Today, I feel like giving advice. I rarely do this, and people often ignore it or get offended that I am doing it. This is not some ultimatum, just some random musings culminating in an explanation that reinforces a viewpoint that may or may not cause you to go “Huh.” You have been warned.
So recently I’ve been spending a lot of time flipping through the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums. I can see you shaking your head in disheartened disgust. Regardless of what you may think about the “Bioware Community”, they are indeed just as bad – if not worse in some regards – than the World of Warcraft forums. While the Bioware forums proper demand nothing short of perfection from every Bioware title (Don’t believe me? Trying going there and complimenting Dragon Age 2. See what kind of reaction you get), the Old Republic forums are full of bristling debate over simply what kind of game the Old Republic will be and the firestorm that discussion – a term I use lightly to describe the battle of enraging ki that encircles many a thread – leaves in its wake. Exaggeration? Perhaps. I find calm, civilized and cheerful discussions quite often on the Warcraft forums but that doesn’t seem to barricade anyone from bursting forth with the idea that the site in its entirety is a den of villains, thrice damned abominations and trolls.
Ultimately, the problem is one of expectations. Many are gripping on to their title of choice (Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, Mass Effect 3… what have you) and wishing that their every desire will be fulfilled by that one title as if it were some all-powerful djinn with the cheat codes turned on. Those who wish to herald of the days of yore when games were brutal and only the best of the best would claim the shiniest toy on the mound that they can lord over the unwashed masses will find any quote and smidgen of information to reinforce that this game will be their ideal world. While those who arm themselves with communist ideals that all should be able to claim the shiniest toy should they desire will do the same. It’s not just loot either than fuels these festering mosh pits of heated debate. Everything from game play mechanics to who has the marginally more interesting story line can be fodder. People expect things to be the way they want them to be, and not the way they don’t want it to be and they’ll will fight with self proclaimed righteousness to convert those with dissenting opinion.
Honestly, it is hilarious from an outsiders point of view. Will TOR crash and burn for sticking to the Trinity? Will Guild Wars 2 usher in a renaissance that will wipe the MMO playing field clear so a new world can be forged in its place? Does the Horde really get the best story lines and Blizzard just hates the Alliance with a passion? I read these thoughts and laugh. Because I know that the real answer is probably going to land in the middle, and thus begins a new cycle of hatred and bickering over failures and incompetence of the developers to satisfy what each person views as the majority opinion – that just so happens to align with their personal beliefs – of what should have happened.
So what do you do? Well, I can’t say. That’s for each to decide for themselves when the time comes. I can however tell you how I have routinely been able to find pleasure in many a game over the years: Keep your expectations simple. If I told you the entirety of my expectations for The Old Republic was to have an interesting story and a neat crafting system, do you think I would find myself disappointed come December? My only expectation for Brutal Legend was I was expecting to laugh because it’s a Tim Schafer game and that man is hilarious. I have replayed that game about four times to date and am seriously tempted to do it again. Actually, probably my first mistake with Cataclysm was expecting something massive. A whole new Azeroth to explore! Everything is different now! Yea, no. Don’t get me wrong, I still have several issues with Cataclysm – ones that if Mists of Pandaria delivers what was proposed should remedy hopefully – but I don’t think I would have crashed and burned to the point of deleting my characters and saying “Screw it all!” a mere month a half in, were I more level headed about what to expect.
The only time everyone will be happy with something is when you only have a small handful of people to deal with, and even then it’s not a guarantee. Companies like Bioware and Blizzard have to deal with an audience of millions. How do you do that? I can barely wrap my head around it, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a million anything. The only thing that keeps coming back to me when I lie awake, staring at my ceiling, and thinking about all of this is ‘compromise.’ Compromise is how you make the most people happy. They’re probably not all going to be ecstatic, possibly not even elated, but maybe pleased. Pleased enough to pay and to keep paying. The problem with compromise is that those who are hoping on this being the messiah they patiently waited for, that will do everything right in their book, may become bitter and discontent. They become disgruntled trolls who might see themselves enlightened amongst the drooling mouth breathers who didn’t see the promise of absolute satisfaction and throw their money at it instead of rising up as one and saying “No! Do better!” and thus the cycle begins a new.
So my advice – hidden cryptically through the words of this rant – is to lower your expectations. Not to the ground, mind you. You should have some self respect for what you enjoy. But if you’re seeking what you feel is perfection and then condemn something for not living up to your personal demands, you will rarely – if possibly ever – find satisfaction. Then again, if you are anything like one of my relatives, your disgruntled rage may be the fuel that keeps you going through life. So, uh… kudos?