This article has been generated based on a discussion I had with a non-gamer. I say discussion… it was more like a heavily expletive laden disagreement where I defended the honour of gamers as a whole, whereby they argued they are a waste of time. Don't get me wrong, gaming is expensive...
Gaming takes up a lot of time...
I certainly wouldn't say a waste of time... absolutely not! Yes, it takes up a lot of my time... I guess, in pseudo-2021 speech, that kind of unfounded comment 'triggered' me. A waste of time, please!
But as I've mentioned in other articles about cross-play gaming, it is starting a revolution of community. Is there a price on solid community?
I respect the person I was talking to tremendously, we go way back. Their opinion is one they are entitled to, even if I categorically disagree with it.
I’ll let it be said, the conversation I had was with a film buff who I will now refer to as 'The Triggerman'. He's an avid DVD and BluRay collector with a catalogue extending across multiple genres, decades and even includes films you'll have never heard of. The Triggerman has collection of movies in the high four figures, about 7,000 or so, where a whole two rooms are dedicated to it. Towers of bookshelves from floor to ceiling with his prized possessions in alphabetical order by genre. That sort of dedication to his hobby would absolutely work in the gaming world, just saying. Anyway, he doesn’t think gaming is worthwhile and is a waste of money because it’s so expensive. He hasn't picked up a controller since the SNES days either, so Triggerman is probably so antiquated in the space, he is a literal gaming dinosaur.
But a waste of time? Normally a comment such as that wouldn’t FaZe me (see what I did there? Pat me on the head...) but the lack of constructive discussion bothered me.
On the one hand, I agree. It is expensive; it’s a sign of the times that as more expensive hardware comes out, the software is inevitably going to be more expensive as well. I have a PS5, and was lucky to get one at launch at the retailed price. It's even more expensive, and made harder to enjoy by the sheer difficulty of just sourcing the hardware - especially in a world of scalpers and low hardware volumes. We did agree on some points, especially about cost, but I was just building the house of cards to knock them down. I kept my discussion only related to the AAA games, as I didn't want to complicate with the Indie Gaming scene - which is huge in its own right.
Think of it in terms of no longer being in the 16-bit era where a game could probably be made over the course of a few weeks or months. We are talking about years of blood, sweat and tears to construct games that might not even take off. Or in the case of some AAA titles, like Call of Duty, there are different development teams within Activision on a development cycle: Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games, not forgetting Raven Software being a part of COD: Warzone. Thousands of people putting in full shifts over months and years to bring us those nail-biting moments where you are clutching a win solo with your team downed and observing.
Plus, we are now in the age where the majority of gamers want escapism into fully immersive, realistic worlds with lifelike scenery and captivating stories. That takes time, money, resources and more.
Of course, let’s not forget the simple fact: developers need money to make games.
Just as much as a production agency or independent director would need money to make a movie or a TV show. Anything in the entertainment industry, gaming included, needs money.
Talking with 'The Triggerman', I touched base on massive blockbuster movies that require hundreds of millions of pounds/dollars to bring to life. An extremely expensive investment – particularly when you can never be sure if it will net the creator a return on their money. Some creative Hollywood accounting often happens on the poorer earners to appear more profitable than they actually are, no less, but entertainment in general is a huge risk.
So as we are discussing and debating, we are getting down to the industry/business aspect of how some AAA movies are sure-sells so hundreds of millions are thrown at them (take the Marvel movies as an example) which is all fine and well, but everything is a calculated risk. I'm just scratching the surface and angling my discussion on consoles at this point. I didn't even dare to mention the super-ultra PC rigs some of the high end streamers have. The question is asked again... is the cost of gaming nowadays justifiable? Basic business says yes. If you spend $200m on a film that will make you $1.2b of whatever, it's a no-brainer, so in a way, that justifies the expensive nature of the production.
Similarly in the video game industry, games like FIFA, Madden, Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto… they are all big sellers so have stupid amounts of money thrown at them and sometimes, they just play the same way, re-hashed with a different skin to change the era, or player throwing or kicking the ball.
Triggerman couldn’t understand why I was defending games as being better value for money.
Say you had a two hour blockbuster film – you could pay upwards of £10/$10 a ticket to see it at the cinema or even for the DVD/Blu-ray upon release if it skips the cinema (much like most of triggerman's collection).
A 30+ hour masterpiece like The Last of Us can net you with fifteen times as much use of your time with an epic storyline, not least of all meet the aforementioned criteria of beautiful world and captivating story.
As a gamer, I don’t necessarily want a quick two-hour ‘adrenaline rush’ where you vaguely appreciate the characters. I want a massive and immersive story where I feel for the characters or at the very least (on the opposite end of the scale) a game where I can happily throw hours of my time into it to de-stress after a hard day at work.
In a little bit of a throwback, my most played game in my life was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is a prime example of my youth being spent pouring time into my hobby (or 'wasting' in triggerman's terms). I threw 28 days’ worth of gameplay into the multiplayer alone. Which is absolutely crazy. That’s 672 hours of my time.
I was damn good at it too… I truly believe I'd have been a top streamer if it was a big thing in the MW2 hay-days…
Forgive the poor quality photo – my friend Hando took it many moons ago and tagged me in it on Facebook as a reminder from the time it happened.
How could a game I enjoyed playing, and rinsing other people on, be a waste of time? I could play effortlessly and win, which felt good. Our ‘Strike Team (hence the S.Tm) had a win streak of about 582 in team tactical, or thereabouts. The perfect means to de-stress and naturally game, and of course, feel good when you are stacking wins.
Apologies to come across as bragging, but I am building up to a key point.
Let’s say that a two hour movie cost me here, in the UK, £10 entry into the cinema… a whole £5 an hour. I paid, what, £45 for MW2 back in the day? By rough calculation, that’s essentially 6 pence per hour of my time.
Whilst I don’t power game or get in quite as many hours/days into games now, surely the time and hours of enjoyment I received from that was far better value?
Not to mention, I don’t talk through movies… I can however, talk through my multiplayer games and have a pretty ‘social’ evening! No matter how many moments have been lost to time, I remember some of those top games, and the one that broke our win streak (I got cocky and didn't put the nuke in after pretending to let the other team get a good lead on us...), I have never seen it as a waste of time. I forged connections, friendships and more from my time on those games.
Triggerman pondered my point and he recoiled a little. I had a fair argument.
Whilst I firmly agree that games are justifiably expensive for the base disc and what not; I’ll refrain from opening up a can of worms and asking whether downloadable content (DLC) or if micro-transactions are of value to the consumer - an entirely different discussion. I think some of the value is lost buying digital assets you don't technically own.
To come full circle, personally, I do believe that games are good value for money. Though it is subjective and perhaps even intimidating to people who have been outside of the space for so long, or casual gamers.
All I know is that as games get bigger, more immersive and in some cases more social – I don’t think you can really put a value on the long term experience.
So I put it to you, the reader…
What do you think?