Sunday, September 14

Gaming as a such

If you have read my personal blog or this one, you will have realized already I like playing computer games (and reading, and reading comics, and watching movies, and many other things). I’m not much into online games for various reasons. FPS is very much in my past, I like story-driven RPGs for one person much more than the MMO variety, I don’t like casino games (and I’ve already written about the pest of FTP games in my personal blog). I do like both AAA titles and casual games, even though they are different to me.

AAA titles usually mean a lot of commitment. They’re long (and for the price they ought to be, honestly) and you need to train with them, so you can manage to stay on top of the learning curve. I do enjoy the great RPG titles (and there’s many wonderful indie RPGs out there, too), I enjoy the occasional action game or action adventure, too. Sometimes, I even go for strategy (real-time or turn-based), even though I’m not a tactical genius.
Casual games are more of a ‘one level at a time’ thing. They do have a learning curve, too (and some, like “Diner Dash - Flo Through Time,” have a damn steep one), but on the whole they’re more forgiving when it comes to mistakes. They don’t demand the same level of commitment - although I’m sure I could make all gold on some TMs, if I committed more time to them.
Apart from the price and time they take to finish, though, there’s another huge difference between casual and AAA games: character design. I don’t mean the graphics, which usually are different (but graphic styles are very different between games and developers, anyway), but the way the characters, main and otherwise, are shown. Only very few AAA titles have a female main character (more about it in my last post here) or the option to play one. A lot of casual games do.

Why? Because women are the main target audience for casual games, but not for AAA titles. Casual games usually demand brains. I don’t claim AAA titles don’t as a rule, but many of those rely more on quick reflexes, unlike the casual ones. They demand tactics (TM games, builders), a sharp eye (HOGs, M3 games), the will to solve puzzles (HOGs, casual adventures). They don’t demand characters capable of using brute force. What would be the point in searching ten hidden object scenes for a key, if you could just rip the offending door off the hinges? Why can’t you just use the crowbar instead? (Wait, that’s not a good example, but one of my pet peeves about gaming logic…) Of course, you also need lighting reflexes to get gold on levels of the “Diner Dash” series. A good online friend of mine claims that’s not true and the secret of gold levels is chaining. She can easily get gold on all of them, so she’s probably right, but for me, it’s usually click-click-clicking really fast.
Adventures, one of the oldest genres of PC gaming, have always had a strong female following. They rely on the player solving puzzles and communicating with other characters, most of the time. Some puzzles are ‘use the right item in the right place’ while others are more about asking the right question at the right time or really solving mini-games these days (I don’t mind that, especially if the games have a skip button for the hopeless cases - like me with the classic Eight-Queens chess puzzle … yes, I know there’s probably hundreds of places with solutions for that one). Ever since I first tried to take the bus to the airport with Zak McKracken, I’ve been a huge fan of adventures.
RPG games combine the story-driven mechanics of an adventure with tactics and sometimes wild clicking (depending on whether you play turn-based or real-time combat). There’s also a lot of gathering loot involved and I love gathering loot.
Then there’s Maxis with its simulations. I’ve been hooked on them since the first SimCity. I’m also a huge fan of The Sims, despite the fact that you only play a simulated normal life. I like playing them and I’ve probably waste too much time with them over the many years the series has been running.
Then there’s the Anno series, especially “Anno 1404” which I’m still playing (I like it more than the currently last one in the series, which is “Anno 2070”). They’re builders and look very beautiful. I know a couple of women who like them and I’m not surprised. Battle may happen, but it has always been a little ‘bonus’ to the actual building. Most of the time, at least outside the campaigns, you can avoid battle by simply not going out and annoying other parties. Working together and having a trade agreement or a peace treaty usually pays of more in those games, for both sides.

I’ve played my share of FPS games in the past (starting with “Star Wars: Dark Forces”), I like action adventures, even though I have troubles with some parts, usually, since my reflexes do not hold up to games designed for 20-something guys. I’ve tried my hands at flight simulators in the past (and learned I’m a terrible pilot that way). But that’s me, not the ‘woman’ but the ‘not so average woman.’ That’s just an almost 40-year-old with the reflexes of an almost 40-year-old who had to learn the hard way she can’t do “Crystal Caves” or “Secret Agent” as well any longer as she did many, many years ago, when she played them for the first time and was not even 20… The good thing about being almost 40 is that you have learned patience and are more ready to do a level over and over again, in order to get through it (and finally pull down that Star Destroyer in level 8 of the first “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” game).

What do I prefer? AAA titles that are targeted and marketed to young men? Casual games that are targeted and marketed to women? For me, the answer still is ‘both.’ I can’t imagine not playing any more AAA titles, although I own many more casual games - but then, they’re a lot cheaper. I don’t want to get back to the times of only AAA titles, either.

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