When I think about a lot of games these days, I often wonder, is this even a game?
Enough chai can do that to you.
But seriously, I think about the millions of dollars and extreme efforts put into many of today's games to make hyper-realistic graphics and physics coupled with rockstar quality sound and intricate AI. Then compare that to chess. Something seems to have happened to game-making, and it feels like something with diminishing returns.
After enough pondering and enough chai, I came to the conclusion that there are 2 fundamentally different types of games, with 2 different respective audiences. Of course any black/white distinctions like these are only academic and in reality all games just lie on a point along the continuum between the two extremes. But it's food for thought. And thought is tasty.
Think of Chess, Go, Frogger, Counterstrike, and Plants Vs Zombies. These games are a largely transparent system of rules that are there to be explored and understood. They're straight and to the point, have nearly infinite replay value, and are completely focused on the game mechanics. They're all about exploring many different approaches to a complex problem for which there is no perfect solution. Making this type of game doesn't usually require the latest and greatest in technology.
The hardcore gamers in this crowd do not care what they play. They will play anything on any system and play it over and over until they are so good at it that it bores them. Their minds are built to drill down into the game's mechanics and see the true game underneath any fancy frosting on top (they know that cake's a lie). If there's a dominant strategy, they will find it, beat everyone with it, and then move on. These folks want a game that has deep and complex rules even after you know them intimately. They form those groups of people still playing that game from 12 years ago.
Think of any game that's had (or will have) more than 3 sequels. Specifically you could think of Resident Evil, God of War, Fable, etc. These games are about creating an interesting experience for the player. They want to maximize the immersion the player feels with the game. Most have a directed narrative which, in some cases, even manage to form a complex plot and feature interesting characters. These games tend to be single player games that people play through a single time. They also tend to feature the latest in graphics and technology, and cost a lot of money to make.
These are the gamers who are always chasing the latest and greatest thing. They buy every console and every other game that comes out. They swing with the trends and chase anything shiny, controversial, or stamped with their favorite company's logo. They can be fickle, have short attention spans, and complain a lot on internet forums. They're the driving force behind the constant need for more, more, more. And they have a lot of money to spend on games, which of course makes them important.
Some Conclusions & Additional Ponderings
Let me know your own thoughts and conclusions. Thanks.