There's been a change, however. It started small, just a tiny adjustment to the interface or a slight change in movement. Now, though, it's become universal. Now, the biggest titles are all fully integrated. Now, the consolization of PC games has become the norm. Okay, so that might be a little theatrical, but it's true.
For the uninitiated, the concept may be foreign. What is consolization? Well, basically put, it's the way that games are designed to fit on a console, generally from another platform, like PC. For your Final Fantasy and Metal Gear games, this isn't really much of an issue; they're designed for the console and have no real intention of going on PC (even though both, you know... did). They're console games that will forever likely be on consoles.
Though, originally its meaning was a little different...
For games born on the PC, though, being brought to console is something of an issue. See, a game has to be conformed to the hardware meant to play it. For consoles, this means that whatever console you use will be limited by what all its parts can do. For a PC, though, this limit is much higher, as the hardware is always evolving. Long story short, there is a discrepancy between the games, and it has to be modified one way or the other to be on PC and console.
Aside from that, the PC interface is completely different. Dragging and dropping, as well as being able to freely click on things, are a far cry from the controller-based interface. D-Pads and analog sticks provide an entirely different sort of mobility on menus. While movement can be made a lot easier with an analog stick, navigating a menu requires traveling through all the parts, whereas a mouse can simply click on things.
This isn't an issue of one being better than the other, because frankly that's all down to preference. It's just really important to understand the differences in order to understand the core issue here: consolization of PC games affecting PC games. You don't believe it's happening? Look at the much-maligned Dragon Age II. In that particular title, the very PC-friendly interface of the first game was completely redone in order to be streamlined for the console. Not a big deal, as long as the PC gamers can still play with the PC functions.
Perhaps one of the more "streamlined" parts of the game...
Wait, what? Oh, right...they couldn't. The original, Dragon Age Origins, was loved by many a PC gamer who felt that it was a return to form for BioWare, back to the days of Baldur's Gate where a whole hell of a lot of people fell in love with those sorts of player-directed narratives.
Dragon Age II, however, deviated from that path significantly. Everything was streamlined in the game. Combat was set to be much easier to use with a controller so that single button presses could be effective in combat. Menus were simplified for the use on a console, much to the chagrin to those who played it on the PC, as it meant being forced to navigate the menu system instead of simply clicking on the desired option.
Even the story was streamlined, where player choices actually affected the plot relatively little. Many people love Dragon Age II, but to fans of the first game and BioWare's other titles before it, disappointment was pretty common. While popular, Dragon Age Origins wasn't really one of those dynamite games that really sold everyone on it. Maybe a more recent game, one that is closer to your heart, would stir you. Maybe last year's near-universal Game of the Year will convince you. Oh yeah, I'm talking about Skyrim. Now I've got your attention, huh? See, the Elder Scrolls games are thick in the blood of PC gamers. I mean, just look at the modding community.
Sure, people may have to sift through countless numbers of nude character models and Sephiroth swords, but there's a dedicated community buried under there somewhere. They're people who mod everything from enemy stats to adding special dancing options to all manner of special items and weapons. It's that sort of community that tends to gather around a PC game.
Unfortunately, Skyrim has taken a bit of a turn in the way that Dragon Age II has. Not necessarily in streamlining, but certain options seem to no longer exist. For example, the hotkeying for switching weapons have become much more difficult to use. Older games of the series allowed for quick toggling between weapons with the number keys.
In Skyrim, however, this has to be done through the "Favorites' menu, which is only a slight inconvenience. Another of these very small inconveniences is the menu navigation. Clicking and scrolling aren't available to players on the PC version. Instead, the menu has to be navigated with the WASD keys, like one would do with the D-Pad or analog stick on a console's controller.
Again, pretty insignificant as inconveniences go, but still an extant one that causes the more "PC Gamer Master Race" types to flip desks and spam 4chan. More importantly, it's showing that these games that represented the PC gamer are gradually shifting to more console-friendly games.
In short, the questions are why and what does it mean? Well, why it is like that is a complex answer, but it can be boiled down (or perhaps oversimplified) to two things: 1. PC gamers have a reputation for piracy, earned or not, and 2. It's easier to make games for standardized hardware. Ultimately, it's much more complex than this, involving all sorts of business stuff that most people wouldn't understand if I were to talk about it, including myself. Long story short, it's ostensibly good for business.
And we all know where publishers' priorities lie...
As for what it means, though; well, there's a large group of people who identify themselves as PC gamers. Heck, I tend to do the majority of my gaming on PC. If PC games continue to consolize, then that'll mean that there will be a culture of gamers being alienated. This is not a great thing, because PC gaming is seeing a resurgence, with so many games seeing multi-platform releases and PC ports, as well as this being a golden age for indie games, with a lot of high-quality ones coming out now. In a way, those who make games are working at odds with themselves in this way.
So, the big question: Is this harmful for gaming? Yes and no, but mostly no. It's more an evolution, with weaknesses and strengths. Games are becoming more and more accessible, which is great for the growth of the community. Though, much like an oversized government or classroom, this can lead to large groups of people being marginalized and neglected.
The more games are streamlined for the general populous, the more the core, the life-longers, feel abandoned by the people who used to work for them. Consolization is only one arm of this, but it's so much easier to see the effects. Is it harmful for gaming? No, it's probably great for gaming. Is it harmful to gamers? Well, that's a different story.
Click here to view the article