March Mayhem Developer's Showdown organized by the Escapist Magazine, many wondered what the criteria for such a choice was.
All the other developers taking part in the competition were core developers, or at the very least developers of high quality commercial games for which the player has to pay.
It's pretty obvious that a developer of free browser games can count on a massive number of casual users (some say 80 million), that obviously dwarf the numbers of the followers of any core developer out there. On top of it, Zynga's games are based on Facebook, and given that The Escapist has Facebook Connect enabled, Zynga's fans were literally two click away from voting, while voters that didn't use the social network had to go through creating an account.
Many argued that Zynga wasn't in the same league as the other participating developers, and they had an unfair advantage regardless of quality (or lack of thereof).
Such concerns proved true as the contest started, with Zynga's admins spamming their whole userbase shamelessly in order to rally votes and gain undeserved victories round after round, eliminating NCSoft, Infinity Ward, Rockstar North and Square Enix.
As they reached the semifinals, they finally faced Valve, one of the most respected and historically relevant game developers of the industry.
Valve immediately took the lead by a couple thousand votes, as the loyal followers obviously voted for them with no hesitation. Then something strange (but not unexpected) happened: several thousand votes for Zynga started to downpour on the poll, overtaking Valve easily. The administrators of the casual company had again unsheathed their secret weapon: Spam.
As they repeatedly begged their millions of casual gamers on Facebook for votes, Zynga managed to keep Valve behind pretty much constantly. Every time Valve managed to overtake them, a couple thousands of fresh votes for Zynga appeared.
That's when core gamers from every corner of the world decided that enough was enough.
The usual rivalries that normally divide the core gaming fandom were put aside for four days, in an unwritten truce that rallied everyone under Valve's flag. The pride of the hardcore gamers was at stake.
From then on, a truly epic battle started, with Valve and Zynga overtaking each other over and over. Despite facing a seemingly endless horde, the core gamers campaigned for Valve basically everywhere: on Twitter, on Facebook, on Youtube, on fan forums and even on the official forums of their favourite developers. No matter where, anywhere there were gamers the call to arms sounded, and while wave after wave of rabid Facebook casuals crashed on the poll, the core gamers held the line valiantly.
Even on the thread dedicated to the other semifinal, a very heated confrontation between Bioware and Blizzard, that was almost a battle of philosophies that generated flame after flame basically everyone still answered to the call. Valve had to win.
In the morning of the fourth day, as the smoke cleared, the Valve flag was still standing, encircled by thousands of beaten virtual farmers.
Valve was finally leading solidly by about 2500 votes. Despite having faced millions, the hardcore gamers were still standing, bloodied but unbowed, as the first glimpse of victory finally revealed itself to their tired eyes.
A few hours later the battle came at an end, as the hordes of virtual farmers retreated beaten and broken to go back to plow their Facebook fields, the hardcore gamers stood victorious on the field of glory, after an epic clash that probably will go down in history.
Never before the hardcore gamer community had locked arms and joined hands so evidently and solidly, repelling the casual blight with unbending will.
As the day of the epic victory of Hardcore gaming over casual entertainment comes to an end there's a message for everyone to hear: The press may be saying again and again that the era of casual games may be dawning. They may be saying that day in which hardcore games will disappear into the the night is coming, but today is not that day. Today we won and justice has been restored in the gaming universe.
No matter what they say. Hardcore gamers won't ever go down without a hell of a fight.
Also victors of the day were the Bioware fans, that managed to gain a solid victory against the rivals rooting for Blizzard, again demonstrating that a smaller but more dedicated and loyal fanbase can beat the partly casual-oriented behemoth.
But in the end, the true victor of the day is Hardcore gaming, so cheers, battle brothers!
We held the line, and now we get the spoils. Let us burn the virtual farms, crush the casual weaklings, see them driven before us and joyfully hear their lamentations. Victory is ours!