For years, film fans have criticized their closest entertainment cousins, video games. Usually, they start pointing fingers at the industry, complaining that video games haven't really truly achieved greatness. They argue that gaming doesn't have any true classics, nothing that can be held up against the likes of Schindler's List or Citizen Kane. Because of this, there are those who think that gaming cannot be propelled into mainstream until it has its own equivalents of these films. However, it would make much more sense to compare games to the music industry than to films. More specifically, the current era of gaming has a lot in common to the early years of rock and roll. Both share a long list of similarities and public misconceptions. If this comparison is made, then it becomes evident that gaming needs something more akin to Chubby Checker's "The Twist" than anything else.
It took a while for rock and roll to be accepted into mainstream. Even after it had achieved popularity, it was still seen as a lesser breed of music, with many considering it to have negative effects on the youth. In fact, most adults thought that it was something that only children enjoyed. This was, obviously, not the case, as more and more people of varying ages found themselves enjoying the likes of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. However, it wasn't until Chubby Checker's "The Twist" that the masses found themselves bobbing their heads to the music. It was the simplicity of the dance and the memorableness of the song that helped propel it to number one. That success opened up the public's eyes to this new form of music, making them realize that the genre, in general, was legitimate. In fact, it is commonly believed that without "The Twist," rock and roll may not have gained acceptance in the mainstream. It wasn't because the song was revolutionary or fantastic, rather that it was just accessible, while still retaining the core principles of rock.
Cut to the present day, when video games still struggle with problems similar to those of of early rock. Parents think games harm children, churches consider them blasphemous, and many adults write them off as child's play. In 2006, Nintendo released the Wii, which included a copy of Wii Sports. Instantly, gaming was accessible, and finally, the masses found themselves playing video games. People who never expected to play a game were instantly involved, and the system ended up selling so well that it was impossible to keep it on shelves for several years. However, Wii Sports is not gaming's "The Twist" because it doesn't retain the core principles of gaming. It had people doing something new, but not sitting down and gaming. "The Twist" wasn't a stripped down rock song, it had people dancing, which was a hallmark of rock music. Gaming's version of dancing is sitting down for long periods of time and playing video games. Real games with stories and gameplay beyond basic waggle. There's nothing wrong with Wii Sports, it's a fantastic game, but it's more like a board game than a video game. It didn't bring people in to gaming, it brought people in to Wii Sports. The same can be said about Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Yes, they're technically games, but they're so far removed from Halo, Mario, and Final Fantasy that it's almost an entirely different classification.
Developers strive to create greatness every day. They're passionately working around the clock to create the Citizen Kane of gaming, and there's no problem with that. Not everyone needs to try and make something accessible. However, the gaming industry has to accept that it isn't going to take a very good game to turn the masses on to the industry. There already are very good games, and that's not what people who don't play games want. If they are to become "mainstream," they need something that's easy to play and approachable without throwing the traditions of gaming to the wind. Then, and only then, will gaming become "mainstream." Then again, is that even something we want?