This is a long one. Don't wanna read? Don’t eat.
So it’s been about a month since the...controversial(?) DmC Devil May Cry’s release and, while the inexplicable fervor has died down for the most part, it has not gone away despite the game’s excellent review scores and almost universal acclaim from reviewers, with some accusing Capcom of somehow having the capital to pay off the entirety of gaming journalism for positive reviews. I qualify that because, to check out the Metacritic USER score, you’d think this game had committed a war crime. Or swindled someone out of their house and life savings with predatory banking practices as EA apparently did last year when it was voted the Worst Company In America for the crime of nickel-and-diming people’s disposable income away from them and also maybe ruining a prominent trilogy’s ending. That last one really depends on your perspective.
This isn’t going to be a post about any one thing, it’s going to be a post about a problem I’m noticing popping up in the enthusiast circles of videogames and that’s the absolute, savage hypocrisy with which “innovation” is simultaneously demanded and reviled. What this essentially boils down to is this: MANY people who claim to want innovation actually only mean they want games that they don’t now play to change so that they’ll want to play them. I might as well go to the two best examples I can think of: Madden and Call of Duty.
I don’t personally play Madden, I like American football, but not enough to know player names, and I play Call of Duty as a rental for the campaign, so obviously I’m not the target audience for either product, but I can admire what they both do and how they do it from a distance: they’ve captured the elusive “casual” gamer and the hardcore alike. “Casuals” love it because essentially they can buy the one game that comes out every year and that’s perfect for the kind of experience they want, but it’s also led to both franchises stagnating and putting out iterative steps every year rather than a fully-realized, entirely new game every few years. Again: there’s nothing particularly wrong with this, it works for them and their consumers seem perfectly happy with it. But something funny happens whenever a trailer or announcement for either of these, and some other, games gets released: the comments, and even forums, are flooded by people taking them to task, with most of the derisiveness stemming from the “sameyness” of the franchises and how incremental each game is, usually while throwing in something bemoaning the lack of creativity in the game’s industry. But what happens when real innovation DOES happen? Well...why don’t you ask Ninja Theory? Or Bioware? Or Nintendo? Or, yes, even Capcom.
The new Devil May Cry game was assailed, from trailer one, for the crime of not being samey enough. For delivering a Dante, and indeed a world, that was markedly different from the previous four iterations (though, to this day I have no idea who the original Dante was from the perspective of the fanboy. First this new Dante was too bombastic and cavalier, then he was too “emo,” which in this case meant “I don’t like how he looks and am not clever enough to describe it,” then, finally and hilariously, he wasn’t bombastic and cavalier ENOUGH). Likewise Mass Effect 2 had blood vomited upon it for DARING to excise the Mako portions (that were the worst part of the previous game), streamlining the combat (or “dumbing down” as the fanboy might say, despite the fact that 2 is much, much more challenging than 1) and in hindsight, it is beloved as the best in the series, which, of course, displays a hilarious lack of self-awareness. Ask Link, who had to endure the japes and jibes of being cel-shaded as not “ADULT” enough...for a game about an elf who wanders the land trying to save a princess from an evil wizard. Yes, surely that is a game that deserves to be taken very, very seriously in terms of art style.
The sad thing is that this isn’t an especially new thing, the idea of “I just want everything I like to stay the same and everything I don’t like to become something I do like” is as old as human thought, but it’s a shame when people deprive themselves of something truly great because it somehow offends their sensibilities. Oh and before I wrap up, and this is purely a pet peeve: if you spend three years berating a company with knee-jerk reactions over a game you haven't even played, letalone seen very much of, you don't get to be stoked with indignation that the company takes a quick, and clever, dig at your expense. Sorry. I’m not saying you have to LOVE DmC, Mass Effect, or anything else, I’m saying you should at least be CONSISTENT with what you want out of the industry. You can’t bitch and whine that the industry has stagnated and then scream when they change something. It makes you look silly and childish.