Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prejudices, Preconceptions, Missteps and Mistakes

Prejudices exist. I know, shocking. For all their unpredictability, humans can be surprisingly predictable. We've all been guilty of it one time or another. Catching the eye of a person and then instantly cataloguing and thinking about what we think the person can or can't do, what their lifestyles are like, even where we think they came from or what they're doing.

Lots of people walk down the street, but what do we know about them?

It's a natural thing, stemming from the days when our ancient ancestors sized each other up to determine who was a rival and who was a friend. What sets us apart from them, however, is the degree to which we respond to this impulse.

So how does this tie into games? Very easily.

At Space World 2001, a game was revealed. The next chapter in a long-running game series. The game was called "Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker".

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Shigeru Miyamoto, one of my personal gaming heroes and the man responsible for saving video games in the mid-80s, said it would, "extend Zelda's reach to all ages". ( The game boasted both a young Link character, and unique, cel-shaded graphics. So what was the initial reaction?

Absolute backlash. A good deal of fans were both disappointed and aghast at the decision by Nintendo to come up with this entry in the series. After showing a demo the previous year with an older, more realistic Link, the gaming community felt betrayed. And this was before they'd even played it. Nintendo had just shown a video demo.

Gamers do not want colorful graphics!
Gamers do this sort of thing all too often. A slice of information is released about a project, or a screenshot or video is released and everyone instantly jumps on the release as a sign of doom.

Of course, the opposite is just as true. Look at the trailer for Dead Island. Fully rendered with a tear-inducing piano score and implying a story and characters. Gamers, myself included, were ecstatic about the idea. Then we played it and realized it was just kind of a soulless grind version of the Elder Scrolls games. It had it's fun in groups and such, yes, but nowhere near what we expected.

Error 404: Plot not found.
You see it on MMO forums, changes are announced in the works and groups unite like it is the coming Zombie apocalypse.

I'm not advocating not responding to things we don't agree with, but we should remember to temper both expectations and responses. If you worked a week on a project, put it on the table and then had some stranger screaming at your face because they didn't like the cover, how would you feel?

I'm also not saying the Devs/Publishers are without fault. It's their job to give us the information and opportunities we need to form our own constructive opinions. It's a very fine line to cross.

There's a twofold reason I'm writing this blog post. It's primarily to advocate tempered response from the gaming community, but also to make a bit of a confession.

I'm just as human as everyone else. To that end, I've also made judgements and Preconceptions about various things in life. I've been irate at stupid changes to World of Warcraft and other games.

Irate at things like...*MOO*ing stupid Pandas! Rawwwrgh!

I actually got a very poignant lesson recently.

A good friend of mine that I've known and talked to for about two years said a bit ago that he watched a certain show. I dismissed the show outright and I think even good naturedly ribbed my friend for it.

Then one weekend, curiousity got the better of me and I did a bit of research.

There's two things that draw me to something, controversy and being an underdog. When I read the show's wiki page, under reception, I found this:

"...the show was promoting the stereotype that 'all feminists are angry, tomboyish lesbians'." The critic "also considered that the only darker colored" characters "shown to date were in positions of servitude for the 'white...overlord...'"

and then this:

"Amid Amidi, writing for the animation website Cartoon Brew, was more critical of the concept of the show, calling it a sign of "the end of the creator-driven era in TV animation". Amidi's essay expressed concern that assigning talent like [Lauren] Faust...was part of a trend to focus on profitable genres of animation, such as toy tie-ins, to deal with a fragmented viewing audience, and overall 'an admission of defeat for the entire movement, a white flag-waving moment for the TV animation industry'."
This very much intrigued me, because anytime someone reacts this way, there's usually little to no actual reason for it. So I found the show on iTunes and saw that the first episode was actually free. I watched it.

When my friend logged onto Skype a few hours later, I was about 9 episodes in.

The show?

Yes. It is what it says it is. I don't lie...usually.
And before anyone says anything, no misconceptions. It has nothing to do with sexual preference or anything like that. Don't make the mistake to which I've been talking about the entire damn time.

I liken the show to another that I grew up with, Animaniacs, and despite the initial view of being a "girl" show and admittedly originally intended as a long toy commercial, the show itself is full of snappy writing, outstanding characters, terrific animation and full of geek references.

Don't believe me? The second episode of Season 2 ends with a Star Wars episode that also featured John de Lancie ("Q" from Star Trek) as a guest voice.

And I think a reviewer said it best in an iTunes review: "Admiral Ackbar says: 'Our masculinity can't repel cuteness of this magnitude!"

It's a personal discovery that no one's above forming misguided preconceptions about anything.

You know it's true.

I find it somewhat funny, that while we live in the so-called "Information Age", that people are just as misinformed as they've always been. The only difference is that the technology allows people to shout a bit louder.

So first, I wanted to apologize to my friend (you know who you are) and secondly, re-iterate my point and bring this entire topic full circle.

If you see something about a game, or even a show, book or movie and think you can instantly glean every possible detail about the entire thing from a small sliver of information, don't. You probably can't and you'll likely be wrong. If you want to work on an opinion of something, look into all elements of the production. Look at the pedigree of the game, genre, style, developer team. Use that as a springboard.

Then, as more information comes down, add that to what you've observed and thought of before. If you have to enter panic mode before you get the whole picture, then something's wrong.

Well, that's it for now. as always, if you have a comment or question, either e-mail me or leave a comment here.

Til' next time peeps, game on and take care.


1 comment:

  1. You know Nel, you're opinion of the show was actually part of what got me to start watching it. The first two episodes were pretty laughable admittedly, but it got better the further on you went. I'll admit though, I never looked down on the Bronies, I supported them even when I wasn't one. But this show was a genuine suprise. I don't know entirely why I like it, but I can't help it. But it is great. And you're right, we do need to stop and think before we start ribbing on things. I'll admit, I did that to WOW's pandas too. Who knows, maybe it was good? Won't be able to find out, but it might be.