Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Evaporation of Interest

Wow.  And I thought the LARP reality show was cheesy.

I found the above image on the WOTC website fully intending to write a post asking what was new in D&D and pronouncing the words, "absolutely nothing."  I felt that was a safe bet where it comes to the commercial side of the business.  Then I found this:

This is not a movie poster.

But we're used to this, right?  It's an expansion for Neverwinter: Underdark, based on a character and novel by R.A. Salvatore.  Sold as something extreme.  In the words of the press release (no, I'm not linking it), "deadly and insane . . . epic."  Is it possible to write a promo for a game that doesn't include the word epic?  I doubt it.

Correct me if I'm wrong . . . isn't Salvatore the shit hack writer who churned out about a hundred Forgotten Realms books?  Hm.

This isn't a new game, mind you.  It's a storyline.  Yes, we have moved so far into the epic world of game manufacture that a storyline is deserving of this sort of hype.


I just know there are little fan boys all goosed-up about their excitement at seeing this thing get released. I'd hate to rain on their fun, but hey, let's face it - that's impossible.  These people are in way, way too deep for anyone's words to upset their habit.  At this point, these are people who wouldn't care if they woke up and found Larry Niven's fictional wire hanging from their brain.

Who's Larry Niven?  An actual science fiction writer.  Not that I ever really liked him.

No, this isn't written to change anyone's mind.  This isn't even written to shout at anyone to get the fuck off my lawn.  This is just . . . well, let's say I'm just keeping track.

In four weeks I'm going to be up at the Edmonton comic-con and I will meet none of the people who find the poster art above the least interesting.  Oh, they will be there - but I won't meet them.  I will meet a lot of people like me, people who are fascinated by the game as it was originally designed and who want to improve it as a work of love.

The sort of people who are selling the above art and the sort of people who are buying it . . . I don't know who the hell these people are.  As far as I can tell, their fascinations has as much to do with D&D and RPGs as people who attend NASCAR.  We live on the same planet.  The similarities seem to end there.

Eventually, every gamer arrives at the point in their lives where they look at what's happening now and compare it with the thing they enjoyed once upon a time . . . and realize those things have nothing to do with each other.  It isn't that maturity incurs a lack of interest - it is that at some point the interest we had is simply not being made.

Someone figures out that they can get money for creating a storyline based on work someone else did - someone they basically own, since he's an old asset they created in the 80s - for pretty much the same money they used to get actually working to improve something.  Storylines are cheaper than real game design and they're cheaper still when we don't even need to create our own.  Then its just a matter of plugging the new storyline into the old format and selling the same game over again to the same people for the same $80 (or whatever the cost would be - I went looking and I couldn't find a price).

And those of us who have seen better drop our jaws and wonder how it ever came to this.

There's one simple reason why so much of our economy is directed towards young people.  It isn't that the young have money to spend, although they do.  It isn't that the young have a taste for new things, although they do.  It is that the young have only bought a few things in their whole lives - and mostly pretty small things - and they're unsophisticated.  They have no reference point upon which to base whether something is viable or not.  They're easily duped.  They're stupid.

They make great consumers!  No sweat, no fuss, no annoying questions arising out of experience . . . and when a kid hits 18 or 19 and has bought enough games to ask those questions?  No problem.  The market has already dumped them.  We want 10 to 13 year olds, kids who we can clinically prove haven't fully developed brains.  No, seriously.  Brains still in development.

Okay, here's an old man statement, but it's a joke.  Seriously.  But wouldn't the world be massively different if we decided that children younger than 15 were disallowed from buying anything?

Not because it is bad for them - hell, kids are resilient.  But it is bad for us.  Because we have to live in a world where the above crapfest is sold as a bloody big deal, epic and exciting.


JB said...

@ Alexis:

Yeah, you're on the money here. I'm one of those geezers yelling about how "stupid" the kids are for buying/supporting this crap, but it's not really their fault...they just don't have the same frame of reference as people who've been in the game (no pun intended) for decades.

Is it fair to say we owe them something better? Or is it partly their fault for wanting the "shiny, new" even if it's a piece of crap?

Barrow said...

At some point, when I was a child, I realized that most people in the entertainment industries were adults marketing to grade school aged children. I wondered why a mature adult in their mid 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's were trying to create albums for 12 year olds. Ever since then I had a healthy distrust for the entertainment industry.