Here is my reply to a post on the Age’s Screen Play blog (by Jason Hill). I thought they needed some poststructuralist critique to liven things up.
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Interesting point, craig. The only problem is that the buying public are not neo-Kantians who believe in a universal ‘fun’.
If we look at what the function of what a gaming system is meant to do — which is to ward off boredom, although this may be discoursed as ‘fun’ — then the question becomes, which gaming console has the capacity to be the most efficient tool at warding off boredom for post-scarcity post-industrial tech-savvy consumers?
The question of the consumer introduces a generational disjunction between the series of gamers and the series of gaming machines. The consumers of these so-called next-gen consoles are going to bave been socialised with 2nd gen consoles and high quality PC gaming machines. The consumer cohort of the previous gen consoles would have been socialised with 1st gen consoles and maybe some late arcade machine action.
I raise this point because it is the boredom of the consumer that the gaming console has to ward off, and if the consumer cohort has shifted in what could be consider along roughly generational lines, then the functional demands on a console to be ‘fun’ (ie ward off boredom) will also shift. In other words, it is dynamic a feedback to feedback process where the variables are variable and a universal ‘fun’ can not be relied on.
Another point, more directly related to the question of popularity. A gaming machine and its games may have the necessary elements to be popular, that is, to incite it’s consumption in a consumer cohort, but the ‘popularity’ itself is manifest within the consumer cohort. The consumer brings the gaming machine’s popularity with him or her when he or she goes to buy it (or buys a game or talks it up on a blog or whatever). So along with the technical capabilities of the gaming machine, the aesthetic and technical qualities of the games, the industry convergence tipping points (that Rawlser hints at), possible cross-platform convergence, and the dynamics of exchange and supply that will affect pricing and therefore consumer will, is this manifest buzz of popularity that very well may be triggered by all of the above, but is brought to the dynamics of the process by consumers themselves. Predicting this consumer sentiment is very tricky. A great tool to do so may be to write a blog post about it and see what all the comments say.