Kids These Days

(Sorry for the lateness. Technical issues have been rampant.)

Coming into the exhibit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The room seemed surprisingly small and well decorated, there were lots of screens and some very eye-catching displays, and finally, what caught my attention the most was the crazy amount of young children that were running around.

In our class discussion on Braid, Super Mario Bros. was brought up because our knowledge of the platformer affected how we came into Braid itself who just seemed like another Mario on the surface. Most of the class seemed to argue against the point that Terry was trying to make about how there was this huge connection in the way that Braid was made towards Super Mario Bros. because the latter is the “model” platformer. Braid was in a way, paying homage to the game while critiquing our knowledge of the platformer genre at the same time. (Forgive me if this next part sounds elitist at all. That’s not what I intended and I really am making some assumptions here). However, I wholeheartedly agreed with Terry. I felt that this originated from me being raised playing consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and Gameboy just to name a few instead of consoles that were newer at the time such as the PlayStation or Xbox. I came into Braid with the mind from my Super Mario Bros. days and had everything swept out from under me because of it. Now here’s where it ties back to the exhibit. From that discussion and my experience at the exhibit, I wondered, how do the kinds of games that a child play affect their gaming as a young adult?

Kids are usually the easiest ones to pull in from advertising. All you have to do is make something seem “cool” and they’ll want it. They probably won’t do research or look up reviews. They probably won’t question the capitalist system that drives their internal desires for consumption and their mislead beliefs of scarcity in a world of abundance. (Ok, that was a sarcastically exaggerated comment, but still). However, at the same time, they also aren’t likely to be the ones to believe that a game is “lame” just because it isn’t mainstream or has cutting age graphics. We are. Young adults.

That being said, if they spent their young years playing the kinds of games found in this room, where would their beliefs lay in the future? Looking at the info card on the growth of indie games, digital distribution is allowing them to be more accessible than ever. Marketing and commercials aside, children can find independent games nearly as easily as AAA titles.

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Walking around the exhibit, I noticed a few different effects that the games had on the kids. They all seemed to gravitate towards the one that had an immediate sense of gratification. For example, I never saw any kids come towards White Night, a puzzle/survival/horror game that felt fairly drawn on in the time I spent playing it. On the other hand, for a game called Tenya Wanya Teens, a fast paced, two person game that creates a sense of competition between the two players. It involved bright colors and buttons, fast paced play, immediate action, and cartoony graphics. The kids that I saw playing it seemed to all love it. Also following the same trend, How Do You Do It? a game about seeing how many times you can make two dolls “do it” without getting caught by your mom didn’t have any sort of crowd while Nidhogg, a game about slicing up your opponent and racing to the finish line had some very enthusiastic kids sitting at it for quite some time.

In the end, these children simply played what they found entertaining. They weren’t thrown off when a game featured “get naked” and “pee” buttons or when their character were just little, colored squares assembled in the rough shape of a human. Whether they knew it or not, they cared about what the game expressed instead of what the game looked like. In our reading on proceduralist games titled How to Do Things With Games by Ian Bogost, he explains that “in these games, expression arises primarily from the player’s interaction with the game’s mechanics and dynamics, and less so (in some cases almost not at all) in their visual, aural, and textual aspects.” I believe that indie games excel at this and in a sense, almost have to if they want to succeed. If they don’t have the money for top of the line graphics, they have to win their players over with the foundations of the game itself. While it doesn’t make you some sort of a better “gamer” by being snobby and always talking about how much you hate AAA games, I believe that kids exposed to games such as the ones in the exhibit are on a path to understanding and appreciating games much more wholeheartedly. They (hopefully) won’t be the ones that scream about how horrible a game’s graphics are and will maybe even grow into understanding the slower paced games that reward their players for dedication instead of providing instant gratification. Like I mentioned above, this piece wasn’t meant to diminish the players that do put high value in a game’s graphics or amount of polish. However, I do feel as if this class is about opening your eyes to forms of games you aren’t familiar with and in addition to that, still respecting and appreciating a game or style even if you don’t enjoy it yourself.

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