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How Heavy Rain Pushes All the Wrong Buttons


A funny thing happens when I browse this fine site. Many times, I'm more interested in people's reactions (and the reasons for them) then the actual stories themselves. I find Destructoid not only to be an awesome place to get news and even make some friends (if you're into that sort of thing), but also an interesting community with a subculture all its own. I find that at certain times, the Dtoid community reacts to things in a way that no other site does in quite the same way. Figuring out why this is the case is a nice challenge from time to time. So of course, after braving the comments sections of a few stories related to Heavy Rain, I wondered why the game provoked such intense reactions.

What follows, fine folks, is the result of painstaking research, good ol' fashioned hard work and a little bit of just plain making shit up.

The question was obvious: what is it about Heavy Rain that pisses people off or even makes them give a damn at all? I, like most of us the majority of the time, can bypass stories about games I have no interest in without feeling compelled to stop in and comment (again) about just why I won't be playing said game. However, any Heavy Rain story (even early on, before the "games vs. movies" nonsense really got started) would attract numbers of people who simply felt the need to tell us why they wouldn't be playing it. Furthermore, people seemed to be a little more passionate about this game than they really should be, especially if they really didn't care (as they claimed). There had to be something about this game that got people's panties in a bunch, so to speak.

What I've realized is that Heavy Rain has inadvertently created a "perfect storm" of rant-inducing, argument-starting, fanboy-enciting madness. There are a few buttons that a game or its developers/publishers can push that will set people off a bit, and Heavy Rain pushes many of them, maybe more so than any game in recent history. Here they are:

It's a PS3 Exclusive

I don't have to point out to anyone who has visited a gaming website before that all you have to do to stir up the ol' controversy pot a bit is to release your game as an exclusive to one system or another. While scientists have quietly kidnapped console fanboys for years in order to perform grisly experiments on their underdeveloped craniums, they still have not found any real reason for the condition that has plagued gaming websites and forums since the beginning of time. Er, internet time, that is.

Still, it is an irrefutable fact that if a game comes out just for the PS3 or the Xbox 360, there will be drama. Lots of it. That's the most obvious reason that comes to mind for the shitstorm that ensues in the comments sections of even the most uneventful Heavy Rain story. It didn't help that last May, before the game was even on some people's radars, we got the obligatory "only possible on the PS3" comment. Of course, it wouldn't be a perfect storm with just that.

The Developers Love Their Game Too Much; Can't Shut Up

If there is one clear way to get many Dtoiders to hope your game sucks, it is to endlessly talk it up to anyone and everyone who will listen. How many times have we seen this happen? Peter Molyneux. Denis Dyack. Luc Bernard. Peter Molyneux again. Cliff Bleszinski.

Well, Quantic Dream's David Cage surpassed all but the most elite in this category with the rapid-fire quotes that were fed to the community regularly, inciting anger from members who do not take kindly to such cockiness. We heard Cage proudly state that Heavy Rain had morphed from being a game into something else entirely. We heard Cage say that he didn't want us distracted by Trophy alerts during play. We heard Cage call for more mature themes, characters and situations in games (he had a good point here). We heard Cage fire back at criticisms about his game, which almost no one had actually played yet, and the supposedly QTE-heavy gameplay . Cage also wished aloud that players would only play through the game once, in order to preserve their initial experience, which prompted quite a few incredulous comments.

And it wasn't all Cage, either. Sony reps boldly (stupidly?) stated that Heavy Rain graphically "blows Uncharted 2 away". They also stated that Heavy Rain is a "gamble" (which it is), and the game's producer even weighed in on the Modern Warfare 2 "No Russian" controversy.

Of course, this overexposure of Heavy Rain in general and Cage in specific worked hand in hand with another thing that is sure to get people riled up around these parts...

People are Too Damn Excited

There is a certain trend that emerges with a high-profile game, which Heavy Rain has surprisingly become, at least here at Destructoid. When the game is announced and first spoken of, reactions tend to be almost entirely comprised of optimism from those who think it's up their alley and non-commital comments from those who aren't sure whether they'll be into it or not. However, as more information comes out about the game, those who are pumped for it already become really pumped, and an interesting phenomenon occurs: those who aren't interested in the game somehow feel the need to counteract what they feel is an excess of hype or excitement by, well, shitting all over the game whenever they get a chance.

I don't know what this is all about; perhaps these negative Nancys feel as if they are somehow "bringing balance to the Force" or something. For whatever reason, though, people in general can't stand to see a game that they personally aren't interested in get too much attention. Particularly when that game contains...

Quick Time Events!

Just like Heavy Rain itself, Quick Time Events push all the wrong buttons for some folks. Which is ironic, because pushing the wrong buttons in one of Heavy Rain's Quick Time Events will likely get you crushed to bits in a junkyard compactor. Because Heavy Rain, like Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit, if you prefer) before it does not appear to have dedicated controls for many of the actions you will perform in-game, its critics have taken to lobbing many a slight towards the game- including the ultimate critique of saying it's not a game at all.

To me personally, such statements have no merit whatsoever. I would like those in the "Heavy Rain's not a game" camp to make a couple of things clear to me. First of all, what makes a video game a video game? If you're so sure Heavy Rain doesn't fit the criteria, you must know what your criteria are, and I would love to hear them. Second, what makes Heavy Rain anything other than a game? Is it because of the emphasis on story? Is it because you aren't always using predefined controls, like "right trigger to shoot, B to crouch," etc.?

So, what other games aren't actually video games? Are point and click adventures games? What about console versions of board games? How about old-school JRPGs that require little more of you than to walk from place to place, select actions from a menu and watch the story unfold? After all, in many of these games, you don't even have an effect on the story, unlike in Heavy Rain, where your actions will determine how things proceed. One of the funnier arguments I read was that Heavy Rain isn't a game because you could play it with a DVD or TV remote. You couldn't do that with many of the Final Fantasy installments? The thing is, while no one wants to stand up and say that something like a Final Fantasy game or Secret of Monkey Island isn't a game, Heavy Rain hasn't come out yet and doesn't have that place in gamers' hearts where such a criticism would be met with a zillion "STFU"s. Still, it doesn't make the argument any less silly.

And a quick note on QTEs- you may hate them, but that doesn't make them any less legitimate of a gameplay device. Most of the time when you play a game, you react to a visual stimulus by pressing the appropriate button(s) on your controller. QTEs just break this down to its barest essentials, but make no mistake, pressing "X" when it pops up is essentially the same as jumping over a Goomba as it approaches. It's just a stripped down take on one of the core mechanics of video games. If you want to call them unimaginative or annoying, fine, but it's just not correct to say QTEs aren't gameplay.

GASP- It Wants to Be a Movie?!?!

Recent articles on Destructoid have highlighted this last fire-starter, as many have come forward to say that they aren't big fans of what they perceive to be an attempt to make Heavy Rain more like a movie than a game. The thing is, Indigo Prophecy already did the same exact thing- how big of an issue should this be in 2010?

Well, this is just poor timing and bad luck, honestly. Since Indigo Prophecy, we've had more "are games art?" debates than you can shake a frozen turd at, not to mention the continuing onslaught of awful film adaptions of games, as well as the continuance of the time-honored tradition of shitty games based on film licenses. Gamers simply don't want their games and movies to mix.

Then, there was Avatar. What normally would have been just another blockbuster got blown out of proportion entirely in the gaming community, particularly because James Cameron insisted upon making comments about certain characters being influenced by gaming culture, as well as insisting that his movie was even more immersive than a great game could be.

Now, I agree that games should focus on their strengths and not try to be something that they're not, but is Heavy Rain really trying to be a movie? No. The quoted blurbs from the review mailer Jim Sterling received compared two elements to that of films- the narrative and the production values. How many of you really want to say that gaming, as a whole, seriously competes with mainstream films in those areas? Come on, now. That's ignoring the fact that this type of crap is written to sell the game to people who are on the fence, and are not written by the people that actually created the game. So, Heavy Rain is bad for gaming because some marketing majors decided to compare a couple of elements of the game to movies?

Okay, So What Does All This Mean?

So, that's what I came up with. This all comes together at a perfectly bad time, as the "console wars", the tradition of cocky developers bragging up their games, people's dislike of QTEs (and the "casual gaming" fad that they supposedly represent) and the non-troversy regarding games trying to be movies have all built up to a high level. For one game to represent all of these issues means that there is probably no end in sight to the ridiculousness we've already seen in the comments sections of any and all Heavy Rain-related stories here.

I'm not naive enough to think that pointing out all of the characteristics that get people riled up about this game will change much, though. If you're the kind of chap that gets fired up about a game that you haven't even played yet because of something a developer says or gameplay elements that you haven't even tried yet, self-evaluation is probably not your strong suit. And as for the other stuff, well, we've already seen that nothing will bring an end to the great console wars.

However, if even one person can just acknowledge that maybe the reason that they hate (or love) Heavy Rain before it has even been released has little to do with the game itself, I will be pleased. Maybe at some point later this month, we can all give the game a chance and STFUAJPHR.
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About Jon Hartleyone of us since 12:39 PM on 04.26.2007

Formerly "akathatoneguy".

I've been on D-toid for quite some time, and I got into video games back in the NES days.

My console history pretty much goes like this...NES->Genesis->Playstation->PS2->Xbox 360 (+PS3). I've also briefly owned an N64, Dreamcast, and a bunch of portable systems. Because I missed out on a good three generations of Nintendo, I've also missed out on plenty of classics. Plus, I had years in high school where I didn't play games much at all, or stuck mainly to (gasp!) sports games. Have no fear, fellow gamers...I have since renounced my evil ways and opened myself up to worlds of amazing games that don't involve sticks, or...er, balls. Okay, I worded that awkwardly.

I'm also into sports, movies, and other stuff that is pretty much enjoyed by most everybody. My main hobbies are MMA (mostly watching, although I do jiu-jitsu and have done some kickboxing), the Chicago Bears/Cubs, and video games. I read comics when I have time in an effort to become a more well-rounded nerd, also. I'm finishing up college right now and I haven't worked a "regular" job in about five years now. Instead, I've been a freelance writer and written MMA columns at various sites (currently Fightmania.com).

I would LOVE to write about video games professionally, and I think I'm ready to do so. I've resurrected my c-blog going again partially in an effort to reach that goal, and partially because I just like to be able to connect with other people about the games I experience and topics in the gaming industry.

Inquiries, love letters, marriage proposals, and amazing job offers go to akathatoneguy [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ItsJonHartley. I'll be happy to follow back fellow Dtoiders!

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