In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
Have you ever discovered a band early on in their careers that once they’ve become moderately successful, that you feel arrogantly proud enough to tell late-comers "I was there since the beginning"?
Of course you have, it’s simply human nature to flaunt your early bird wares to others, but that long-standing commitment also breeds a false authority over others. Videogames suffer a similar fate of intimacy and ownership by fans; yet, as social interactivity between developer and fans increases, that sense of overzealous discovery rarely fades out as the two groups grow apart.
Getting in on the ground floor of a project means you feel like part of a development process and that kind of thinking demands attention at every possible step. It’s almost like giving parental advice to a couple that have a child and are expecting another.
Alan Wake’s community forums has always been an interesting example of how this ‘ground level’ entitlement works. Remedy had already made good on their promises with the Max Payne franchise, so when they announced a new game, the established fan base expected another high quality title. Unfortunately, when it takes five years to make a videogame, intensive speculation and imagination can only lead to frustration and disappointment. As a microcosm, it’s interesting to read through old threads full of assumptions, following through to an abrupt turning point and finding how attitudes change after certain needs are unattended.
This doesn’t solely concern Alan Wake either. You’ll find this familiar attitude in any development title (that allows you to search freely anyway). Communities like to think they’re investing in an individualistic title early on. Nobody knows how the final product will end up, but if there’s potential, you’re going to see support. Yet for all the screenshots or teasers, you’ll only see the concepts without flaws.
Depending on the developers, they’ll ask for feedback and always receive inane requests like ‘change the character’s clothes’ or ‘HUD ruins the atmosphere’, but cynically, it’s an act to make you feel empowered and more likely to open your wallet. At best, you’re a post-it note for de-bugging. If you genuinely had development input, wouldn’t you be wondering why your name isn’t in the credits?
Still, what you think and what they’re designing are two different worlds.
You’ve probably seen countless comments where a new trailer is dissected frame by frame. Communities concoct entire plot theories on the basis of a ninety second clip. It’s terrible fan fiction, but as time roll on and there’s not much to talk about, these little yarn balls keep growing with every added thread; much like the eponymous document within Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
It’s expectation being continuously built upon through long-running assumption.
Yet, these are assumptions born from thumb-twiddling and fevered minds that latched on to the beginning stages. When the videogame in question attracts more interest, it’s accompanied by more opinions and though “too many cooks spoil the broth”, it also exposes real intentions.
It only needs one catalyst to bring everything down to the basic levels.
With Alan Wake, the catalyst in question was Microsoft’s '360 exclusive' announcement and the community threads constantly had complaints from loyal PC-owning members. This isn’t to say they were wrong. They were right to complain about an unfair business practice. It’s just hard to find sympathy once the arguments are based around graphical prowess, ‘inferior’ consoles and sales commentary. All the while, the fundamentals like interaction and narrative are completely ignored.
In the end, Alan Wake didn’t perform well due to additional factors outside Microsoft’s blame. The big wait and the community’s belief of success were rendered a moot point. While it’s definitely “Game of the Year” material, should the community really become so obsessed with regularly updating sales figures?
Does somebody out there honestly need justification for following a videogame after so long?
It should be enough to anyone that they finally own a great game and yet there’s a defensive spin hiding the disappointment with the results. It’s not exactly the uninterested parties’ fault if they didn’t share the same sentiment.
Getting in on the ground floor might seem exciting but it’s truly a redundant obsession with an excuse to buy the needless (albeit desirable) special edition at the end. For all the talk of wanting a successful and intelligent piece of work to rival other media, you’re just trying to impress the anonymous that have no impact on your life outside a message board. Not that there’s a genuine interest or support in somebody like Goichi Suda or a fascinating franchise like Persona.
Admittedly, one shouldn’t be too cynical. There’s a positive side to observing a construction from beginning to end with a chance to look at the success from the top with the developers, but if you don’t make some distance from that kind of intimacy and ownership, then you’re going to trip on the way up and nobody is going to care enough to help you out.
Excuse the poor metaphor, but maybe next time, you should come in late and take the lift.