I think I’m allergic to hyperbole.
Well, okay, maybe “allergic” isn’t quite the right word. I don’t break out in a rash or anything any time someone says that something popular is good. But I do tend to find that excessive hype actually dulls my enthusiasm for something rather than fuels the fires as it may once have done in the dim and distant past.
Take the recent release of Batman Arkham City. By all accounts, it’s a marvellous game (apparently) but I have very little desire to rush out, buy it and play it. There are a number of reasons for this — cashflow, the fact my Pile of Shame grows seemingly by the day at times, and the fact I’m still playing Xenoblade Chronicles — but seeing the relentless fawning all over it recently has been a little offputting. I find itdoubly offputting due to the anti-consumer practices which have been foisted upon it — for the unfamiliar, a chunk of game content is locked off behind a single-use code, meaning that only people who purchase the game brand new will be able to access it without paying extra.
From what I’ve heard, this butchered content actually isn’t particularly good, anyway, so at least that’s something — but it still smarts to know that companies are wilfully screwing over consumers in the hope to make an extra buck. There is literally no good reason for this to be implemented in the case of Arkham City, which is a single player game. Online passes which lock off multiplayer modes can use the “it’s helping to pay for the servers” argument, which is slightly more plausible, though which can still be easily debunked.
But we’re not talking specifically about Online Passes here. We’re talking about hyperbole in general.
The “big games” of the year are all coming out within the next few weeks, and it’s surprising how little I care. I attribute this to several factors: firstly, most of them are first-person shooters that involve Soldiers With Guns, and secondly, having seen the PR circus teasing pointless information about them for the last [x] months, I’m sick of the sight of them already and they’re not even out yet.
I perhaps wouldn’t be quite so sick of the sight of them were it not for the fact that the publishers of these heavily-hyped titles treat them as “products” or “consumables” rather than what they actually are, which is interactive creative works.
Let me give you some sample quotes from press releases to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.
This delay is a move to ensure players and fans of our promise and vision to produce high-caliber games that deliver the best quality game experience.
— Sony, on the Payday: The Heist delay.
We are thrilled to see Ezio enter the world of Soulcalibur, as we believe the values of both brands fit together. We think that this partnership will bring a great new gameplay experience to both Soulcalibur and Assassin’s Creed fans.
— Ubisoft, on Ezio being the guest character in Soulcalibur V.
Letting fans vote for the UFC Undisputed 3 cover athlete is a unique way for us to connect with our extensive worldwide audience of UFC fans, fighting game enthusiasts and more casual sports followers. We look forward to seeing if Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre or Cain Velasquez has what it takes to grace the cover of what will be the most invigorating MMA videogame release to date.
— THQ, on the pointless social media marketing ploy that is getting people to vote for what sweaty man will appear on the box of UFC Undisputed 3.
As you can see, these titles are being treated as products, commodities, things to be sold. All soul is sucked out of them any time you let someone with a title that includes “Vice President of [pointless-sounding department]” or “CEO” talk about it. Meaningless adjectives are applied, and talk turns to “brands” and “engaging with audiences” rather than “making a fucking badass game”.
The developers should be talking about these games. The people who are creating them, building them, testing them. Not some suit who has probably never picked up a controller by choice in his life.
Imagine how much better a press release would be if it were written by the developers and they were allowed to show some enthusiasm and/or honesty about their work, rather than sticking to a rigidly defined PR schedule.
In fact, let’s do better than that. Let’s write one.
LONDON, October 23 2011 — Studio A33 today announced their new game “Hobbit Blasters”, soon to be available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
The game revolves around the tired old concept of pointing a gun at things and pulling the trigger, but this one features arcade-style point scoring with big numbers and loud noises that make it more fun than anything you’ve ever played ever.
“Seriously, you know, it might sound a bit lame,” said Dave Thunder, lead programmer on the project, “but give it a chance. Hobbits are annoying. No-one ever seemed to comment on that fact when Lord of the Rings was big. We’re allowing you to blow the shit out of those little scrotes in HD and you wouldn’tbelieve how satisfying it is, particularly if the guys from the publisher have been in all morning making us sit through pointless meetings about stock value and other things we really couldn’t give a flying fuck about. There’s blood and guts and it really, positively, absolutely is fun, I promise. And if it isn’t, you can have £10 of my own money. And a pint. And a cake.”
Hobbit Blasters is in early stages of development but Studio A33 is more than happy to show off its work, warts and all, to any who are interested in seeing it.
“It’s a bit shit at the minute,” said Sally Harpy, lead graphic designer on the project. “But that’s to be expected. We’ve not long been working on it. What do you want, stunning graphics from day one? Give me a fucking break here. I’ve been slaving over concept artwork for months, and now I have to implement all that shite into the game. But if you want to come and have a look, be my guest.”
Hobbit Blasters is due out when it’s finished.