Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Fan" Means Fanatic

Funny how our experiences sometimes converge. A few days ago, Wikipedia's front page asked me whether I knew that disproving someone's beliefs can often, paradoxically, strengthen them. One might picture Bart Simpson's fevered repetition of "Krusty is coming" at summer camp (minute 9:20 here) through every day after day that Krusty the Klown fails to arrive. Or any religion. Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming. Though Bart at least, to his credit, eventually snapped out of it.
I was indeed exposed to this notion in the "intro to psych" course through which every college student snoozes regardless of major. However, even without academic guidance or real-world observation, I might draw endless examples of this puzzling behavior pattern from my electronic escapist fantasies.

I was informed last night while whittling away a few quests in The Secret World that "this game is awesome." I have grown weary enough of the constant fight against stupidity that I neglected to follow up on that wonderfully nuanced and well-reasoned qualifier of "awesomeness" but I did retort that TSW deserves its bankruptcy. I was immediately questioned on this point by another supposed 35-yr-old with the sputtering, punctuation-free, cliche-ridden speech patterns of a teenage mall-rat.
I often find myself in this position in online games and lemme tell ya, trying to convince everyone the emperor has no clothes is much harder than simply stating the fact. Even those few players who might be intelligent enough to spot their pastime's flaws manage to convince themselves that those flaws don't really (not really-really, not entirely really, not if you squint the right way) exist.

TSW's fanbase denies it's a level-based or class-based game even as they advertise themselves as "level 10.4 healer LFG" - and that's just one facet of their denial. Don't even try to convince them that a game that's over 90% single-player has no business online.
Turning to LotRO, I found out this morning that one recent change removed the hunter class' "focus" loss while moving, which previously limited their running around in combat. Yet most any LotRO player I've met year after year whenever I've dropped in on middle-earth has been adamant in the belief that gameplay is not, no sir, never gonna happen, no way getting simplified. This was the belief, as Loremasters lost their dependence on synergy with their pets, as mana became for all purposes infinite, as weapon attack speeds vanished, as spell reagents disappeared and teleportation replaced travel, etc. And LotRO fanboys just like the entrenched base of any activity with a social element will continue to pat each other on the back as they uphold this belief even as all gameplay gets replaced with a "click here to win" button.

Why? How feeble-minded must one be for this desperate need to place all self-worth in the activity in which one engages. Because that's what we're really discussing. This is just another facet of faith. Most players are incapable of putting pressure on game companies to deliver better products because they have to convince themselves at every turn, every time they switch from one game to another, that they've found the holy grail, that this time this thing, this thing right here we're playing now, this is "awesome" and we wont hear otherwise. They must have faith in the social validity of their activity.

Why not just admit that the best crap on the market is still crap?
Can we not overcome faith, this pathetic slavish dependence on validation by authority, at least through our virtual selves?
Krusty is not coming. Find a new summer-camp.

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