Is Accessibility Killing PC Gaming?

Written by Joe Martin

August 30, 2008 | 10:45

Tags: #accessibility #bioshock #death #deus-ex #dying #feature #joe #orange-box #pc-gaming #portal #system-shock-2

Companies: #bit-tech

Looking Forward

The obvious question then is; how is the apparently increased focus on creating accessible experiences going to change gaming in the future?

In general I think we PC gamers can expect to see a few things change. The first is that although games are going to carry on coming out on the PC, because it is still a £5 billion industry after all, even despite piracy concerns, these games will launch primarily on different platforms at once.

This makes sense; we already know that we’re seeing fewer and fewer exclusives on any platform. Everything Sony has, Microsoft wants and everything Microsoft has is invariably going to see a PC port later on because it benefits its OS sales and Games for Windows campaign. With DirectX 10 limited to Vista – how many sales were made off the back of that?

At the same time, the games that are getting released are going to shift to a compromise between the typical designs of PC and console games, and yes, there are differences.

PC games tend to be more about choice and cluster in a good number of complex mechanics. Console games meanwhile aren’t actually dumber as many PC gamers allege, but they do tend to offer more linear and action-based gameplay. It’s a distinction which can also be noted in the difference between western and Japanese RPGs. Compare Baldur’s Gate II with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance.

Is Accessibility Killing PC Gaming? Is PC gaming dying?
The interface of Oblivion drew criticism for being console focused

In some places we can see these blends already happening and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Again we can look at BioShock and how it differs from the spiritual ancestor System Shock 2, the first of which had a console as a lead platform and the other of which was PC exclusive. We can see how Take-Two kept the ability for players to customise their tactics, weapons and abilities but sought to structure it in a way that wouldn’t bombard the player with choices and statistics even before the tutorial finished as SS2 did.

The result is a game which offers much of the same freedom to players but in a way which is more accessible and that console gamers will be more accustomed and amenable too. These changes were then handed over to the PC gamers and the result isn’t at all bad.

You can see the differences everywhere if you look for them. Compare the PC-only Thief to Thief: Deadly Shadows or Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay on the Xbox.

A lot of PC gamers tend to worry needlessly about consolification of their favourite games and the way that the PC and console game styles are getting blended, but I honestly think that a lot of those people are missing the point. The point is that games are actually getting better by and large. More people are playing and more people are finishing their games. Why? Accessibility, simply.

Is Accessibility Killing PC Gaming? Is PC gaming dying?
Chronicles of Riddick is an example of a console game with enormous PC appeal

The renewed focus on creating deep but accessible game experiences is to my mind the real reason that games are changing and that PC games are often being said to be getting consolified – but there’s a real difference between a poor console port and a game which has been designed to make the best of both worlds.

Games are a technology driven industry and that means it’s inherent to their nature to change over time. The push to make sure that games are accessible experiences which don’t require huge time commitments to get familiar with could be the thing to push games into their next form, like the transformation from 2D to 3D worlds.

PC games aren’t dying and I hope they never do, though I did admittedly say the same thing back when the word went around that the adventure game genre was being put in its coffin. Games, like times, are changing though and I for one am ready to embrace the evolution of games from deep and over-complicated affairs to streamlined and more open experiences and as long as we don’t lose the fun-factor in the transition then I don’t really see what there is to complain about.

What do you reckon? Is PC gaming dying off like everyone seems to think, or are people just making mountains out of molehills like Joe says? Let us have your feedback and thoughts in the forums.
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