Cool Hatings

Where-ever you look online, there is always someone somewhere criticising something popular for not being good enough, and that everyone who buys it is somehow a gullible tool. Hate for hates sake is sometimes fun, but surely if the person is enjoying themselves, it’s worth the money they paid?

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  • Q. How do you annoy a hipster?
  • A. Actually enjoy things.

That’s an old gag, but there is always a grain of truth to these old lines. We live in a society that is easily offended and where opinions are believed to be gospel; that we are all right, and therefore there must me a million shades of truth to any given fact. The blogging world and the reporting world is run on the basis of opinions, and therefore must rise and fall and talk about what is good and right at that given moment. When thousands of people were criticising Nintendo for getting the rights to Bayonetta 2, many media outlets joined in with the condemnation. It didn’t matter that factually the game wouldn’t have existed without the input of money Nintendo came in with. That by doing so, Nintendo was safeguarding jobs and livelihoods, as well as giving a new lease of life to a cult classic game.

Bayonetta is cool, sexy and smart. It is inherently in the games genome to be such a way. But what elevated it to a new plateau of coolness was that it was, commercially, a bit of a disaster. In the first 18 months it sold 1.8 million copies. Which sounds like a good thing, but Sega had pinned much more on it, and that was no-where near the kind of sellthrough that was needed. It is also why no other publisher would touch publishing the sequel – the very reason the gaming community exalts it, because it is exclusive, is the very reason that the sequel was canned earlier this year by Sega. They simply couldn’t justify the expense.

Nintendo on the other hand are not cool at all. The Wii has been a sales phenomenon. It created new sub-genres and forced Microsoft and Sony to embrace a more social gaming aspect at a time it had already spent a lot of money trying to crack the top-end market. Nintendo have never really been cool either, their games are consistently regarded as the best games ever made and therefore are always exposed. Mario is as identifiable as Coca-Cola, a brand that everyone recognises. Nintendo don’t do things because customers demand them, they work as a business – and operate on business logic. 3DS Price Cut? Business sense demanded it. At a time 3D was falling from favour and with expectations not being met, they decided to take a hit on profits in order to get more sellthrough. It’s cynical, sure, but the results speak for themselves; Nintendo only last year posted an annual loss, the first since it floated, and that was at an unprecedented time in the history of Japan; floods, nuclear disaster and the Yen at its weakest ever, Nintendo was just one company in Japan who suffered. But even then, they stuck it to the doomsayers by posting a much, much smaller loss than was originally predicted.

When something as inherently cool as Bayonetta joins forces with something as uncool as Nintendo, it can go one of two ways.

This is obvious; the first is that Bayonetta will lend credibility and gravitas to Nintendo and its new console. The presence of a game that critics and gamers regularly fawn over as one of the best games this generation on a new, untested console entrant could give the console more punch and more weight, denoting that it is a destination for games of that kind; the joy of games. The other way is that Nintendo bring down Bayonetta, and suddenly by being paired up with the uncool kid, it too is now uncool. It has joined forces with the devil of popularity and is therefore going to be a lesser game because of it, and that Platinum Games should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be bribed in performing a cool concert in such an uncool setting. Like a pop star doing a private gig for a middle eastern despot; it’s easier to blame the pop star, because they have to come back to the reception of the media. They can influence and effect the popstar. They can’t influence the despot.

That’s an unkind comparison but it has a certain element of something approaching a point. By being with Nintendo, Bayonetta 2 is performing for a party, a party that the organisers hope everyone will attend as much as their last one, if not moreso now they have a grasp on what acts should be performing for them. But it is the media and the hipster crowd who just sulk and get a bit annoyed. They wouldn’t be seen dead with anything “popular”. Popular isn’t edgy or cool. And therefore anyone who performs for a company whose mantra denotes an approach for everyone is therefore not cool. It’s a funny logic that we can’t really escape. We can’t seem to move on from it.

For you see, these people call themselves “Hardcore Gamers”, or at least try to. They parade around with a sort of deep knowledge of video games that makes them sound like they know what they are talking about, but inherently they don’t and it is exactly because they hate on things that they expose their own ignorance. They hate on stuff that needs no real hate, or if it does, they tend to go overboard. Sensing blood they come to the front with a Jason Vorhees mask and a chainsaw. They delight in the sensation of putting things down. And I suspect it is because if they had to confront the reality, that they are just clueless bigots, they perhaps couldn’t justify their sense of cool anymore. It’s not nice to be seen as a nasty person – unless you are cool and think you look like Neo from The Matrix. Then you can do whatever the hell you want.

Mists of Pandaria a conveniently “now” topic to take on.

You see, Mists of Pandaria deserves criticism. It really does, because after eight years and billions of dollars in revenue, you’d think Blizzard would be at least prepared for some of what happens when a new expansion goes live. You’d think they’d want to push the envelope and do new things, rather than copy and imitate. You’d expect everything to be faultless, and yet it is not. World of Warcraft isn’t perfect; it never really has been. It’s a nice MMORPG that lots of people enjoy. Are some of their decisions driving customers away? Without question. To argue otherwise would be silly.

But an MMORPG doesn’t last eight years without having SOMETHING. Hipster sorts will decry it’s just part of the furniture now, that is subsists and relies solely on its name to sell. Perhaps, there is likely an element of truth to that – Blizzard don’t really have to try very hard, but that’s primarily because the industry hasn’t really fired up any real competition. The MMORPG genre tries so hard to be different and innovative but all too often it comes across as desperate and needy. The closest World of Warcraft has in competition is Rift: Planes of Telara, and you know what? Down at its heart, mechanically, there’s barely anything to separate them. Rift is an imitator, but it flatters. It’s not as big as World of Warcraft, but it learned from it too – right down to the business practices, of letting things grow naturally. It has also inherited issues and created more of its own, but genetically the basics of the games are not dissimilar. The best competition World of Warcraft has is… a World of Warcraft imitator.

Being so large tends to make something an easy target, and lots of people decry the content, the leveling, the experience arcs, the new cooking system that is deeply complex, the almost shameful Pokemon clone in Pet Battle, the Farmville elements to get cooking materials and the new challenge system. None of it is new, exciting or inherently without its own problems and of course, the insistence of Blizzard to add Cross Realm Zones at a time they removed all the actual group questing from Outland and Northrend just smacks of opportunist lunacy. Blizzard hope it will disguise a problem of server and faction imbalances; if anything, it has done more to highlight them than anything before. World of Warcraft has lots to dislike. Of course it does.

But that isn’t to say there aren’t good things in it. The story, the wonderful instances and quests, the landscaping and pacing, the art style and the enemy design. There ARE good guilds and people in World of Warcraft; you may spend a while looking for one, but truth is you’ll know when you find that special group of people. Get to know them, get to trust them and then take on the biggest challenges of the game together, there’s nothing quite like it. Even Rift doesn’t really come close to this feeling. People play World of Warcraft still, 9 million people do, and why?

Perhaps because they are having fun?

And it is this which undermines any attempt to paint is as something of an evil Trojan Horse. Indeed, even getting the terminology wrong, as there is nothing inconspicuous about World of Warcraft. It got to where it is by being fun, and it is because it is so large that some feel the need to avoid it. It’s so “mainstream”. So commercial. Yeah, and that’s why it survives. Because people are enjoying it.

Hating on things that are somehow popular is a fruitless argument and moreso in the gaming industry. Money talks; stuff has to sell and stuff has to be popular to sell and see sequels. The very nature of the gaming industry should be enough to see this sort off, and yet over the past decade we see more and more people who expect the games they like to get sequels, especially when they don’t do very well. I liked ObsCure as well people and the sequel was okay! But it didn’t sell enough so… yeah, it’s kinda gone. Project Zero was dead and buried and then Nintendo comes in and picks up the pieces. People expect everything that isn’t inherently a wholly-owned product to be shared out so they can experience it on their machine. They don’t want to have to sully their home with something the masses may have purchased! They have a reputation to uphold!

We have to sometimes accept that hating on stuff for the sake of it is pointless. People are having fun, and for all the criticism I’ve leveled at things like The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, the reality is many many others are having the time of their lives. We need the variation and we don’t have to agree – I like Muse and Falling in Reverse. Some like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. Who am I to argue? It’s their money and Lady Gaga and Britney wouldn’t have a career if people weren’t enjoying their material. They make a living, I may not have to agree with it all but that’s alright too. Same with gaming. Platinum Games can pay wages now Nintendo have come in with money for them. These people can earn a living. We can buy their product. Not everyone will love it, but it is important that it happens.

You can’t really hate on that. It’s how things are, and back to the original joke. When you get that “exclusive” and hipster, all you seem to end up doing is constantly criticising. You don’t have fun, your fun is picking apart other people who have fun. You become a troll, an enemy of fun and an enemy of an industry that is built on entertainment and fun. Is it all perfect? No. But we don’t need to sit around looking artsy-fartsy trying to sound like somehow we have a deep philosophical angle on the state of the industry in correlation to the current economic climate… oh man I am so busted…

I’m having fun playing some games right now. I have Torchlight 2. I have Borderlands 2. I have Mists of Pandaria, and next week Resident Evil 6 will turn up. I am playing games, and I am enjoying games, and having a blast with games.

I don’t have any illusions that things are perfect. But I like to have fun. And I’m not always going to sit around criticising perfectly good things because it’s the “cool” thing to do to hate on World of Warcraft right at this moment.

Because I’m having fun with people I like and enjoy spending online time with. Something I think these “hipsters” really could use in their day to day lives.

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