Fanboy Loyalty or Cowardice?
by GL Guest Writer
by Mark Lawson
Video game fans are some of the most passionate and well-informed fans in their medium of entertainment and I personally can’t think of an industry with such an enthusiastic worldwide grasp on our imaginations and wallets. When a company says or does something, we know within a few hours and most likely pay attention as if it was of great international importance like a terrorist attack or declaration of war. However, such a strong bond with game franchises and development studios has also made gamers some of the most self-entitled people I have ever seen or heard of.
Only in the games industry do people truly believe that they deserve something for free, something to be a specific way or specific quality and length. I believe that, because we pay £39.99+ for a game, we expect higher standards of entertainment and quality for every pound. This can be understandable, as nobody wants to pay a high premium for something that sucks, but does this give us the right to become armchair game designers?
Splinter Cell is a franchise that always pushed the boat on technology, and defined the genre of stealth gameplay. With this came a great responsibility to its fans to give them the experience they’d come to expect – Sam must always be a ghost, stalking and bypassing his enemies as if he was never there to save the world from something Jack Bauer would panic about. Due to technical and design limitations though, if you did something the game didn’t want you to do — get detected — the game would break as a punishment for you fucking up. A veteran soldier and super-spy can’t kick ass in a gunfight when needed?
This was fine the first three times. As a franchise grows, the gameplay surely evolves, with Halo being an excellent example of evolution over revolution. However, after Double Agent it was clear that Sam was getting on in his age and needed to take a vacation to get over the death of his daughter or something.
Most gaming fans and critics could see that the series was becoming formulaic and tired as the same game was being released each time but with boxes being ticked for mere gameplay additions rather than new ideas. So, Conviction was born and Sam was no longer the Shadow of Death, as he was known as before, and what happened? The fans that supported Ubisoft burst into tears. What happened to stealth?! What happened to the game I was with from the start?!
The best example of this reaction is Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil evolved in a similar pattern to Splinter Cell as the franchise got popular; the design started to get gray in the temples and change was needed before burnout happened. Resident Evil 4 ripped apart everything the franchise was known for, redefined third person action and is the most duplicated game in design than any other of this generation and yet those hardcore fans denounce it as a real game in the series. Fuck off.
Why do hardcore fans always do this? People seem to grow a strong attachment to things they like and seem to delude themselves that the product was made for them, when in fact the game was made to be sold to the most people possible. Not liking a game is fine; that is opinion. To suggest, however, that the game is a disgrace to the name because it’s not a clone of the series is depressing and something which game developers have to battle with every time they release a new game, as people don’t like change.
Conviction is still very much a stealth game; it just allows players to be action-focused also. There is nothing wrong with changing a game’s formula if the result is still good. I didn’t think that Splinter Cell was about hiding bodies, any more than having dinner is about doing the dishes. If you want to play like the classic Splinter Cell games, that is still possible and there are even modes which encourage this – play Hunter or Infiltration mode with only pistols and no gadgets, and you can see how stealthy the game can be.
I digress though, as the subject confuses me tremendously. There are, of course, examples when games changed too much and was harmed for it — Sonic, Command & Conquer 4 — but in most cases, the culture of “churning out another” that we live in, due in part to the unstable and rather risky economy of the gaming industry, means that a game taking a risk is rarer than I would like (I’m a Dreamcast fan). Do these hardcore fans want the same game every time until it bleeds dry, or are they just insecure about the things they love leaving them like a long-term girlfriend?
I genuinely don’t know, but I am glad it didn’t stop Ubisoft from selling more than two million copies of Conviction as it is a game which, in both story and gameplay design, deserves a sequel to expand the foundation laid this time. If you are a denouncer of Conviction (or other games which break the mould), can you say why that is so? What gives you the right to display such arrogance to claim that Conviction is not a proper Splinter Cell game?
While you do that, I’ll enjoy playing an awesome game.
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