I hear an awful lot from many people about the day that games will permeate the population like their media brethrens; film, music, television. The day where everyone will be playing videogames, and they'll be understood by the Earth's population as a valid form of art.
This day will almost certainly never arrive. I'll explain why.
When you last watched a film, what did you do? If you're like me, you put the film on; via either a Blu-Ray/DVD player, your PC, or a console; and then you sat down, and film watching commenced. About two hours later you got up, and you had succeeded in the epic undertaking of completing a film. Yay for you.
Now think back to the last game you played on your console or PC. You booted up the game, you played for a few hours. You stopped playing and carried on with life. You then came back, played some more, and then stopped to carry on with life. A few rounds of this, and about 8 hours later, you succeeded in completing a game. Inarguably a slightly more involved experience.
Now during the film, what did you do? Personally, I stayed sitting down and let the movie do the work for me. Occasionally I scratched myself, and I was almost definitely eating (because that's the only free time I get). Other than that though, I barely moved or used my brain.
Games are an inherently interactive form of entertainment. They require skill, attention and a lot more involvement. This is one of the biggest problems I have with the notion that 'soon everyone will be playing games'.
You will never get half way through a movie, and then be tasked with performing a handstand for 5 seconds if you wish to see the end. If you want to complete a game however, you must put in the effort, do the work, have the skill. I wish I could show my Mum how thoroughly engrossing Braid was, or how absorbing and emotional the journey in Red Dead Redemption could be. However, she will never, ever know. The minimal requirements to even enter these games is to have some grasp of a controller or keyboard. I guarantee you that my Mum will reach the end of her life never having mastered the 3 dimensional controls of a two-analogue stick system. It's the way it is.
I'm sure playing football is immensely enjoyable for those who have the skill. Nevertheless, nobody is talking about the day that being a footballer will be mainstream, and everybody can do it. I will never be a footballer. The skill involved is not something I have the time nor interest to acquire. Whilst I concede that comparing a form of media to a sport is slightly insubstantial, there is simply no other subject which would make a valid comparison for gaming. Gaming is gaming, and it's like nothing else. It is it's own thing.
3. Why social media games and smaller games don't count
By the way, I have heard you screaming at me the whole way through this article about how iPhone, iPad and Facebook games change all of this. They allow for anybody to play them, they remove the time commitment, they are most certainly accessible to the mainstream.
Guess what, I agree. But guys, do you seriously think that when these people are discussing the future where they can converse with their parents and friends about games, that they are referring to iPhone games? Do you think these gamers, who look forward to having free discussions with work colleagues about the latest releases, have Farmville 2 in mind? No.
You know they're not, and I know they're not. They're talking about Half-Life 3, Halo 4, Wasteland 2. These games will not be on everybody's radar, ever. Games, in a sense, will one day be as widespread as a movie. My argument is, in another sense, the group of people who play the more artful, experimental videogames will stay as small as ever. It's time to accept this fact, and decide that it's okay.
My aunt probably won't be picking up Max Payne 3, but I'm fine with that.