In the Dark

There are few college age people these days who did not, at some point, come into contact with Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. That game alone was the cornerstone for all future first person shooters on console. It's predecessor, Perfect Dark, was not so well known. It was however, incredible.

The company responsible for these games, Rare, has been in the hands of Microsoft for some time. The only immediate benefit Microsoft recieved was a hole of 375 million dollars, which Nintendo cashed in on. The sole game Rare has released post sale was Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which is somewhere between pathetic and a blight upon history.

If you missed the news, Microsoft has released all the details on their anticipated entry into the next generation of consoles, the Xbox 360. Personally I prefered the name Xenon. In any case, amoung the launch titles is Perfect Dark Zero.

Perfect Dark Zero is the extremely long awaited sequel to Perfect Dark. Originally slated for the Gamecube prior to Rare's sale and then for the Xbox, Microsoft wisely put this title off until their next gen entry. My immediate reaction to this sequel finally seeing the light of day is a loud, "Booyah!"

However, for some reason I find myself feeling rather odd concerning the whole business. The only words to truly describe it adaquately are "hopeless dread". It's as though with the announcement of the first of the next generation consoles a shadow fell over the entire gaming world.

I've long since abandoned my prejudices against the one and only Micro$oft, but for a while I've been hesitant about the direction they wish to take video games in. Some of the major reasons people thought Microsoft was bound to failure with the Xbox was because they didn't understand the minds of gamers, or at least the hardcore brand. Call us elitists, but at the time most gamers I knew considered themselves (myself included) different from everyone else. We thought differently, acted differently, didn't ascribe to popular culture etc. While everyone else was living mundane lives, we were fighting intergalatic battles against malevolent and powerful forces of evil.

Perhaps my dread relates to Microsoft's use of MTV, the very embodiment of popular culture, to reveal their new console. Bikini clad babes associated with the little device that brings previously unattainable realms into my own home somehow jives with the established order. Aside from some ill-fated "adult" games, no one has ever linked sex, sexiness or the like to a video game console.

The whole MTV thing points to something deeper. I'm honestly not going to complain if video games are no longer labeled "nerdy". Honestly I wouldn't mind if girls thought it was sexy, because then they'd be all over me. What bothers me is the implicit statement that goes along with MTV being associated with video games. Namely, thet video games belong popular culture.

Given my elitist tendencies, you can understand my dread. What is being ushered in here is an object that it will be "cool" to have. Not "cool" in the nerdy technological sense, but "cool" in the sense that some women with cleavage endorsed it. There are certainly tech specs galore to make geeks like myself drool. However, somehow I feel like I'm being excluded.

That's a rather ironic statement seeing as how elitism tends to exclude, but honestly, if you want to be a hardcore gamer all you have to do is play games excessively. There have long been many casual gamers, but they aren't the ones who typically obsessed over the next console or game sequel. They are excluded simply for the same reason someone who only read half of J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit is excluded from the deep discussions of the Tolkien club on The Silmarillion. They're not stupid, they just aren't informed.

So when I say I feel excluded, it isn't just me in particular but the whole of the hardcore gaming population. What is happening is that the casual gamer is now the primary target of the people leading the gaming industry. While hardcore gamers are not forgotten, we're unaccustomed to being out of the developer's limelight. While we were easily able to deal with the fact that Mario wasn't going to grow up with us as we aged, this strikes us in a way we didn't expect.

Perhaps this is just a necessary integration of something wholly awesome into the mainstream. This isn't going to mean that people like me are a thing of the past, we just won't be special just because we play video games (and extremely well at that).

I have high hopes for Perfect Dark Zero, though I doubt I'll pick up an Xbox 360 within any proximity of its release.

Peacesim beware.

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