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Video Games Are Great But No One is Happy

We've got 3D gaming, touchscreen controllers and high definition graphics. So why are we still complaining?

Think back to your earliest gaming memory. Perhaps it involved you and an 8-bit console, or a 16-bit console, or, if you're one of our younger readers, a PlayStation or a Nintendo 64. Whatever your system, the way you played it was likely the same: you sat quietly in front of your TV, with a controller in your hands.

Now imagine you had a time machine. Imagine that you teleported back in time and showed that young kid playing Super Mario Bros. on his/her NES the Wii U, or the Kinect, or even an iPhone. Imagine informing them that one day they'd be playing video games on a touchscreen GamePad, or with their body like in Minority Report (you would then need to show them Minority Report), and that one day mobile phones would be considered a viable platform by publishers. You'd blow your younger selves' tiny mind.

Now imagine telling your younger self that in the future many would be criticising the Wii U, the Kinect and mobile gaming. Imagine explaining how, for every one person who expressed interest in Nintendo's innovative hardware, there were at least three who wrote it off as "gimmicky". Imagine telling them that the Kinect was perceived by many as a negative development in the industry, or that just thirteen years after Snake was selling a bunch of Nokia 3210's to youngsters, smartphones had Grand Theft Auto III available to purchase on app stores, yet supposed "hardcore" gamers claimed that the mobile platform attracting a "casual" audience was ultimately destructive. They'd have to be awful pessimists to believe you, wouldn't they?

We live in an era of entitlement: we continuously believe that we deserve better and, as technology continues to develop at a rapid pace around us, we also have more avenues in which to criticise it. Yesterday I was watching the debut episode of a new TV show here in the UK called Full English and, less than 10 minutes into the show, I scrolled through Twitter on my phone. Choice tweets regarding the quality of the show included "#FullEnglish is desperately unfunny", and "#fullenglish's target audience is morons and people who laugh at door frames. It's that bad". For a show broadcasting its first episode, a negative reaction on social networking sites is as damaging to its future as a negative review from a respected publication (which, thanks to the internet, are also available to view instantly). This same sense of entitlement is perhaps at its most prevalent in the most swiftly expanding entertainment medium in recent history: video games.

Everybody's a critic these days and, thanks to review aggregate sites such as Metacritic, those criticisms are compiled in an orderly manner and can be viewed by anyone with internet access and at least one functioning eyeball. For an accurate summary of the contents of Metacritic's user reviews, you need only look at those left for the latest installment of this generation's most divisive series, Call of Duty.  

The myriad of user reviews for Black Ops II veer wildly from relentless vilification to joyous enthusiasm, with very little middle ground. "The campaign is awful", writes user LolTheOwl, rating it 0/10. "The 'newest' CoD barely released already feels older than my grandma", writes Nichtswisser, also giving it a 0/10. To paraphrase Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams: "if you build a virtual soapbox, embittered consumers will come".

At this point in time the video game industry is routinely criticised by two distinct camps.

Camp 1: Those who have been born into and spoiled by a generation of constantly evolving software/hardware, and therefore feel like they need new sh*t all of the time.

Camp 2: Those who have witnessed the meteoric rise of the industry they fell in love with back in the 80s/90s, but who feel that their long-standing support means that said industry should cater solely to them and not those bloody "casuals" with their Angry Birds and Kinects.

Such a divide between consumers means that any attempt to appease both camps will inevitably lead to neither being satisfied, which is what is currently being said by many during the pre-release of the Wii U. Nintendo are attempting to cater to its entire fanbase, say its detractors, and as such will fail to maintain the interest of either. But while the debate rages over the potential success of the Wii U, no one seems to have taken a step back to consider that, regardless of how the Wii U will hold up against the as-yet-unannounced Xbox 720 or PlayStation 4 in the future, in the present it's an imaginative, innovative and downright impressive technological feat.

We should be proud of the community we've helped build as gamers, of the industry we've helped develop. Instead, we're bloody miserable.


Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor for Crave Online. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro