BEHIND THE CURVE

Back in the early 1980s, circa 1983 my parents bought me my first video game console, the legendary Atari 2600. Back then, the video game industry was very much still in its infancy. Video gaming was a novelty and indulged in by mostly kids. In terms of entertainment dollars, it was barely a blip on a radar screen that was dominated by movies and TV.

Today, the video game industry has grown by leaps and bounds since those early 8-bit days. Now, millions of people play video games from the very young to the old timers like me, who are slowly creeping into middle age. Most of the players are male but a recent study that I wont cite, found there are least 17 female gamers out there.

Certain triple-A titles now match or exceed blockbuster movies in both revenue and profit. Two recent examples are Halo 3 which launched at the end of 2007 and tonight’s release of GTA IV. Those two intellectual properties have reached the status of cultural phenomena. Now for a person that has been playing games for well over 20 years and actually works in the industry, I seem to miss out on a lot of the titles that get elevated into superstar status.

The first example is the Halo series. These series of games were the first set of titles that brought gaming heavily into the mainstream. People played these games that didn’t really play games before. The Halo series was so popular that even the mainstream media, who really don’t get gaming as whole, was forced to report on its success. Though the first game was released in 2001, it took me seven years to play it for the first time. I finished the whole series last week, when I just completed Halo 3.

The next example is the Grand Theft Auto series. Though I played the first game for one evening many years ago, it never really captured my attention. GTA didn’t really take off in popularity until the third game came out. I have never played GTA III, which is when most people were introduced to the series and also when the mainstream media picked up on its violent depictions. I also have no plans to pick up GTA IV.

So why have I missed out or am so late to the parties on some of these games? One of the reasons is practicality and availability. The first Halo was an Xbox exclusive when it first came out and that meant I needed to own an Xbox to play it. In 2001, I wasn’t much of a console gamer back then and to be honest, the original Xbox was a piece of crap compared to the PS2. As the years went by, there was even less reason for me to get an Xbox. The only reason I’ve even played it now was because I took it out for free from the EA library and it’s playable on the 360. The same reason goes for GTA III. It was released on the PS2 and I didn’t own one back then. I was a big PC gamer back then and the only console I did own was the PS1.

Another reason is that I’m just really suspicious of too much hype for a game. A game’s impact can be lessened because the hype just elevates people’s expectations beyond reason. In a way, I think I don’t want to play certain games because I just don’t want to be disappointed.

As for GTA IV, I certainly won’t buy it like I stated before but if someone lends me a copy in 2015, I’ll give it a try for sure.

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