Thoughts on Games and Gamers Growing Up


As we gamers grow, so, too, do our games.  We watch them, particularly the longer-running franchises, as they become more than what they were when we first knew them.  Some mature, some simply become different—and some become less.

As each generation of gamers grows up, their tastes change, their priorities change; they are no longer the target demographic for a reason.  Gamers of my generation have other things to focus on—jobs, families, other hobbies.  The generations that follow have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to their games, which itself is part of the reason why most of the gamers of my generation, even though we generally enjoy modern gaming, have a fondness for “retro” and “retro-ish” gaming.

Games change, as gamers change—as the target demographic changes, so, too, must the games, so the companies can stay in business.  Consider the Final Fantasy series.  As we went through the history of the franchise, we noted how those games changed.  Today, they’re much more like M.M.O.s with real-time combat, enemy “mobs” wandering the game world, more M.M.O.-like quests, and so on.

Why did it change?  Why did the franchise become so drastically different as to be nearly completely incomparable to the earlier titles?  Tastes changed.  The tastes of the developer, as well as of the gamer, all to hopefully bring the latter a fun experience.  That’s true of any game franchise.

Not exactly his finest hour, here...

Take the Sonic the Hedgehog series.  There are a lot of ups and downs, there, as the blue speedster was shoved into pretty much any kind of game developers could think of.  It wasn’t until Sonic the Hedgehog 4, however, that he was in a game anyone would really call “good”.  That was a return to the games that made Sonic beloved by gamers, and came as close to erasing certain games from the minds of gamers.

Keep in mind what it took to get him to that point—many gamers had thought that the hedgehog was done for.  Since Sonic the Hedgehog 3, he’d been in little but title after title that, being generous, could best be described as mediocre.  It was an era of the franchise growing and changing, and stuck between generations of gamers, each with disparate tastes and preferences.

As there are plenty of franchises trying to grow with their gamers, or reinvent themselves for a new generation of gamers, there are the other franchises—the ones that are drastically altered to appeal to a completely different demographic than before.  The other way a game can change is to become more—adult.  We are, of course, referencing pornographic video games.

Now, these have been around as long as the hobby has.  There have been “adult” games as far back as the N.E.S./Famicom.  Most of them, though, have been third-party titles made without the consent or permission of the company holding the copyright.  There are, however, a few times when it’s the official owner of the franchise that takes the title in a “different” direction.

Consider Telenet‘s Valis series.  From the first, it was a fun if quirky (by Western standards) R.P.G. series.  There was a break of about fourteen years, and then gamers got Valis X, the first of a five-part series that focused on—things we aren’t going to discuss in detail in this blog.  Suffice to say it involves things women and octopus-esque monsters can do together.  Kids, ask your parents!

Guess which version of the protagonist is from the adult games. Just GUESS.

Anyway, some people gamers have claimed it it left the series in “ruins“, while others claimed that it’s part of Telenet’s downfall.  It’s hard to disagree, on some level.  I mean, take your favorite gaming franchise, whether it be Mario, Sonic, or some lesser-known series.  You wait for well over a decade for the next game to be released, and when it is, it’s—this.

I have a hard time arguing against that opinion, I really do.  The thing of it is that the company has a right to do with their titles what they like, and, hey, let’s face it—sex does sell.  No matter what, you can make money from naked people doing certain adult-oriented activities.  From real imagery to animation, it’s all there.

I have nothing against sexuality, or naked people in general.  I have nothing against pornographic video games—but that said, I do find it rather disheartening when a franchise takes such a drastic shift.  I felt something similar watching Sonic stumble through some of the worst titles someone thought up, though.  I find that there seems to be more of an issue with the franchise becoming more “adult-oriented” than just that it took a drastic shift in the first place, and it’s at that point I tend to be unable to agree.

There’s nothing wrong with sexuality in video games, but a drastic shift in “tone”—any drastic shift—is indicative of a franchise on the verge of being discontinued as a whole, or a company floundering, or whatever else.  At the end of the day, though—games change.  We do, too, and you’ll find countless articles, musings, and general blathering on the Internet about gamers growing up.  We just tend to forget that our games grow up as well.  Like anything that grows, sometimes it grows up and becomes something we don’t like.  That’s sad, in a way, but it’s a fact of life—a fact of gaming, too.  We don’t have to like it, but we do have to accept it.

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