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The Real Target Demo For PC Games

If you've been into PC gaming much, you've probably heard the cry of how those "bloody casuals" ruined everything, but I think I've isolated a more specific complaint, and it's this: games need to be nerdier.
Source: Male Gamer Stereo Stereotype Discussed, GameSpy.
Lets take a look at the most popular games on the PC right now:
  • Minecraft - I would say that Minecraft's primary lease to success is a massive community so nerdy that neither poor mod support nor the Java platform this game was created in was sufficient to prevent a small number of them from making nerdy mods for it (e.g. performing computer programming in-game or build extravagant devices).
  • DOTA 2 - A remake of what was originally a mod built for Warcraft III, whose anal-retentive detail to balancing item builds on champions should clarify that this was clearly a game made by nerds, for nerds.
  • Team Fortress 2 - Arguably the penultimate example of the nerdy pursuit of playing 3D arena shooters.  How did they keep interest going in this game for so long?  Well, for starters, they challenged the players to make 3D models and submit them so that they could sell, among other things, a slew of really nerdy hats.

As I read the current list of most popularly played Steam Games the trend goes on for quite some time: Civilization V, Total War, Garry's Mod, Counter-Strike... alright, then we hit Call Of Duty and we're finally in jock territory, but lets just say that the lion's share of gamers are the kinds of people who actually were always interested in computer gaming to begin with: nerds.

Another subjective data point: what games have I got sitting on my desktop right now?
  • Final Fantasy XIV - Probably the least nerdiest game here, but make no mistake, Final Fantasy nerds are a force to be reckoned with, and a MMORPG is the nerd equivalent of a luxury vacation to a foreign locale.
  • Skyrim - HarryPatridge's infamous cartoon (below) is not too far from the mark of what a lot of nerds were thinking when they heard about this game.  It's still a luxury vacation to a foreign locale to them, but without all that online overhead.
  • Gnomoria - This game mostly aspires to be a graphical Dwarf Fortress.  This is because the developers knew that Dwarf Fortress is a nerd triumph whose popularity would perhaps exceed Minecraft were it only more accessible.
  • Dungeon Crawl - An open-source roguelike, how much nerdier can you get?
  • Minecraft -  See the above comments already made about this one.
I think it's pretty clear where my interests lay: I want nerdier games.  My "WHY DON'T YOU PLAY THESE" folder of overly-hastily-purchased games from Steam Sales is basically full of games which aren't nerdy enough to be interesting to me!

The word "nerd" somehow carries a stigma for many.  Not for me: I think nerds rule the planet, if not now, then soon.  In my mind, I am but a piddling lesser geek who has, thus far, failed to apply himself enough in life to earn his nerd props.  Deep down, I think everyone with an active mind can enjoy a good nerdy pursuit, and this is what games need to capitalize upon more.

More to the point, this is where gaming focus groups fail.  A lot of money has been thrown at trying to poll what their audience wants, but do they drag in a bunch of nerds and ask them what they want in a game?  No, the organizations that employ focus groups don't look for nerds, they go for the average joe.  This isn't broadening the appeal of gaming, this is marketing gaming to people who simply aren't gamers.  Just imagine how much more lucrative of a return they'd have got if they had actually researched what actual gamers wanted instead?

The ultimate point I'm making here is this: a simplification of a game development mantra.  So many developers think in term of "casual friendliness" versus "hardcore" players.  I think that's off target.  No, all they really need to remember is this: make it something a nerd would really enjoy.

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