I said, “No ice in my coke!”
Everyone likes fun. That’s why it’s called fun, the same way money is called money—if everybody didn’t want it, it’d be called something else (thank you David Mamet!). If you do not like fun and would rather flog yourself with a whip, well, while not technically called fun it still takes place during your spare time for recreation. Video games are fun just the way games should be, which is just the plain and simple reason why people love to play them; once again, if this is not your thing, I do believe there is a self-flagellation nunchuk attachment for the Nintendo WiiFit you ought to give a try.
While everyone likes fun, video gamers have their own ideas about what type of fun is best. It’s personal preference, and is always a topic of heated debate for gamers. Of course, what someone likes is an incontrovertible argument to outside influence: “I know what I like”. After all, something you like is an opinion, and opinions aren’t right or wrong by themselves: it’s a belief.
However, while opinions can’t be right or wrong in and of themselves, they can suck. If you believe in something without knowing why, your opinion sucks. If you cling to an argument stubbornly by only choosing which facts to believe, then your opinion sucks. In fact, facts are irrelevant in the Information Age when they are so plentiful, unconfirmed and can be spun by both sides of an argument to prove a point. Instead opinions matter, opinions that don’t suck that is, because from now onwards there will always be too much information and so thus too many facts. And right or wrong, your opinion better not suck because someone somewhere will always disagree with you.
Having said that, there exists an honest-to-goodness type of fun that is the best in all of videogames. It isn’t a genre, it isn’t a type of platform, and neither is it an era. It’s an attitude to have the most fun possible. It’s hardcore fun in the form of hardcore gaming. It’s gaming with all the dials set to 11. They are video games that are difficult, that are long in length, that are fast in pace. In fact, as video game become more difficult, long and quick the more fun they become.
Some people, like casual gamers, feel satisfactory with an average amount of fun in their video games. If a video game is played and enjoyed and a good time was had by all, then where is the problem? After all, how does one measure fun? How is it possible to objectively quantify such a abstract concept? Why can’t fun be fun?
The problem is that in the world of video games these two types of fun are not mutually compatible. In terms of Darwinism, the gene pool from casual gaming is diluting the gene pool from hardcore gaming. While the hardcore game play of Grand Theft Auto III
or Burnout 3: Takedown
appealed to a mass audience and to casual gamers, the same can’t be said going the other way. Burnout: Revenge is such a game that perfectly encapsulates this idea.
Burnout: Revenge is a game that is made completely for the casual gamer, and it suffers because of it. The Burnout series has always been about crazy speed and difficult racing; that’s what made it so good. However, this 4th reiteration of the franchise keeps the speed but has lost all the difficulty, something that is made all the worse from having no adjustable difficulty level. Personally, I’ve played the game for over three hours, finished a third of it and am still waiting for it to get hard (the game, I mean).
While this could be attributed to my oversized thumbs and my ability to not blink for five minutes at a time, my modesty informs me that the game is built from the ground up to be exceptionally easier than that ballbreaker deluxe, its predecessor Burnout 3. The tracks are much easier to navigate, especially now there are a multitude of short cuts that are conveniently marked with flashing blue lights that can’t be missed even by a blind man in the dark with no eyes and has been dead two weeks. Even though there are now a number of barriers you can crash into that really weren’t there in the previous game, this all means Jacques if every turn is a big ass ballpark you could drive the Millenium Falcon through. These tracks are all easier so that Joe Blow weekend-racecar-driver can burnout at top speed without much difficulty.
Your opponents in the single player mode race against you using a rubber band AI you can use to bungee jump to the Earth from the moon. Several times I would win a race on the last lap from the last position. Winning these races felt like getting a free blow job from a crack whore street walker because “you have an honest face”. No, I want to win a race because of my superb driving technique, the same way I would want to pay top dollar for the sweetest ‘tang this side of ‘Nam. Likewise, takedowns on other cars is so easy it makes you think if you missed contact they would still crash in the same way a striker is quick to fall down by the opponent’s football goal.
This isn’t the worst sin Burnout: Revenge has to make amends with a thousand “Hail Mary’s”. A new feature for this game is the hilarious ability to check same way traffic with cars the same size as yours. What this means is so long that it isn’t a bus or tractor trailer, if it is moving in the same direction you can run into it, thus negating any driving skill you picked from a video game. In fact, Burnout: Revenge is the perfect game to play while enjoying a tasty snack, while driving a real car in your real life, or if you don’t have any hands. While “checking traffic” mode is cool as a “psycho driving home from a bad day at work simulator”, as a part of races it makes as much sense as playing tennis without a net or watching professional baseball without beer.
Burnout: Revenge does a complete U-turn from the genius of Burnout 3: Takedown, and STILL forgets to bring home milk like it was asked to. This is one cheap experience where every victory is a hollow one. Burnout 3 succeeded because it was so difficult, which made each victory that much more satisfying because it depended upon your mad racing skillz, yo. This is the appeal of old school gaming for hardcore video gamers: despite any kind of reward a game can give you the best reward is your own satisfaction. Nothing satisfies like success.
Burnout: Revenge mollycoddles the player’s ego with surefire success and provides an arcade racer with an enormous sense of speed that is gorgeous at which to look. While it can’t be denied some modicum of fun can be shimmied out of this game, it isn’t FUN. Not the best fun you can have. As more and more game franchises become catered to casual gamers, the more these same game franchises will suffer like the Burnout series did with this unfortunate entry.
What was once a fun game franchise full of satisfaction and fun is now watered down like a Super-Sized cup of Mountain Dew full of ice cubes. Casual gaming in video games is on course for ruining it for everybody: hardcore gaming won’t get the fun they’re jonesing for and casual gamers will never get to know what true hardcore fun is. Of course, Burnout has since moved on to greener pastures of NOX-fumed asphalt with Burnout: Dominator
and the recent Paradise City release; let's hope they are still fun in the way that made this game franchise great.
This isn’t to say that casual gaming doesn’t have its place. Games like DDR, Guitar Hero, just about anything Wii that average Joe Blow taxpayer just wants to play for five minutes at a time work well as ambassadors to the public at large; they introduce video games to the uninitiated as a fun, harmless hobby. Or, they can serve as a “gateway” game to lure virgin gamers to explore seedier and seedier electronic crack dens until they wind up lying in their own filth desperately trying to reach 100% completion on some game the same way desperate party-people try to dry a wet packet of coke in a microwave at seven in the morning.
Hardcore games with casual gamer appeal that are successful are so because they are good hardcore games and, by nature, are all the things hardcore games are: difficult, long, fast-paced. Hardcore games that try to please everyone and appeal to a wide audience end up being a compromise that negate any integrity it once had and wind up as a disaster. Something that is perfect for anyone is not necessarily perfect for everyone.
Casual gaming: please stick to your plastic guitar peripherals and your grandmothers. Don’t ruin it for everyone. Lets keep casual games casual and the hardcore games hardcore, the same way we all segregate our straight and gay porn.
Casual gamers: you think you know fun, but you don’t know real, hardcore fun. Every time one of you buys and enjoys a copy of Burnout: Revenge, a hardcore gamer on the other side of the world starves for lack of hardcore fun and must go to bed early.
Paralell parking is still a bitch. Girlfriend still nags you to ask for directions. No way to pick up hookers and get a “highway hummer”.
The Bottom Line
You know, it’s hilarious how violent games get all the bad press but something like the Burnout series doesn’t register in the media at all. Besides being fun, addictive crack the Burnout series is the proverbial spinach that could empower a teenage male driver to run red lights and drive through a fruit stand in real life. In fact, it was a hot topic in the city I used to live in when one of the two street racers that caused a crash, killing a cab driver in the process, had a copy of Need for Speed in his car. Just as the internet is teaching kids today about sex (for example, everyone swallows and shaves), video games like this are teaching kids how to race even before they learn how to drive.
Along with gambling games, it’s racing games like these that have a more damaging influence on kids that watching head shot after head shot. Violence is funny and entertaining. Fifty years ago, the act of dropping a grand piano out of a building onto someone’s head wasn’t only funny, it was funny for everyone, including children. Especially for children.
Of course, these are musings that are off topic and unsubstantiated by the main argument (which summed itself up properly, I think) so I’ll close with -- Game responsibly: don’t blink.