Those of you who are familiar with the upcoming Far Cry 3 would recall one of the gameplay trailers released to promote the game’s themes, earlier this year. Granted, Far Cry 3 is a game that is not coming to a Nintendo platform, so this might not feel at all relevant to you. Never mind that though, this article has nothing to do with Far Cry, really. Just bear with me here, guys - I’m trying to build to a discussion point.
I came across a rather interesting written piece regarding the subcultures of gamers and the industry, and to say that the article exclaimed my own inner thoughts regarding the current state of these groups would be an understatement. To claim that all gamers are insane is obviously a huge generalisation and over-exaggeration, but the article still managed to speak what I consider to be a largely unspoken truth.
Allow me to quote for you Far Cry 3 - and be wary of particularly strong language:
“Insanity is doing the exact same fucking thing over and over again, expecting shit to change.”
The blog post, composed by Patrick Lindsey, paints a picture of our gaming culture, while at the same time, stretches those cultures into perspective. We as gamers do not know what we want, and when developers answer to fans’ demands, we still have more than a world’s worth to complain about - regarding the game design, the drastic changes made to our favourite franchises, or the journalist or industry analyst at some twelfth storey desk who issued the game an eight-point-eight out of ten. From my observations - and it is very sad for me to admit it - Zelda fans are some of the worst perpetrators.
“Us gamers unceremoniously and unflinchingly lap it up and, from our position below them on our knees, beg for more.”
It’s a lot more than the way we drool over a new trailer, artwork or screenshot Nintendo throw at us when we’re six months away from the new Zelda game hitting our consoles… obviously, fan culture wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t grow excited for the products we’re anticipating. But it’s how we go about it, that can paint a ferociously disturbing picture of gamers. It’s the way we scrutinise every minor detail in a screenshot, jump to some farfetched idea of the return of Majora or Fierce Deity Link, and then proceed to stringently shoot down “the haters”; the people who don’t find the game or some aspect of the gameplay appealing, the fans who disagree with you, the fans who think you’re looking too far into it, as if your established theories are correct to the point that they’re incorrigible.
Why do we enforce our opinions of the Zelda franchise with such fierce rigour? To the point where I’m sure some of the discussions some of you have had on an internet forum have actually forced you into a physically upset rage or tantrum, perhaps even tears, and ultimately ruining your day, week, even your friendships, or simply just your experience with the game that you’re looking forward to playing. To even cast you into a temporary bad mood is more than what a screenshot of an unreleased video game should do to a person.
And it’s not just the negative emotions, either. Some would argue that the way we as gamers become excited when we see new screenshots or gameplay videos is too overactive, to the point where we’ve become obsessed with a media product and we’re thinking about it for hours, for days, when we’re trying to go to sleep, when there are more important things happening in our lives or even just when we should be studying. It turns into this mess where we start to eye news sites (admittedly, like this one) and Wikipedia articles like hawks, so we can check to ensure that the writers have gotten their facts correct and that all of the comments are pleased with what Nintendo has given us… because, to do otherwise would be blasphemous in this subculture. And that’s simply an unhealthy paradigm to adopt.
And then there’s the way we absolutely detest anything that is not Nintendo. It’s the way we, for some reason, allocate so much allegiance to a single video game company that we refuse to accept that any game released by a competitor working on another console can be worth our time. It’s when we see that Sony has put together a Super Smash Bros. clone, and we laugh and spit in their faces for simply trying to expand their audience and deliver new media content to Playstation 3 owners. Should such a thing really matter? Does it really change anything, including the future of Nintendo and the Zelda franchise, if someone decides to play Playstation All-Stars instead of Smash Bros.? Can you really claim that the gamers who do not enjoy the fantastic Zelda series are close-minded, when we ourselves are no better, for making the conscious decision to not play anything other than our favourite franchises? Should the open and close-mindedness of a person really be determined by something as trivial as a video game?
“We do all of this compulsively, consistently, and most importantly, predictably… This is our psychosis. We fawn over the heinous practices of our industry and then complain when things don’t ever get any better. It is functionally identical to clinical insanity.”
Truly, the only reason some of us believe the Zelda series is broken, is because we broke it. Twilight Princess existed with Eiji Aonuma’s primary goal of attempting to create a game that surpassed Ocarina of Time, for the fans. Skyward Sword was arguably designed with these same goals in mind, albeit, it was tackled from a different standpoint. It has grown to the point where Nintendo simply doesn’t care about the Zelda fans any more, and so they’ve attempted to draw in casual gamers by simplifying the series with games like Phantom Hourglass.
So what can we do to become more sane, more open-minded partakers of the video game medium? A good place to start would be to try playing something new for a change - something you might never have envisioned yourself ever playing - instead of demanding the same franchise iterations you’ve seen countless times and times again. Pick up a game that strives to try something new - ever played the Wii game Zack & Wiki: Quest For Barbaros’ Treasure? You should totally play it, it’s a great game. How about Shadow of the Colossus? The Darkness? Or the WiiWare game, World of Goo? The upcoming Watch Dogs looks like a great project to be looking forward to as well. Or even just, I don’t know, pick up a WarioWare game. WarioWare is in my opinion, the single most innovative and indisputably fun series of games to come out of Nintendo in the last decade, even more so than Skyward Sword and Super Smash Bros. Brawl put together. It’s damn fantastic game design, and the best fun. To put it simply, stop playing the same games over and over, expecting the next entry in the series will be the one to blow your socks off like the original had.
The next thing on your agenda should be to make it known that you want game developers to release much more original content, because the way things are going at the moment, they’re very scared to do so. Putting together a new IP is always a long, expensive process, and the end product is usually a hit or miss in terms of sales. This is why developers tend to focus on putting out new entries for old franchises - there is an assurance that the game will sell if the last title in the series had. The downside of this game-making process is that developers are not securing the freedom of design they deserve. Because yes, video games are art. And developers are incapable of crafting an artwork if the product they’re working on is only being put together as a commercial blockbuster… to keep the fans pleased. To give them what they already have, and love irrefutably.
In the end, the choice is up to you. Do you want video games to be the sophisticated entertainment medium you know they can be, or do you just want to sit around on the internet hurling immovable logs into the endless flame wars?