I am a fighting game enthusiast. So much so, that I’ve bought a sizable portion of fighting games released in the last 10 years. This includes pretty much every main stage title at EVO, a number of deep cut indie fighters, genre oddballs, and even some that I know are flat-out bad. Right now, I’m playing Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[cl-r], a game that is alien to even most fighting game fans. In modern times, sampling this many games within a genre feels like an anomaly.
While I think that players still have their preferences, my gut says the total number of players who actually sample a wider selection of titles that a genre has to offer is in decline.
Since we started with fighting games, let’s continue here. Within the last decade, players have been given more reasons to stick with their game of choice. Thanks to online play, I can find players that want to battle at all times. Even for small games like Under Night, I could probably find the game’s Discord group and set up matches with others. Online consoles allow developers to keep their titles fresh for longer with balance changes and DLC. On top of all of this, the growing esports scene further incentivizes the hardest of hardcore fans of a game to stick with it for the sake of proving themselves in a tournament environment. If I want to stick with one fighting game, the infrastructure is such that I can do that for years on end.
This effect feels even more prominent within the world of shooters. During the late 90s and early 2000s, I remember bouncing around between Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Doom 64, Hexen, and more. Due to the live service nature of shooters these days, players staying within one ecosystem feels like the norm.
A lot of my friends who would consider themselves fans of shooters only play Overwatch. My cousin Kyle – who is on the verge of graduating high school – has spent the vast majority of his life only playing the Call of Duty games. There’s another crop of players who are grinding out games like Destiny 2 and Warframe. The gap seems even wider within the realm of battle royale shooters, as I get the sense that those players are really committed to their game, whether it’s Fortnite, PUBG, or Apex Legends.
This phenomenon mostly impacts genres that have shifted towards a live service model. While players used to have to jump around get a fresh fix, the ecosystems are such that you can reasonably stick with one game that evolves over time. Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, how many genre fans are missing out on games they might like because they’re so committed to a single title?
Of course, this phenomenon doesn’t have the same effect in other avenues of the hobby. For example, you can throw a rock in the Nintendo eShop and hit 20 2D Metroidvania style games before it touches the ground. Even single-player games with DLC expansions don’t prevent players from sampling other games.
I could be entirely wrong, but I feel like we’ve been in the midst of this shift for a while now. Any games with major online components have created their own ecosystems, making it easier for players to never leave their atmosphere.
Would you consider yourself an enthusiast of any genre? Does your enthusiasm of that genre go beyond one game? And how has the advent of online changed the way you consume games? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
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A friend of mine refers to stuff like CoD, Overwatch, Minecraft and the like “lifestyle games”, because they aim to become your exclusive hobby; part of your lifestyle. The aim for many of these games is that a significant proportion of their audience becomes not “gamers”, but “people who play Overwatch”.
I mean, it makes sense to a certain extent; you don’t meet many people who are “sportsers” and play all the sports out there; they tend to focus on football, tennis, rugby, whatever. Except sports tend to stay mostly the same from year to year, with any “changes” usually relating to regulation and the business side of things rather than the fundamentals. With gaming, things are always growing, changing, moving on.
I’m not into online gaming at all because I don’t like the idea of committing myself exclusively to one thing indefinitely, which is what most games like this expect these days — and encourage this with Skinner box mechanics like experience systems and loot boxes. I play long games like RPGs, yes, but they eventually end, then I can move on to something else.
I think genre enthusiasts definitely still exist — I’d certainly consider myself one of the RPG genre — but the games themselves, particularly in the cases of online-centric experiences such as fighting games, aren’t necessarily compatible with getting a balanced, varied gaming diet!
There’s also works in the same genre offering very different experiences.
Payday 2 and Counter Strike are both FPSes, but the former is a PVE one with a lot of room for error and the latter a PVP one with absolutely none.
Another thing that I think makes it tricky to be a genre enthusiast is the sheer number of video games that exist. I consider myself to be a tactical RPG enthusiast, for example, but for each one I have played – Fire Emblem, Into the Breach, Final Fantasy Tactics, Mario + Rabbids – there are two more I haven’t dug into yet. Disgaea, XCOM, Advance Wars, Valkyria Chronicles; those are just big-name titles I haven’t touched. There are plenty of smaller tactical RPGs with multiple entries that I haven’t touched yet, and to touch them I’d probably have to give up time in other genres that I also enjoy. I guess to be a “genre enthusiast,” unless you’re in an environment where you have more free time than I personally do, you probably ONLY play that genre in order to actually experience everything that is out there.