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1983 article about "hardcore" gamers and differences between East and West designs

Nov 7, 2007
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I recently found an interesting article written in the January, 1983 issue of Video Games Magazine. This article looks at the differences between Japanese and American video games and also touches on the differences between "hardcore" and "novice" gamers. Here is an excerpt from said article:

I was going over the differences between East and West video game styles with Eugene Jarvis, the 27-year-old designer of such "hardcore" games as Robotron, Stargate, and Defender, the other day when he brought up the notion that the Japanese, with the "easier" games "were giving a boost to the novice player, but ripping off the expert." If this continued, Jarvis maintained, it could wipe out the cult of the "pinball wizard" and the "video freak." I thought about this and decided it was absolutely true. Top Japanese games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man are far more accessible to the "novice" and appeal to a wider group of people. They are colorful, cartoony, friendly, inviting. The "plots" are basically benign. Mario's love for the girl in Donkey Kong, and his persistence in pursuing her, is sort of sweet. Pac-Man's dot-eating proclivities are nothing if not cute. My mother in law, a Pac-Man fan who doesn't care for many of the American games, says "eating things is much nicer than blowing them up." In fact, Pac-Man is often described as a woman's game, with all the implications of the term "woman's drink."

This is exactly what Jarvis was talking about. Formerly, a typical video game player might be a warty teenager, a National Lampoon reader, blasting AC-DC in his room, who went to the arcade to kick a machine's butt. "From shit to God for a quarter," Jarvis commented. The games this type of player favors are almost invariably the American ones: Tough to play, intimidating to the novice, shooting-driving-destroying paranoid filled games. "Sperm games," Jarvis calls them. But now, he went on, these elitist video cowboys might be as extinct as their doggiepunching pinball forerunners. Says Jarvis: "How can you feel cool if your mother is playing in the same arcade? It's like she put your Led Zep record and liked them better than you.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that the topic of "hardcore" games was even being discussed in 1983. Much in the same way that "hardcore" Call of Duty fans may scoff at bright and colorful games like Mario Kart or Wii Sports, fans of Defender were apparently scoffing at games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man 27 years ago. I find it hilarious that a game as notoriously difficult as Donkey Kong could some how be viewed as a game for "novices," but I guess the issue was always more about accessibility than it was about challenge. Insecure teenagers didn't want to play the same games as their parents in 1983, and nothing has really changed. You won't have to look very hard to find some self-described hardcore gamer trolling about "soccer moms" or "old folks homes" when discussing the Wii. The prevalence of first-person shooters in this current generation illustrates how little has changed in the past few decades. Japan (Nintendo in particular) is still pushing out "colorful, cartoony, friendly, inviting" games; while western development seems more focused on "shooting-driving-destroying" games. I realize that this is a generalization, but it's interesting to see how closely our current generation mirrors the early 1980s. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
 

ZealousD

Makes world leading predictions like "The sun will rise tomorrow"
Apr 17, 2007
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And yet, over 20 years later, a documentary was made about how hardcore Donkey Kong really is.

In 2035, a new documentary called "King of Wii Sports" will be released.

"Archery kill screen coming up!"
 

oracrest

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Feb 6, 2006
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Video Games Magazine said:
these elitist video cowboys might be as extinct as their doggiepunching pinball forerunners.


 

BocoDragon

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Realize This Assgrab is Delicious
Dec 5, 2005
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That's pretty damn amazing, pre-Famicom and all that.
 

Ashes

Member
Dec 11, 2008
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"Kidz these days... They're always thinking that they are thinking of new things..."

Or was it:

"Kidz these days. They're always thinking their the first.."
 

Drkirby

Corporate Apologist
Jan 29, 2008
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eating things is much nicer than blowing them up.

Works great for Kirby
Despite eating Innocent creatures alive is one of the least humain ways to kill them.
 

Mael

Member
Oct 23, 2009
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I was going over the differences between East and West video game styles with Eugene Jarvis, the 27-year-old designer of such "hardcore" games as Robotron, Stargate, and Defender, the other day when he brought up the notion that the Japanese, with the "easier" games "were giving a boost to the novice player, but ripping off the expert." If this continued, Jarvis maintained, it could wipe out the cult of the "pinball wizard" and the "video freak." I thought about this and decided it was absolutely true. Top Japanese games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man are far more accessible to the "novice" and appeal to a wider group of people. They are colorful, cartoony, friendly, inviting. The "plots" are basically benign. Mario's love for the girl in Donkey Kong, and his persistence in pursuing her, is sort of sweet. Pac-Man's dot-eating proclivities are nothing if not cute. My mother in law, a Pac-Man fan who doesn't care for many of the American games, says "eating things is much nicer than blowing them up." In fact, Pac-Man is often described as a woman's game, with all the implications of the term "woman's drink."

Funny! so 2006 was really just the reenactement of 86?
Well at least we didn't have Tchernobyl that year :lol

This is exactly what Jarvis was talking about. Formerly, a typical video game player might be a warty teenager, a National Lampoon reader, blasting AC-DC in his room, who went to the arcade to kick a machine's butt. "From shit to God for a quarter," Jarvis commented. The games this type of player favors are almost invariably the American ones: Tough to play, intimidating to the novice, shooting-driving-destroying paranoid filled games. "Sperm games," Jarvis calls them. But now, he went on, these elitist video cowboys might be as extinct as their doggiepunching pinball forerunners. Says Jarvis: "How can you feel cool if your mother is playing in the same arcade? It's like she put your Led Zep record and liked them better than you.

Aaaah the insecure child argument,
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Well I would have been glad that Donkey Kong and other less semen filled games came around like I'm glad that someone somewhere tried to get an audience that didn't play games.
This also means that there was a major shrinkage for the hobby between 86 and 2006
 
Jun 7, 2004
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ZealousD said:
And yet, over 20 years later, a documentary was made about how hardcore Donkey Kong really is.
Well, it was really more about how hardcore the players could be, not the games.

Not sure I'm old enough to have seen gaming at that time the way Jarvis saw it in that piece, but I do recall some older players at arcades and other places that coin-ops were at around that time being a bit more dismissive of the friendlier-looking games, like Dig Dug, Centipede, and Frogger. Way more girls/women, and couples playing those than single guys, anyway. I think it has more to do with the vibe of its presentation mixed with the difficulty in playing it more than a pure design and challenge angle. Blowing shit up in spectacular ways just appeals to harder-core players...who mostly happened to be younger males.
 

Kilrogg

paid requisite penance
Jan 4, 2007
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Good find, Coolio!


And now, I present you the year 1989:

1989 graphics whore/hardcore troll said:
On the subject of choosing a video game.....my five cents....

Personally, I think the Nintendo is a piece of right wing garbage akin to the
IBM PC. Slow, out of date, but heavily marketed so that mindless dweenies will
think it's the hottest thing since Zelda had her first period. I have yet TO
SEE A SINGLE GAME ON THE THING SUBSTANTIALLY BETTER THAN STUFF I PLAYED ON MY
OLD ATARI 800 SEVEN YEARS AGO.....
Yes, there are some nice games, but they do
not do anything extraordinary and in fact clearly show the glaring limitations
of the thing's inferior pre-VLSI hardware.

On the subject of the Sega Genesis and the Turbografix 16. At least these guys
are using hardware invented after the Apple II, give 'em credit! The graphics
in these games are NICE! I really can't give a decent opinion as to which is
better, they're both fantastic!

But now I get to stand on my soapbox and have some fun. Correct me if I am
wrong, but isn't the Atari 7800 superior hardware wise to the NES? I heard
thing could manipulate 64 BIG sprites at once. It was developed right when
the slump hit the videogame industry, and two fantastic and innovative games
Rescue at fractalus and Ballblazer NEVER got the recognition they deserved.
I have yet to see ANYTHING on the NES half as good as these wondrous
creations from Lucasfilm. All I ever see are variations on the horizontal/
vertical scrolling find the magic trinket and or blow it up while a host of
randomly drawn stick figures get in your way theme. I'd rather pay 25 cents
in an arcade and at least get decent graphics and sound.

This gets us to another topic. Anyone who believes the Gamebody superior to
the Lynx is a complete loony. However, I think there is a good chance the
Lynx will fail simply because the Gameboy is saturing the market.
I hope this
does not happen because I do not see anyone else creating truly innovative
software for home video games. Even the Sega and NEC systems are only offering
souped up versions of the aforementioned theme...

The only really nifty games are being written for Amigas and ST's with sorry
adaptions made for befuddled PC users who gladly shuck out the bucks when they
see screenshots from the ST and Amiga versions (usually the Amiga version :)),
and get the Nintendosized version of a formerly fantastic game. One could
probably write neat stuff for the Mac II, but who wants to pay $7000 for a
video game ? The saddest part about this tale is that the PC version by far
outshines the combined profits of Amiga and ST versions so now some programmers
are dropping the Amiga and ST and limiting their horizons simply for the bucks.

I'm writing what I hope is a truly innovative video game myself right now, I
am writing it on an Atari ST with plans for both Amiga and PC adaptations, but
the key word here IS adaptations. The Amiga version will certainly be a little
better with the nifty sound and blitter chip, but I will need to write the PC
adaptation to make the thing truly profitable and that will be by far the
hardest part. Anyone out there looking for games for the NEC or Genesis? This
game would be PERFECT! I already know the thing would crash and burn on an NES

In closing, this post rambled ALOT, but I have wanted to broadcast my views
on the NES monopoly and the general creative decline it has triggered for a
very long time...

So good.

Read the rest, there are other interesting posts, including very reasonable ones. The more things change, the more they stay the same indeed.
 

Mael

Member
Oct 23, 2009
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MightyHedgehog said:
Well, it was really more about how hardcore the players could be, not the games.

Not sure I'm old enough to have seen gaming at that time the way Jarvis saw it in that piece, but I do recall some older players at arcades and other places that coin-ops were at around that time being a bit more dismissive of the friendlier-looking games, like Dig Dug, Centipede, and Frogger. Way more girls/women, and couples playing those than single guys, anyway. I think it has more to do with the vibe of its presentation mixed with the difficulty in playing it more than a pure design and challenge angle. Blowing shit up in spectacular ways just appeals to harder-core players...who mostly happened to be younger males.

So THAT's the main difference between now and before!

false edit : I guess the random Texas blogger was right in how the NES was received at the time....
although being European I actually had a clue that it wasn't seen as the second coming too...
 

sinxtanx

Member
Dec 5, 2008
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It's been the same since the stone age

"Flint spears are vastly superior to just using a pointy stick. Sure, pointy sticks are accessible to everyone, but real hunters all know that flint is the only REAL way to hunt."
 
Feb 22, 2009
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Too many people mistake their own ageing or changing tastes for seismic changes in the video games market.

And that guy saying that the most exciting games were being made on the Amiga & ST in 1989 was probably right on that point in that particular moment in time.
 

Mael

Member
Oct 23, 2009
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More Fun To Compute said:
Too many people mistake their own ageing or changing tastes for seismic changes in the video games market.

And that guy saying that the most exciting games were being made on the Amiga & ST in 1989 was probably right on that point in that particular moment in time.

except....not really.
I mean if he was from this side of the pond where the Amiga and other stuffs where pretty popular (and even then not THAT popular anyway) I would understand.
Still doesn't change the fact that it's incredibly shortsighted (especially when you know what was announced and released on all the systems and had a view at what they were doing in Japan).

And the casual meme is as fucking retarded as the novice BS that wsa going at the time, except that people labelling themselves as hardcore were seen as the paria they really should be (that applies to more than VG here, except maybe music and even then there's still a stigma).
 

D.Lo

Member
Aug 20, 2006
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So we can trace back 'Nintendo vs the manchildren' at least 27 years...

Poor Namco though. They used to be a big deal. Suppose Sega started sucking so Namco had nothing new to rip-off.
 
Nov 17, 2006
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Eugene Jarvis is pretty fucking rad. One of the worst things about arcades dying is that he doesn't really have a good place to ply his trade anymore.

Also the average "hardcore gamer" these days would piss their pants and cry at the difficulty of the games mentioned in that article.
 

Mael

Member
Oct 23, 2009
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Segata Sanshiro said:
Eugene Jarvis is pretty fucking rad. One of the worst things about arcades dying is that he doesn't really have a good place to ply his trade anymore.

Also the average "hardcore gamer" these days would piss their pants and cry at the difficulty of the games mentioned in that article.

They'd piss they pants and cry over the difficulty of fucking NES games :lol

Also the death of the arcades is a much bigger blow for the medium than you can imagine, it fostered innovations and all.
I mean it's basically the only reason Sega was cutting its losses!
Heck most devs this days wouldn't be able to make a game compelling enough to make people ditch quarters to play it, it's a fucking tragedy!
 
Feb 22, 2009
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Mael said:
except....not really.
I mean if he was from this side of the pond where the Amiga and other stuffs where pretty popular (and even then not THAT popular anyway) I would understand.
Still doesn't change the fact that it's incredibly shortsighted (especially when you know what was announced and released on all the systems and had a view at what they were doing in Japan).

Many of the pre 1990 Amiga and ST games that were most exciting were American. Many of the iconic European games came later. These platforms didn't keep up with PC hardware and 16 bit consoles might eventually have had good games but in 1989 the Amiga and ST were very aspirational systems. And, as you say, in Europe Amiga did have a longer life span and had a great mix of more complex PC style games and console style games and performed mostly pretty well at those tasks.
 

GDGF

Soothsayer
Jun 6, 2004
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Segata Sanshiro said:
Someone who kicks ass at pinball, one of the finest games of skill ever created and one of the industry's most painful losses.

God I love pinball machines. I'm not even talking about the digital ones. The old school late 70's early 80's machines were the best.