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The Undertow                                             Home
A column dedicated to sucking you into the muck and mire of gaming.

A Little More "Gaming", a Little Less "Community"
Monday, December 28, 1998

I've been around computer gaming for quite a while, and around gaming in general my whole life.  Something strange is happening in this day and age of the internet.  Some gaming sites seem to have marked their sites as "virtual pissing grounds" for the "gaming community."   Anyone else that doesn't conform to their genre isn't accepted as a part of this elitist community.  Almost all genres are guilty of this, but I think you know which one is the worst . . . okay I'll say it, it's the 3D shooter genre.

All of this behavior really grates on my nerves.  Isn't it bad enough that the rest of the world thinks we are a bunch of geeks hunched in front of our monitors in dark rooms playing "weird" games?  I guess not.  These days if you play a game that isn't "cool", you're a loser and easy target for the internet gaming sites, and sometimes your friends.

Before I go any further, I better whip out a couple quick definitions as I see them.

Hardcore Gamer:  In general, an individual who won't play a game unless it has 3D acceleration, explosions, action, and no thinking or little plot.  Must always waste money on the latest hardware, even then it's not needed.

Mainstream Gamer:  In general, an individual who sticks to the basics:   Myst, Scrabble, chess, and some hunting games, etc.

Real Gamer:  In general, an individual who will play anything from Windows solitaire to WW II Fighters to Half-Life to online Monopoly . . . or, Heaven-forbid, a game of Trivial Pursuit at the kitchen table.

It is my belief that one of the heaviest users of the internet is by gamers of all forms.  Probably the only other type of content that has more sites devoted to it than games is pornography.  There are TONS of gaming sites out there.  A large number of them are small time operations that do it just for the kick of it.  There are others (like this site) that have a good readership, cover most of the bases, and still do it for nothing.  But there are others out there that make up the true "gaming community" - at least they see it that way.  These are the sites that get megahits (even though it's usually the same readership returning many times a day), and have been created by, and watchdogged by, the hardcore gamers.  Their task in life is to promote their genre and ridicule all others.

Many of these sites that make up the "community" are in heated competition with one another over hits and revenue . . . often leading to the breakup of the site as in the case of Operation: 3Dfx. This feud goes on to this day.  Just last week ICQ logs from a discussion between rival staffers (I won't post the names, but with research you can figure it out) were posted on their respective sites . . . these sites being large, heavy traffic sites.  It was tacky, ugly, and downright asinine.  These "community" people were trying to slander one another over ownership of an old domain name and the possibility of future hits.   The logs were soon removed, but it was still a sad commentary on some of the behavior going on out there.

As far as genres go, I'm just going to come out and say it, and I'll probably get flamed for it.  The worst of them all is the Quake community.  It's their way or the information superhighway.  If you aren't playing right on their server, you're a lamer and they'll bump you or team frag you.  If you question anything concerning their website, they'll flame you or ignore you.  If you aren't part of their clan, you're a loser.  If you don't think Dennis "Thresh" Fong is the best athlete since Michael Jordon (laugh), you're insane.  The only way to "get in" is to become part of the gang.  As soon as you start whining constantly about "campers" and high pings, you've gone over to the dark side and have entered the realm of the hardcore gamer.  Beware of these symptoms.

Mainstream gamers could care less, because they typically don't visit the very sites (or the internet at all) that slam them.   They usually stick to the backwater sites, or play chess and cards on Yahoo's play zones, or play some Wheel of Fortune online.  I guess that makes my wife a mainstream gamer.  The real gamer in the one that has to confront the elitist behavior, because they play a little of everything.  So I like Myst, Half-Life, and chess . . . sue me!!!!

Bottomline is money talks, right?  And the gaming industry listens.  Let's take a peek at the top selling games of 1998.

Top selling PC games of 1998 (through November) according to PC Data.

1 Starcraft Cendant
2 Deer Hunter GT Interactive
3 Myst Learning Company
4 Titanic:   Adventure Out of Time Cendant
5 Microsoft Flight Simulator Microsoft
6 Diablo Cendant
7 Cabela's Big Game Hunt Activision
8 Lego Island Learning Company
9 Riven:  The Sequel to Myst Learning Company
10 Age of Empires Microsoft
11 Unreal GT Interactive
12 Deer Hunter II 3D GT Interactive
13 Frogger Hasbro
14 Quake II Activision
15 Monopoly Hasbro
16 Links LS Golf 1998 Access
17 Rocky Mountain Trophy Hunter GT Interactive
18 Star Wars:   Rebellion LucasArts
19 NASCAR II Cendant
20 Sim City 2000 SE Electronic Arts

Well, isn't that interesting.  Only two 3D shooters made the top 20 list, and 5 others that would probably make the "cool" or hardcore list.  That leaves 13 titles (what I call mainstream titles) in the top 20 that are usually reserved for the ridicule of the "gaming community."  Do you think GT Interactive made more money on the Deer Hunter series, or Unreal ?  What has made more money overall?  Myst or Quake II ?  Hardcore games cost many times more to produce than mainstream games, and usually take much longer.  To top it off mainstream games sell much better.  Money talks and suckers walk.  I guarantee you that GT Interactive, and other publishers, are more worried about getting its mainstream games into the distribution channel, than its hardcore games.  Sure they're high profile, but they don't make the bucks.

Hardcore gamers have put themselves up on a pedestal and shouted:  "We represent the gaming community!"  I say to all the "gaming community" elitists out there:  Like it or not, you only make up a fraction of the real gaming community, and possibly even a smaller fraction of the revenues brought in by game publishers.  The bottomline is, mainstream gaming is far more important to the gaming industry than hardcore gaming . . . from a both a money and bodycount perspective.  Sorry, stats don't lie.

As one discussion board individual posted during a heated debate over what the "gaming community" really is:  "We're just a bunch of knobs playing games."  Hmmm...genius, pure genius.  From this point forward, that is my new definition for the gaming community.  Play the games that turn your crank, and maybe the "gaming community" on the internet will start acting more like a real community and less like a elitist club.

The game's the thing . . .

~ Neal Ulen

Drop me an e-mail and let me know what you like and/or dislike about gaming, a particular title, or the industry in general.  As always, all (non-belligerent) criticism welcome!

The Undertow Copyright (c) 1998-99 Neal E. Ulen and GamesFirst!