Angry Fan Culture Rant #1 (of probably many)

April 15th, 2009

madworld-bike

Juvenile violence; see the Wii is full of mature games

I don’t do it often, but this is an angry rant at disobedient fans who deserve nothing more than my angry rant hatred. Sorry, I try to keep angriness to a minimum here, oh well. I’m just as bad. By the way, being angry means that I don’t need to provide referential proof on any claims I make, so just trust me.

Fan cultures are marvelous things aren’t they? As much as we might deny it, we all belong to certain membership groups of fan culture. I think part of the denial for some people (myself included) is a fear of the connotation surrounding these beastly cultures.

I’m a born and bred Nintendo fan, no denying it. They reeled me in at a tender age and nurtured me into the obedient customer I am today. Yet, I’ll rarely ever claim that I’m with those guys, because honestly I don’t like to be cobbled together with the average Nintendo fan. I can’t stand the folk actually. They’re a cultural identity that feels pushed to breaking point by their masters, the reality and their fandom are at parallels.

I use to think that Nintendo gamers were purist gamers, the kind evangelized by this stupendously biased editorial. Innovation, challenge and righteousness in their gaming mindset were all qualities that any Nintendo fan would testify to at the cusp of the Revolution (reveal of the Nintendo Wii); a time when losses were made and changes were promised by the company. Nintendo gamers were preachers of these lessons, lessons handed down to them during the Gamecube era where Nintendo used such tactics as a form of persuasion to keep fans within the fold (ie. the Nintendo difference). The fans bought the idea of innovation and ultimately threw it back up when they discovered that innovation pushed them outside of their fan culture comfort zone, and as a result we have undeserved backlash at the company. Go on and chase the “casual” crowd I say, at least they’re not hypocrites.

What frustrates me more than anything else is the whining. Constantly complaining that Nintendo isn’t delivering enough to satisfy their bottomless appetites. Yet, if you start asking questions you slowly discovering obvious holes in their argument and in fact in their fandom. Truth is these people (as true of any fan) stay well within their comfort zone. They never go out of their way to purchase anything but a select few qualifiable titles by first party Nintendo and a select number of trusted third parties (the jury’s still out on EA). These people rarely buy Virtual console titles, despite the majority having missed a generation or two of games. They’re not interested in Harvest Moon, Kirby’s Adventure, Adventure Island/Wonder Boy, Ogre Battle, Ristar or any of the niche TurboGrafx shmps. The Virtual Console is a literal goldmine of games that could keep any player invested for months, particularly if they’re willing to open themselves to it to.

The same applies with the general software line up. They’re not interested in games such as Rune Factory Frontier, Bangai-O Spirits, the Art Style games or anything that dabbles in the unconventional. Instead they pin their hopes on titles that mimic the thick headed shooters that overpopulate the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Some flag bearers of innovation eh? With that sort of mindset I sure do hope Madworld and The Conduit are enough to keep them busy for a while, before they evangelize another wannabe drop off.

I just don’t get these people, they’re supposive fans yet they’re not interested in going back and fine tuning their (probably) weak collection of retro games, nor will they try something new let alone give Nintendo credit for making millions of average Joes happy. You can see how Reggie has become increasingly more resentful towards this unhappy demograph. I’m sick of talking about it, angry rant over.

  • Frequent reader, usually quiet with my comments. But I don’t really understand the audience you’re attempting to address with this. Maybe I don’t troll enough Nintendo forums, but it seems like you’re conflating two fan cultures and mixing their responses to Nintendo’s line-up. The two are:

    1) Wii Fanboys
    2) The Nintendo Diaspora

    The first group are die-hard Nintendo fans; they get on every game thread on Amazon.com to make fun of 360 and PS3 owners for liking shooters and graphics cards. These people are off-base, because they don’t see that many of us own these consoles because indie developers release on them (and I know World of Goo is on the Wii–name another indie worth caring about on it). Of course many indie titles come out for the PC as well, but I’m a designer with a Mac laptop… so even though I’ve partitioned my hard drive I still only have enough room to work with programs I can’t get on the Mac side of my computer. I digress. Also, the processors inside the PS3 and 360 aren’t just good for graphics, they drive physics, AI, memory, as well as raw processing capabilities. Anyhow, I don’t think this is really the group you’re addressing…

    You’re angry at the second group, the Nintendo Diaspora. I’m one of these. I got an NES when I was 2 years old. I played everything worth playing on every Nintendo system (portables included) up until the GameCube era. I don’t give two shits about their re-releases on the Wii. My Wii sits on my shelf awaiting another Zelda game, I admit it. Their first-party products aren’t what they used to be, and the third-party games even less so. In essence, my interest in Nintendo’s home consoles died when they lost the shooters and Japanese RPGs that I enjoyed playing on the SNES and N64.

    On the other hand, I love my DS. The games you mention, Bangai-O, and Rune Factory (I know Frontier is a Wii release), I can play on my DS. I’m still a Nintendo portable fanboy (writing a 15-pager on TWEWY right now, my favorite handheld game of all time). And you know what? I don’t care that Nintendo’s home console left me behind in it’s search for money. I don’t complain about it in real life or to my friends. It’s a non-issue for me.

    Anyhow, the vocal majorities of both Wii fanboys and the Nintendo diaspora are both annoying as all fuck. They make sweeping generalizations across the board and should probably learn to play games before they trash them (I have a decent library of Wii titles I bought just to make sure I didn’t like them).

    I think you’re conflating these two groups in this post, and I just don’t really see this tie you’re making between Nintendo and innovation. They’ve got motion controls and they’re chasing a proven market carried over from women and young children playing casual games on their bargain-bin Hewlett Packard PCs, through their AOL tell-me-what-to-look-at portals. I’m just saying, I seek innovation by following innovative designers, who aren’t working on the Wii. They give plenty of explanations for this on their blogs and GDC rants.

    World of Goo is the same physics game I’ve been playing for 6 years instead of paying attention in class. Harvest Moon remakes and Bangai-O style shmups aren’t where the innovation’s at.

    Now where’s my new Zelda game?

  • Hey Simon, I know who you are, you’ve commented here before and run your own games blog (I’m not an asshole). Thanks for leaving a message. ^_^

    I didn’t feel the need to specify either because doing so is a messy, inaccurate process as culture is so terribly variable. Simply put, not all people playing since the NES days necessarily = The Nintendo Diaspora, and vice versa. Then again, not all Nintendo fans belong to the group of people I was describing, it works both ways. Defining any of these categories as absolute is flawed, so I tried to stay away from that.

    I completely disagree with your comment about innovation. The designers you speak of while innovative, are only so within their own small worlds. They’re game enthusiasts developing games for their own concentrated market, sticking to a routine which is wearing thin. It’s a self serving industry as has recently been discussed: http://www.pixelvixen707.com/?p=1406#content

    The Wii is in a totally different head space. How is the non-core gamer market a proven market? Particularly when so few developers (Nintendo, Pop Cap etc.) actually manage to nail these markets? The casual gaming market was birthed out of “innovative” developers becoming far too entrenched in their own niche (us) that everyone outside of it was being excluded. The casual gaming market was created by the self-serving “hardcore” gamers market, it’s only been a relevant market for a couple of years, how can this be a proven market when “hardcore” games have been the staple for so long?

    World of Goo is innovative not just conceptually but also from a design aspect, and is ten fold the product of Tower of Goo. Bangai-O is hardly your conventional shump, it’s a shump puzzler style of game. Rune Factory is a niche product and is innovative in its own ways. I don’t really understand why you’re judging these games on innovation, I said that fans only purchased a select few games in which they’re familiar with. Their familiarization and innovation are quite different.

    Thanks again.

  • I’m not going to head into specifics about culture because I’m nowhere near the right person for that, but I do have to say I share the sentiment.

    I am sick and tired of hearing complaints about Nintendo not catering to the supposed hardcore, as an example, and I’m also sick of hearing about it when you stop to consider that when Nintendo do try to cater to this market, they then get slammed for not changing things up or what have you.

    A case in point is the Zelda franchise. The release of Twilight Princess saw a lot of people claiming, myself included, that the franchise needed a reboot – that Zelda as we know it now is starting to get a little old. The games are still absolutely pure quality but people complained anyway. Ideally (which I realise wouldn’t happen), people would have respected the game as quality (some did) while also expressing their desire for a reboot, but instead they approached it childishly and that sucks. But, it’s the same people who complain about Nintendo’s new direction (which, while not interesting my particular tastes, is something I respect Nintendo for pursuing).

    Honestly, I don’t think these people know what they want anymore (which is a problem in and of itself), but since they have experience in being the most vocal (years of defending Nintendo against opposition such as Sega, Sony?), they’re continually heard now in a market which has, clearly, changed. Funny how they’re only a minor group of people, in the grand scheme of things.

  • Neelesh

    Since its a rant it lays among million other that search for their alternate voices on the internet, but this is not a Nintendo isolated phenomenon, it’s present in practically every genre of games, say your average FPS now a day’s evangelize notions of invasion, terror and horror and the only systematic way out of such frustrations is through destruction and death. Games in general are supposed to represent pictures/motion pictures with control so that there is a greater deal of flexibility within the frame, but they still rely on the notions of illusion by making your presence felt through an alternate identity I.e the protagonist. Half life was one of the very few games in the entire history where the protagonist was not above the natural, everything in the game is a mistake, but shooters now a days are mere manifestations of the current scenario of global politics, and since politics subsumes every other organism why should the alternate world be any different.

    Classic games like the ones you mentioned above relied on a different social culture, they were based on appreciating the forms of illusion presented by videogames, exploring the mythical past in a variety of forms sans the notion of killing in realistic forms, with greater individualization(Via the internet/online themed games) as opposed to physical social interaction the contours of gaming have changed, so majority are seemingly happy with one Zelda releasing in every 5 years or one sequel to Half Life every 10 years, the newer generations dont value the ethics of design and culture that were preserved in videogames, I learnt this when I went back to playing System Shock 2 and realized Bioshock was not a spiritual successor but degenerated tortured manifestaion of the original…Alas the world goes on and we shall watch on and on debating on sales and ranting away….

  • Steven, I think you hit the nail of the head saying that the fans aren’t really sure of what they want. With your example: Zelda TP. Nintendo self admittedly gaves the fans exactly what they wanted; a sequel to Zelda: OOT, and yet they complained for it being exactly what they wanted! I honestly wish Nintendo focused instead on creating a more thought-provoking Zelda like Majora’s Mask.

    Neelesh, I think your comments substantiate the “(of probably many)” in the title. ^_^

    I’m not sure if I would scrutinze the newer generation as heavily, but it’s an interesting observation nonetheless.

  • Agreed. I’m torn between both Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker as to which one is my favourite Zelda game; I love both for different reasons and when asked to talk about either, I can ramble for hours. Naturally, I’d be extremely pleased if Nintendo made another game along these lines, though with all of the complaints about wanting another OOT, I’m not sure it will ever happen.

    So instead, let’s hope they do reboot the franchise in a way we weren’t expecting and completely blow our minds once more. Then hopefully the vocal crowd will shut up and actually enjoy something that Nintendo — the company they’re meant to be fans of — have given them.

  • You’re exactly right, and that’s the thing – people aren’t happy with Madworld.

    They bought it, for the “mature” experience it offered, and now are disappointed that it’s too short, repetitive, and is a bit squished on their huge TV screens…

    It’s ridiculous, and you wonder why any company even bothers trying to please anymore, because the group yearning for the games end up tearing every little insignificant problem into shreds, and end up disliking the game on a whole for it.

    I’m just as sick of all the ranting too, I run a Nintendo website so I hear it everyday. Hopefully *something* will come out that will shut everyone up for good, and ditch this “hardcore/casual” fixation that everyone seems to have at the moment with Nintendo’s consoles.