gamma cheating, so the actually "too dark" levels are intentional and only a fraction of the total amount of levels, maybe 5-10% of levels this could count for. However that person will never know that 95% of the game is not what he thinks it is, because all he did was play for a few minutes on a random server with random people or bots or alone and he never bothered to wait a few minutes or go somewhere else or invite friends or look into the options or even read the manual. Even if there was really such a problem, the game is open source and you can just change it yourself, I could even tell how to do that, but in the end the consumer would have to press the button or change some lines in notepad, which is an almost impossible task for the average dumbed down consumer nowadays.
Incidents like this made me realize the mentality of people today, they want to press a button and be entertained within minutes and never having to bother to think for themselves or actually do anything themselves. This forces game developers to actually remove or dumb down features, since any button to much is a possibility the customer can do something wrong or has to do anything at all. Ideally the customer only has to press one button called "Play" and the game will do anything automatically from there and the first random encounter in the game will be arranged that the customers has a good experience, since he will not bother to try again.
Actually I think having to press a button is already too hard of a task for most dumbed down consumers today, the game has to do a popup telling them what to do all the time and/or sometimes even automatically press the button, otherwise the average dumbed down consumer would never be able to figure out what button to press on his own. I know this since I put features into my game that probably nobody ever used or at least 99% or 99,9% or 99,99% never used it and I not only had them on hotkeys referenced in the manual but also made GUI buttons for it on the main menu yet nobody probably ever clicks them. Sure I don't have tracking on my game, so I don't actually know how many pressed it, but from the reactions I get I can assume that they have no clue they exist, especially when they complain those features don't exist, even though they do exist.
The stupidity I encountered after releasing my game was absolutely amazing to me, people comment things that are completely false and even if you have absolute proof that the claims are false, they still think they are right, since they are the consumers. They don't care that I worked thousands of hours to provide them a free game with free service, they demand to be entertained and to get support, since they are the customers.
I think the main reasons gamers have become more stupid are:
1. Computers and computer gaming has become mainstream, so you got more idiots in it than in the past, where only intelligent people could handle computers.
2. The industry appealing to the increased customer base of more idiots, since if stupid people can use your product also, you get a bigger customer base.
3. The consumers being too lazy and uncoordinated to actually change anything.
In the end it is probably the industry who is the main cause for this, but they domesticated their customers to give them more money and now they cannot turn back and if you dig even deeper, the industry itself does not have that much freedom of choice anyway, since the industry needs to make profit and stupid customers are good for profit, so they breed more stupid customers.
And in the very end it is probably the consumer who is the main cause, since the industry just wants to make profit and the consumer decides what makes the most profit, since he generates it, the problem is just that the consumer has the power, but does not make use of it.
It is a complicated interdependence you hardly can get out: People are garbage so people get garbage, which then makes them more garbage which then makes them get more garbage and so on. It is an unconscious spiral of doom, you can only get out through becoming conscious.
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