Responses to the Video Games article—page 3
Updated: July 11, 2003

————— CON —————   
February 28, 2002
From: Karel Donk

Hi Mr Abbott,

There’s currently a discussion going on on Planetcrap about your article. If you browse to, click the “Hey, Stupid!” topic to view comments.

I figured you might like to defend yourself. :)


This letter does not belong in the CON category, but the discussion does. It’s mostly by teen-age boys who are enraged that I would attack something they consider their own. One of them said I was a “bitter old fuck.” Actually, that’s pretty much true. I don’t know how long these threads remain on bulletin boards, so if you go to Planetcrap, you may not be able to find it.

March 1, 2002
From: BT Hive

I read your article, and it is the biggest load of self-absorbed crap I have ever read. But don’t just take my word for it. See here:

Please note that this forum board contains many very sensibly argued points, so please don’t insult us by saying ‘the kids are upset’ because that only serves to make our point further.


March 7, 2002
From asfs gfdydgyd

I would just like to take the time for a moment and ask you what do you think a game developer is? In your essay/article “Video Games Are Incredibly Stupid!” you state that video game designers are stupid and that they aren’t even game designers. Apparently you are referring to modern game designers and comparing them to the designers from the “Golden Age” of games, as I’ll refer to it here. Have you even for once thought about what goes into creating a game? Apparently from your essay, you have no clue. The design methods at the core are the same today as they were 10 to 20 years ago, it’s just that things change and so the methods have to be tweaked to fit with the current ways.

You also say that a game designer, which I’m assuming means an individual designer/maker of a game or perhaps a whole company, isn’t even a real designer anymore. You state that now-days, game designers are programmers and graphic artists. Well who the hell do you think the designers were of your old games? They were programmers and graphic artists. Mostly the programmers because computer graphics was not really evolved as it is today, but still. The games that were made during the 70s and 80s were programmed in languages such as BASIC or perhaps Fortran. I don’t know how a video game could possibly be created without any programmer coding for it.

Perhaps next time you should do some research when writing an essay or article before publishing it on your website or in a magazine. It might help save you from looking like a complete ass. By the way, if you really did try and get that essay published and couldn’t figure out why they weren’t wanting it, perhaps it’s because those magazines didn’t want to publish something that would potential harm themselves just because you felt that your essay was worth publishing.

I would just like to end with this. I agree that those two hosts on Extended Play, a lot of times, seem like they don’t know what the hell they are talking about. They do seem repetitive on their preachings but they’re just doing their jobs. I doubt half their rants on that program are their own personal feelings about a game. Most of the time their ratings on a game are based on their team of reviewers that they have. But hey, have you seen the gaming show on TBS lately? Now that’s a pile of crap.

That last paragraph was interesting. Yes, I’d seen the show on TBS and I loved it! (You knew I was going to disagree with you.) The show is “Dave & Steve’s Video Game Explosion.” It’s on around 1 AM (Eastern time) on Wednesday night or Thursday night (you never know which), and it will probably be called “Burley TV” (huh?) in your TV listings. It’s just a fat geek and a thin geek talking about games. The show has all the production value of something on “Public Access.” I’m not too interested in the games they review, but their comments are brilliant—and often very funny. Here is their web site. [Update 9/26/02: unfortunately that TV show and the web site are now gone.]

December 11, 2001
From TimeDown11

First off,you sound so stupid complaining about games today.....I mean LOL you think the old 70’s and 80’s games were the best!!!!No one will buy that.Your about the only person I ever heard complaining about video games.There arent just racing games and shooting games there are all different kind of categories.No offense but that essay sucks and dosent make sense.Just a bunch of BS.Its time for a new revolution pops,get used to it.

February 22, 2002
From Aaron Robert Potter

Hello Mr. Abbott,

I have just read your article about how stupid designers are about video games, and how stupid the players are, and how stupid the critics are. You sir, are so naive. How much time do you think it takes to make a video game? Do you believe that the players would play a game if they felt it was stupid? Do you actually think that when critics look at a game, they think that it is stupid and that old people like you that have no idea about the current technology will be out there insulting them? The answer is no, it can take a year to make a good video game that has in depth graphics a storyline, an advertising campaign, the sound, and many other components that it takes to make a game. I was angered by your ridiculous claims, and saddened to think that you would actually try to publish such a ridiculous article on-line. Your article holds no valid truth, and no such point. I believe that the amount of education that these people take to learn how to make a game, and the writers that judge a game, and the amount of College students, and thousands of others all over the world that play these games are not stupid. By your claiming that video games are stupid, you are in fact lowering yourself to that point. The word “stupid” is juvenile, and should never be used when someone of you age is judging something that they have no idea about. I myself play video games everyday, on my own computer. I know several Hi-end applications to design graphics, sound, magazines, web pages, and many more. These applications are as follows: Dreamweaver, Photoshop, InDesign, Acid Pro, Aucoustica, Fruity Loops, Flash 5, and others. I suggest that you also come out of your “stupid” phase, and learn that these applications may help you express your point. You need to be involved in the subject and actually study it before you insult a community of millions.

I hope that you learn something about web design because I in fact think that your page is stupid, and looks unprofessional, and has major design flaws. If you are going to be involved in the technical field, and make huge claims about how stupid it is, learn something about the tools that you work with. I am not talking about Powerpoint, Microsoft Word, or Publisher. I mean real tools that much of the gaming community uses. The next time you decide to write an article, use some judgment. What games were you commenting about? What designers? What players? What critics? Now, that you’re a critic yourself, I believe that you are not stupid but incredibly ignorant.

Thank you,

The next two letters make some valid points:

February 27, 2002
From Tom Henderson

Mr. Abbott,

I wanted to reply to your deliberately inflammatory, derogatory essay. I am a computer game designer, and needless to say did not find your puerile insults about my vocation and passion amusing or edifying. I would have thought that you could have expressed your ideas without resorting to using the words dumb and stupid over and over. It does not strengthen your case.

On to your actual arguments and their dubious merits. The few statements of fact in your essay are at best inaccurate and at worst flat out wrong. Take your statement “In the 70s and 80s, people of all ages played video games. Today they are played almost exclusively by teen-age boys or by young children.” This is, in fact, the exact opposite of the case. Video games were almost exclusively played in arcades in the 70s and 80s or on cheap home systems that were specifically aimed at children. The demographics of computer games and Video games have been steadily widening since then. I would include references or links but you don’t seem interested in evidence or any form of factual basis for arguments. Another example is “About all that is in these magazines is tips on how to win the games.” Even a cursory glance at Video game magazines would show that this is minor part of most, usually included as a small section in the back. Most magazines are filled with privies and reviews. I could continue but it would be pointless. Sufficient to say you did not make any sort of a basis in fact to support your arguments. But what about your arguments themselves? Basically, after we remove all the insults and sweeping generalizations we’re left with the following: Your stated point:

“Adding realism doesn’t always improve games. But here is a trickier concept: sometimes adding realism makes games worse.”

This is, following after all your hyperbole, a perfectly reasonable statement. But your contentions that are built around it; that video game designers are obsessed with realism at the expense of playability is simply not true. Firstly, realism has always been an element of game design. From Board War Games or “Conflict Simulations,” as Jim Dunnigan preferred to call them, to kids playing Army, some games have strove to strike a balance between realism and playability. Of course many forms of games are completely abstract, but games that have an element of realism do not include it gratuitously but because it is an integral part of what the game is trying to do. Can this element make a game less fun to play for some? Of course, but that misses the point. Realism is an element of those forms of games and needs to be there. Similarly video games with strong simulation elements strike a balance between playability and realism. This is a conscious decision and is done to meet the desires of both the designers and the players for both these elements. It is clear that you have no interest in simulation for its own sake, but many players like a mix of the two. By the way, your attack on Battle Chess is ill founded. Battle chess did not add any realism whatsoever to chess nor was it intended to. The game is essentially the electronic equivalent of a chess set with fancy pieces. Do you find these “incredibly stupid”? It’s interesting that the artificial opponent, a machine that plays with you, which is of course what truly makes computer chess interesting, you don’t even touch upon. Another point you make is that games are not innovative. And that in the 70’s and 80’s games were much more innovative. Of course like any field of human endeavor, the video game development is rife with imitation and derivative products. First of all, innovative doesn’t automatically mean good. Sometimes doing it right is better them doing it first. Putting that aside, any actual review of games in the 70’s and 80’s would reveal just as many copy cats and shoddy knockoffs then as now. You just don’t choose to remember those. How tiresome it is to hear someone expounding on “How things were better in the good old days.” Perhaps if you lived inside a Pepperidge Farms commercial this was true, but if you were to remove your rose colored glasses you’d realize that a good game was as uncommon then as it is now. Good games, like good movies, good books, or anything else creative, are hard. Innovation is alive and well and if you actually played any significant amount of video games, you would realize that. Some recent examples:

“The Sims”—a game that simulates a surreal, consumer-driven, American lifestyle. Players can generate all kinds of their own content using extremely powerful tools and then share this on the net. I could go on and on about the innovations in this one game alone.

Real Time Strategy—This style of game, unique to the computer, is a innovative blend of infrastructure build-up, balancing economic development versus offense, and continuous action.

Economic simulation games—In Rail Road Tycoon you get to build and run railroads; in others you can construct and operate amusement parks or ancient cities.

Cel Damage—This game takes two standard games FPS and driving and combines them with actual cartoon physics and gags (e.g. portable holes, not falling until you notice your off the cliff, etc.) There are many more, but that should be sufficient.

Another point you make is that top-down games are dead. This is ludicrous! Here are the top selling PC games for this last month:

1. Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault (Electronic Arts, $47)
2. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone (Electronic Arts, $26)
3. The Sims: Hot Date Expansion Pack (Electronic Arts, $29)
4. The Sims (Electronic Arts, $44)
5. Roller Coaster Tycoon (Infogrames, $21)
6. Zoo Tycoon (Microsoft, $29)
7. Backyard Basketball (Infogrames, $18)
8. Serious Sam: Second Encounter (Gathering of Developers, $20)
9. Empire Earth (Vivendi, $44)
10. Civilization 3 (Infogrames Entertainment, $48)

Of these, 8 are top down view! While it isn’t as prevalent in console games, many do use top-down view including (off the top of my head) Fusion Frenzy, Baldur’s Gate, and almost all team sports titles. You simply don’t know what your talking about. As to the professionalism and dedication to craft exhibited by computer game designers, I dare say it would hold up in any fair comparison to that of puzzle makers, who also do not have their own degree programs. I study game design and its related disciplines (user interface design, psychology of rewards, game theory, to name a few), to perfect my craft. It is unfortunate that you cannot make the conceptual leap that people doing different forms of games then you the ones you care for might still be intelligent and professional. Prior to reading this essay, I would have extended to you that courtesy.

To sum up. The world of Video games is much more complex and diverse then your essay expresses and your sweeping generalizations and gratuitous insults do nothing to strengthen your arguments. In fact, you come across as one of the ignoramus you so rail against. Your essay does succeed in pointing out someone who is “incredibly stupid” or at least incredibly ill-informed and opinionated, but that someone is you.

Tom Henderson
Design Department Director
Cyberlore Studios

Let me respond to just one point: I probably wasn’t too clear in my article, but what I meant by a top-down view was a view directly from the top. That leaves the board looking like the diagram of a chess problem, and it doesn’t leave much room for fancy graphics (which is fine by me). The view you are referring to is the angled view from the top. I still prefer the view directly from the top, but I have to admit that the angled view is pretty good and it does provide all the same information. But it lacks some of the clarity of the view directly from the top. For instance, it would be hard to solve a chess problem if you were presented with the angled view.

February 28, 2002
From Stéphane LeBrun

Mr. Abbott,

I just read your essay on video games. While you do raise a few good points, most of your article is centered around repetitiveness and people’s stupidity. That’s IT? That’s all you could come up with? That’s definitely not college material. It’s not even high school material.

Just because I don’t like something like watching baseball on TV for example, it doesn’t mean that all the people who enjoy watching baseball are stupid. That would make a LOT of people stupid. People with graduate degrees, doctors, lawyers, engineers, rocket scientists, etc. Branding people as ‘stupid’ is just too easy of an argument to make. Don’t expect people to actually take you seriously when you’re using schoolyard-bully trash-talking, instead of intelligent, well thought out arguments. But then again — intelligent thought requires effort. I apologize for us lowly mortals about the average IQ of a person being 100.

As for repetitiveness — the 80s games you mentioned come to mind. And for your information, most 80s games are twitch games, which you seem to hate. Robotron. Defender. It doesn’t get twitchier than that. But I played them anyway, because they are a lot of fun. Tennis is also repetitive. So is knitting. So are a lot of activities people do for fun. People still do them.

I don’t like racing games, but I don’t think that my friends who like playing Grand Turismo are stupid people. Some people would love to be able to drive 200Mph. In video games, they can. It entertains and gives them enjoyment. What more could a game designer ask for? That’s the whole point of playing games. We play games for FUN. If I don’t enjoy playing a certain game, I’ll just stop playing it. I understand what you’re saying about games not having to be realistic. There are lots of good abstract games out there — board games, card games, and video games. You seem to have forgotten something. The opposite is also true. A game does NOT have to be abstract to be good. Elitist art purists (are you one of them?) would argue me to death on this one but paintings do NOT have to be abstract to be good either. You have to keep an open mind in order to evolve and better yourself. I play all types of games: board games, card games, social games, role playing games, and of course video games. For each type, I can find games that I’m interested in and others that don’t interest me. There’s a plethora of video games to choose from: puzzle games, twitch games, competitive and team oriented strategy games, sport games, role playing games, trivia games, simulations (car, plane, etc.), etc. Maybe you’re just not buying games from the genres that interest you. There’s also this concept in the real world, called “target audience.” It’s actually pretty neat. You should read up on it sometime.

This is just my opinion, but I think you’re suffering from the “Back in my days, games were more fun, books were better, the grass was greener, and the world was a better place” syndrome that afflicts most people at one point or another in their lives. Next, you’ll be telling me that you had to walk 15 miles to school, in 5' of snow, uphill both ways.

Being in the industry, I feel obligated to point out some facts for you:

1. There ARE game designers. People who don’t do art or code, and only focus on the game design. Games were designed by programmers and artists back in the 80s. We’re in the 21st century now.

2. The game industry is now run by suit-wearing, bean-counting marketing guys. THEY are only interested in making a profit. The talented people, who actually do the work, are putting their hearts and souls into their products and often work 80 hour weeks, with no paid overtime, to try to ship a game within the constraints set upon them, and the normally unreasonable deadlines (all because of the competitive and oversaturared state of the industry). If you see a lot of remakes and licensed products, it’s because the bean-counters are afraid of the risks involved with making an innovative product. I, for one, would prefer to be playing, or working on, an original and innovative product. Despite all that, there are some really really good games out there. All Blizzard games, Thief (1 and 2) and Deus Ex, just to name a few. Look at the hall of fame on Yeah, I agree that game critics are sometimes a little stupid and quite biased, but their hall of fame is dead on. They even pay homage to the old classics we love. :)

In closing, I’ll offer you some advice. Instead of dispensing your hateful drivel all over the Internet, and branding everyone from today’s kids (tomorrow’s future) to game designers to game critics to your neighbor’s dog as “stupid” — Why don’t you get a clue and just figure out that it’s a generation gap problem (which doesn’t affect everyone, by the way). You probably also think that the original Star Trek with William Shatner is the best thing since sliced bread, and that all other Star Trek series are “stupid.” I was watching cartoons back then and didn’t care about shows like Star Trek, but I did watch the other series. I remember watching my first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and thinking: “This is pretty cool!” I fell in love with the show and watched all the following Star Trek series. But I still don’t like the original. I tried watching some episodes and I didn’t like them that much. They just didn’t have the same magic that the ones I grew up watching have. It’s a fact of life. Deal with it! Live and let live. By saying something “sucks” or is “stupid,” you’re just bringing yourself down to the same level as those teen-agers you think are so “stupid” and seem to dislike so much. Why don’t you do something constructive and show us young whipper-snappers that you can do better, instead of this destructive criticism that serves no purpose whatsoever. Offer suggestions instead of taking the lazy way out and simply whining: “It’s stupid and it sucks!! I can do better. ph34r my 1337 5ki1z!” Put your money where your mouth is and take the challenge, mister.

Have a nice day. :)

Stéphane LeBrun
Software Engineer
Paradigm Entertainment, Inc.

December 17, 2002

First off I have realy gay ass parents they make me do every thing (well not every thing but you know what I mean) around the house, I have school, and I have a little brother and an older sister, we couldn’t fight more. Me and my friends love video game and the realism in them. I do use video games as a relise from real life and if i could life in some of these world created by incredibly smart and creative game designers i would not wast a second. the more real a game is the more fun it is now just in the last cople of months they have made ai smarter than you, you could talk to this thing for ever! And yes if the character looked better then more peolpe would buy it and play it and love it. Judging from the first paragrphs i think you suck ass at video games and just like dising them well guess what shut your mouth u fucker!

Secondly I found alot of stuff wrong with your essay. Um yea chess is a game i greatly enjoy it was invented for war stadagy and simulations. It was spost to make the learning player think and look at the big picture to win the war and not the battle.

Have you read a video game mag lately about 130-200 pages of reviews and previews and honestly about 2 to 5 pages with cheats on them god i want to beat you 2 a pulp! I think you forgot 2 read the the title of the mag that siad cheats hints and cods you dumb ass.

O and that top view ok in my favorite game Zelda Ocroina of time their is a maze and you look at from a top view and try to get around the gaurds. and god damn gta2 o my god the hole god damn game is played from your awsome view that you love so much And final games r only getting better have you ever herd of mmorpgs well thier going places and if you don;t like it shut your mouth because as you said game designers aren’t targeting old men that live in the past that don’t know jack shit about games you little ass fuck!

P.S. You and you silent show deserv each other i hope u die in front of them never know ho wreal sane people think. And a prewarning if you ever wirte any thing about how video games make people into killers i garenty someone will killer you lol and all laugh. Cause it people like you that give video ganes a bad name!


I was going to object to your e-mail, but then I realized, you really do lead a miserable life. I’m sorry about that. I could make one suggestion: a lot of people with miserable lives get out of them by doing something creative. You might try that. You could learn a programming language then program a game of your own.

— R. Abbott

My advice to this guy was probably impractical, but it might work.

In his P.S. he mentions the usual objections to video games, which is that they are too violent. There is currently a debate about whether the games should be censored. I’ve always been against censoring anything, but after receiving 100 threatening letters from teen-age boys, I’m beginning to re-think my position. One thing I could add to this debate: the stupidity of video games exacerbates the violence. After all, if you are creating a first-person-shooter, then there’s not much you can do but shoot people. And if you want your shooter to stand out from the other shooters on the market, then the only thing you can do is have your victims die more horrible deaths.

January 23, 2003
From Suzanne

Hey i may be a girl and all but I love Devil May Cry and Blood Omen 2 and not all videos games are all look around the corner and shoot something. I looked at your so called version of video games AND THEY SUCK!! They are like a friggen maze that a kindergarden teacher would give their kids before nap time.

You really need to evaluate stuff before you start blabbing your fatass mouth off about something being stupid you jackass! You’re probably just jealuos because all your girlfriends think that Dante or Kain are hotter than you and they probably are and thats sad because all they’re made of is polytriangles! Oh yea, you’re probably some stupid ass son of a bitch that does’nt even take time to sit down and try to interpret the story of a video game. Have you ever played Final Fantasy? When whats-her-boob died most people actually cried because she was such an important charecter and because the storyline was so good that it seemed real.

Oh and video games are’nt a waste of time because they buld up your hand-eye coordination and they help you read better too. Like in my case I have an I.Q. of 145 thats 5 points below Einstiens you know why because I’ve been playing video games! Oh and yet another thing I’m only 13 and I already have a scholarship to seven colleges including Harvard and Stanford so you can’t say I’m a stupid bitch who does’nt know what the hell she’s talking about!



So—if my games are “like a friggen maze that a kindergarden teacher would give their kids before nap time,” then what is the completion code for Level 15 of Theseus and the Minotaur?

— R. Abbott

I said I wouldn’t post any more CON letters, but I made an exception here because this is the first letter from a teen-age girl. Also, the letter is pretty entertaining. The writing here is actually very good, in spite of the misuse of apostrophes and the lack of punctuation (and I assume the lack of punctuation is deliberate).

More CON information: The July, 2003 issue of Reason has an interesting article that takes a view of video games that is the opposite of mine. The article quotes a professor of media studies who compares Grand Theft Auto III to Birth of a Nation. The article is on Reason's web site at this location.

——— Closing Remarks ———   

I wanted to respond to a couple of the points raised here. (I’ll ignore most of the other points, especially those where I might actually be wrong.)

First of all, I said that those creating video games are not game designers but are programmers and graphic artists. I didn’t mean to knock programmers and graphic artists. After all, I’m a programmer myself (I used to be a whiz at IBM 360 Assembler Language and recently I got to be pretty good at JavaScript—see my “Alice Mazes” game). What I meant was that game companies hire people for their programming or graphic abilities. They don’t understand that there is something else involved in creating a game. If the company is lucky, it might turn out that some of their programmers have the ability to invent games (after all, there are similarities between writing a program and inventing a game). But usually the company is not lucky.

After I posted my essay, I got an e-mail from Chuck Sommerville, the inventor of my favorite computer game, Chip’s Challenge. He pointed out that he is a programmer. I responded: “Yes, and when you were hired they didn’t know you could also invent games.” Actually, when he was hired, Sommerville himself may not have known he could invent games.

Second, a lot of the teen-agers who wrote me said that video games are good because they are popular, or because they are very hard to create, or because they cost a lot of money to produce. None of these criteria should be used in judging any work of art. That’s just a universal concept in any form of criticism. Everyone should know it. I learned if from my English teacher in high school back in the 40s. Is nothing like this taught today?

And what’s all this semi-literate writing? I only posted a couple of letters like that, but the bulletin boards had many more. Is this the result of the decline of public schools? Or is it just an acceptable form of Internet communication? (not an excuse as far as I’m concerned). Well, at least the teen-agers are expressing themselves. In the 1940s, we teen-agers were pretty much suppressed—especially when they censored what we wrote for the high school newspaper (I’m still mad about this).

Note, January 14, 2003:   It’s been about a year and a half since I first posted this essay, and I’m still getting letters (about one every day). Unfortunately, most of the letters would be ones for the CON section. I don’t really have room for more letters in this section, and besides, just about everything has already been said. So please resist the temptation to write more letters attacking me. I’ll read them, but I won’t post them and I’m unlikely to write back.

A lot of the recent letters agree with what I’m saying but object to my writing style. They say I shouldn’t call everyone stupid. That style is something I picked up from reading too much Ann Coulter. I don’t always agree with her, but I think her style is great. It’s very entertaining.

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