Unfortunately for the reader, today is Quiz Day. For your quiz, you have a single question: who defines quality in video games? Do not despair, dear reader, for the quiz is multiple choice.
A) Shigeru Miyamoto (i.e. game developers)
B) Anita Sarkeesian (i.e. social justice warriors)
C) Michael Pachter (analysts)
D) Sean Malstrom (customers and non-customers)
Think carefully now.
You have your answer, reader? Very well.
The correct answer is D. It is I who define the quality and nature of the video game medium. Of course, it is not I ALONE that does it. YOU TOO, the glorious reader, also aids in the quality and nature of the video game medium. It is the market that controls what a video game is. The kings of the market are not social justice warriors or game developers or analysts. It is the customer who is king. The customer, alone, decides which games live or die. Everyone wants to please the customer and turn non-customers into customers. Games are designed for the customers’ pleasure.
This is the way of things.
Quality is defined by the market. Unlike other mediums, video games are still largely a mass market medium. “Are you really saying games like Madden and Wii Sports are the quality video games?” YES. They please more people than your artsy fartsy niche game. If your artsy fartsy niche game was selling more, you would condemn it as ‘teh casual’. Hardcore gamers are digital hipsters.
I am not saying quality is in the sales. I am saying quality is in the profit. Usually, profitability translates to sales but not all the time. This clarification in definition is necessary to encompass free-to-play games, one dollar games, and subscription based games. World of Warcraft may sell only 6 million copies of its latest expansion (I’m not sure what the number is), but they are gaining much money through the subscriptions and selling of mounts and things in the game.
Quality gaming meaning profitable gaming solves all our problems. Why do games feature pretty girls instead of ugly fat women? Pretty girls are more profitable. Why is 2d Mario so much more profitable than 3d Mario regardless of the sales? It is because quality is profitability. Since profitability means high sales, this means the game must be pleasing to the masses for it to be quality. Would you prefer quality to mean games that most people didn’t like? That would not make sense.
“But Malstrom, but Malstrom!” gasps the reader. “If quality is profitability, wouldn’t the greediest companies be making the most quality products? It would be saying EA makes the most high quality products since EA is profitable.”
My dear reader, you think too much. You must look long-term. If a company gets greedy and tries to rip off the gamer, this hurts the reputation of the company and the franchise. And, besides, isn’t Activision-Blizzard the most profitable game company at the moment and not EA?
Everyone knows that consumers define quality of video games. However, gamers have twisted this to mean their individual tastes define quality. To the contrary, it is the sum of our individual tastes that define quality. The gamer who is apt to justify their ‘incredible taste’ in video games is always the gamer who purchases a game that doesn’t sell. Gamers who purchase games that do sell strongly rarely justify their ‘incredible taste’ because they do not have to do so. The market has already spoken. When Minecraft was niche, gamers had to explain why they were playing it. When Minecraft went mainstream, no one has to explain why they are playing it. The assumption of quality and taste is already there.