I put the diversity question to Mark Rubin, producer of the largest of all video game blockbusters, Call of Duty. “I would love more diversity,” he said. “You know, I saw this stat somewhere that showed that while Call of Duty is the biggest video game franchise, the others are Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed. So I think there is diversity there. I’m actually excited about the next gen consoles because I think industry-wide it will help small, indie-ish developers who couldn’t develop well on Xbox and PS3 to do more.”
It’s so amazing
Nine points on this stunning piece of found art follow
Mark Rubin believes that Call of Duty is the biggest videogame franchise. I imagine there does exist a string of modifiers and caveats that can make this world true for him. Let’s say, console sales, from this console generation, U.S. sales only, no digital sales, not linked to a hardware bundle, not… not made by Nintendo. Something like that.
Some set of people in Mark Rubin’s sphere of economic influence are doing a lot of work to convince the media covering E3, and the public at large, that this string of modifiers is a perfectly natural way to define Actual Videogames. The way he airily talks about stats he saw somewhere suggests that Mark Rubin is among the most successful targets of this campaign.
This string of modifiers defines a very narrow audience with very specific tastes. For Mark Rubin, the cost of living in a magical world where he is King of Videogames is that it is solely populated by these guys. In a way, this is tragic?
Mark Rubin thinks “diversity” means “games that aren’t Call of Duty”
Mark Rubin thinks “diversity” means “games that aren’t Call of Duty, but you still run around a realistic 3D environment killing guys. But like, you run around in different patterns.” Since his world is so tiny, this perhaps shouldn’t be surprising.
Even outside of the tiny world, it can be easy to make arguments that WELL those three games really do represent a range of play styles because etc. etc. But you look at the three franchises that have the most credible claim of being the biggest in the real world - Mario, Pokemon, and The Sims - and Rubinworld’s range of play looks much less impressive. Your skills in The Sims do not transfer to Super Mario. All three of the top franchises have different visual styles, different mechanics, and different themes. And none of those themes is “killing guys is a drag, but also the only thing I can do.”
(That this is now the dominant theme of manshoots is a good sign that their golden days are numbered.)
Rubinworld is an incredibly fragile construct. Mark Rubin has only made the biggest game in the world as long as there are very few people in that world. Even a small number of new arrivals could tip the balance enough that - saints preserve us! - Wii Sports is more popular than what the tiny giants of E3 have created.
If the broader public stops believing that videogames are solely the domain of young male nerdbros who only like running around and shooting things, they will also stop believing that these companies are as successful as they say they are. There are real economic reasons for this community to put up the barriers it does.