The case for MOR games.
Today’s games industry has many strange and wonderful features. Its most distinguishing feature is the current dominance of technology-focused, so-called “triple-A” games at the top of the market. These shiny, spangly games command the lion’s share of the marketing money, media attention and newspaper headlines. At the other end of the industry, we have the “casual games” market, which encompasses card games like Windows Solitaire, Minesweeper, the various “Match-3″ variants and their like.
And there is almost nothing — nothing — in between.
Which is strange, because the other media aren’t like that at all. Take radio, for example…
The triple-A games sector is like the radio channels which play chart hits. Most of them seem much the same to jaded thirty-something (and older) ears, because nobody’s invented a truly new musical instrument or technique in years. (Even sample-based music dates back to the musique concrete movement of the 1940s, when tape-based recording appeared.) Younger listeners love it: they weren’t even born in the 1970s, let alone the 1940s, so it’s still all new to them. Occasionally, you do get a real gem or classic, but by far the majority of the output in this sector is soon forgotten.
Then we have the Casual Games sector. This is the “Classic” (and Classical) music of the gaming world. It’s comfort music for those who are put off by the brash, noisy, in-yer-face racket of the chart hits. It’s nice and safe. Easy to pick up and listen to. Why? Because, by the time it’s reached this channel, it’s pretty much accepted that the music is good. That’s why it’s considered a “classic”.
Finally, we the music industry has its MOR (“Middle Of the Road”) music channels. Musicians still write music in any of a thousand different genres. John Williams still writes what sounds like classical music to most people. Danny Elfman, Enya or Mike Oldfield sit here. Ditto Paul McCartney, the Eagles and Harry Connick Jr., who sings the same music your grandmother was listening to in her youth.
And this, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is what our own industry lacks: We have no MOR Games channels. Why should gamers be penalized for liking games in genres long considered unfashionable by the triple-A crowd, but which the Casual Games folks find too complicated? When 3D games became fashionable, people started writing off 2D platformers. But why? Why should progress in a genre stop merely because some new technology makes other designs possible?
Give us MOR games, I say!