Friday, September 29, 2006

International Gaming: the UK

Thanks to DQ reader Andy Sellick for this report on gaming in the UK.

I live in the UK. I'm in my late twenties (too late). I spend far too much time playing computer games. My PC isn't what you might call 'grunt-tastic' (or even some other term referring to significant processing power that makes more sense) but it's good enough to run some fairly recent games at a decent level of detail.

I've also got a Playstation 2, although I'm primarily a PC gamer. My first computer was an Oric (I feel the need to establish my gaming roots/heritage at this point). So there.

Most of my wider experience of gaming (if I can use such a grand term with a straight face) comes from interacting with the members of our various church youth groups, who mainly fall into the category of early to late teens. I drag my PS2 down to the church one evening every week for them to play with. How much it is used tends to vary--sometimes they're all happier just playing football (the real kind) than mashing buttons.

I'm often surprised by what they enjoy. On the one hand, there's generally quite a lot of enthusiasm (particularly from the boys) for games featuring guns, and cars, and... well, guns. Black was deemed particularly awesome, for example, and Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge are firm crowd pleasers. They also talk a lot about games like Halo 2, and some Star Wars games. Themes like this seem very popular.

On the other hand, 'fun' games are also popular. Eyetoy Play and Eyetoy Play 2 are consistent favourites (particularly among the girls). I've also had a couple of demo discs of variable quality games, but even the really awful ones can provide much entertainment. Jet Li's 'Rise to Honour'? Hilarious. I've played some brilliant games over the years, but nothing beats playing a really bad game that takes itself far too seriously with a couple of friends to laugh at it with (laughing at a good game is fun too - Aragorn's 'physical attack' in Return of the King performed repeatedly results in him apparently goosestepping wildly around the place - which, given the right environment, can really bring the house down. Well, maybe you had to be there).

The common theme that I think makes a game work in all these situations is how easy it is to get into. If I can just pass a kid a controller and explain which buttons to press in a couple of seconds, you're onto a winner. James Bond (Everything or Nothing) was initially wildly popular (guns and multiplayer! Whoo!) but has laid unplayed ever since it turned out that all of the commands for successfully playing the game (hugging up against walls and targeting enemies round the corner, and more) were far too complicated. They just want to shoot things, not think about it too much.

As for me, I'll pretty much play anything once, but I like a good 3D RTS, or a 3D shooter with enough novel features to make it worth the time (Jedi Knight's force powers, for example). Actually, that little aside pretty much sums up what will cause a game to appeal to me - novelty. Most of the games that have really captured my attention - Gish, Armagetron, Half life 2, Gtetrinet, Tower Defence, Starcraft, Carmageddon (to name but a few) - have either been unique or stood as a fresh perspective on an existing genre.

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