Sometimes you like to pat yourself on the back for having a fun idea like "Guitar Hero? What about Techno Hero!!!! That would be so much fun, like haha stupid what would you do, sit there and push play.....haha stupid idea."
Then someone from Japan blows your fucking brain away.
That person (female, I think, because of the spotty nail polish) is playing beatmania IIDX 15 DJ:Troopers. As you might be able to tell from all the postfixes, it's the latest in a very long run of titles Konami's Bemani series. It's included games like Guitar Freaks, that featured a guitar controller way before Guitar Hero came out, portable (!) rhythm games called Bemani Pocket, and most famously, Dance Dance Revolution. The IIDX iteration, which has been around since 1999, features two one-octave keyboard pads and a turntable controller (yes, she's using it in the video - check the pinky). Instead of a meager 50-someodd songs like Guitar Hero and Rock Band come with, they have...500 songs. Blam!
In December, there was a gigantic "Bemani 10th anniversary Memorial Event" concert in Tokyo called Gitado Live:
How in the goddamn fucking hell had I not heard of this entire world before this morning? It got me thinking. Right now, video gaming - in the United States, at least - is a world of extremes.
At one end you have your nephews and second cousins that are Halo freaks, forget to do their homework, and generally stay away from drugs aside from score-enhancing Adderall. They look up to professional gamers like Fatal1ty and are either afraid of other people or only associate with others online or in real life who share their level of dedication. Sometimes they grow out of it, sometimes they don't. In Japan they call that level of dedication Otaku, and it occupies a much larger segment of the national imagination there than it does here.
On the other end, you have your grandmother. Maybe you'd really love to show her Wii Tennis one day, but otherwise she's not someone you'd want to get into it with.
As an aging post-hardcore (!!!) gamer myself, I was getting very discouraged with my gaming level. I felt out of place. I'm pretty good at Rock Band and could pull off a couple of combos in Street Fighter II Turbo back in the day and generally pwn at arcades circa 1996, and could certainly kick most of your asses in Wii Tennis today. But once I get online, any notions I might have had about being in the upper 50th percentile of the gaming public fades disparagingly quickly. I try to form pickup Rock Bands with strangers in other parts of the country and find myself getting kicked out of the band before you even start because my Xbox Live Gamerscore isn't four digits long.
That's why I was very excited to read about a newly defined (I think) and hopefully expanding class of humans: midcore gamers. There's a definition of what one is, but I think this is a class of people who will only to be able to identify themselves once they're in it. If you're sub-midcore, you're a n00b. If you're more than midcore, you're Otaku. Perhaps the most important thing about midcore for me is that it allows one to be comfortable with who they really are: an enlightened observer. They can extract giddy pleasure from watching n00bs wrap their smooth palms around a Wiimote for the first time, and have visions of them one day joining the midcore ranks. Perhaps more importantly, though, they can look at Otaku with a sense of incalculable awe mixed with projected embarrassment. Midcore gamers can comfortably spend 10 - 15 hours a week practicing solos in Rock Band (ok, maybe 24 or 48 hours if things are slow at work), but you'll never find them having to choose between their consoles and their lovers. Or their consoles and their apartment. Or their consoles and their dinner.
Although people like me will never be able to break news the way sites like Joystiq and Kotaku already do, they might be able to form a new style of journalism - the USA Today, Time Magazine segment of video game coverage, sprinkled with a bit of long tail ethos - that looks at everyone's involvement in the gaming community with equal zeal, no matter what their Gamerscore is. It might even be important! When games become the most important form of communication in our culture, there will be widely varying levels of involvement with the medium. Someone's got to sit in the middle and call the shots, right? Midcore FTW!