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They’re the interactive equivalent of the kind of slick, spectacle-driven, popcorn fodder than fills our cinemas on a weekly basis. They’re cool, well-orchestrated, flash-bang thrill-fests, but nothing more. If the games that get all the trailers, and the big press coverage, and the splash pages on the Xbox Live dashboard make up the bulk of your gaming experience, you might as well watch Scream and then profess to be well-versed in the horror genre.
The fact is that games aren’t just about that stuff. Never have been, never will be. As a medium they’re bigger, more varied, and have far more potential for exploring experience than that. Game, like film is not a prescribed model of content. It’s an open multimedia format that can be shaped to the function of whatever its creator wants to communicate and express. That’s what Roger Ebert will never get, and that’s why he’s still so misguidedly down on games. If you only ever look at CoD, you’ll never know that games can be more than CoD.
Being hardcore isn’t about playing the big, complicated, flashy gory stuff, and owning half the world in multiplayer. It’s just about having an open-minded love and appreciation of the medium in all its forms. It’s about finding as much to appreciate in the writing of a crusty old adventure game as in a bleeding-edge FPS. It’s about being as interested in what an obscure, arty indie game is trying to achieve through the interactive media as what Insomniac wants to achieve with Resistance 3’s graphical upgrades.
It’s about caring about the creative processes behind the box on your shelf, and how ideas, philosophies and good old-fashioned-processing power have evolved, to turn our young medium into the most exciting and eclectic one around in just thirty years, and the one with the most potential for fun, entertainment, artistic communication and even the making of serious points.
You don’t have to like every approach to gaming. You don’t even have to play them all. You just have to appreciate what they’re doing and why they’re doing them. That’s when you become really passionate about the medium, and that, as far as I’m concerned, is when you become a hardcore fan of video games. And it’s also why the non-savvy housewife who’ll happily try out any Wii game put in front of her is way more hardcore than Little Jimmy Killzone will ever be.