Game companies feel like people

No, I won't subject you to my hideous visage.  Enjoy some kitties.

If game companies were more like cats, I think I’d like them more.

It all started when I was thinking about BioWare.

I like BioWare, if you didn’t know.  I like them quite a bit.  Sure, the studio has made missteps here and there, they’ve goofed up, they haven’t been as good as I know they can be.  But the studio is trying.  I realized that more than anything, they feel like someone worth knowing.  Sure, they’re going to blow it occasionally, but not because they’re bad, just because everyone makes mistakes, and they seem to take their mistakes in stride and move on.

That, of course, led to me thinking about how many other companies feel like people instead of just machines made to take money.  Yes, that’s what they are, but if the Supreme Court keeps insisting that corporations are entitled to all of the same benefits as individual people, we might as well start talking about these studios as people, right?  It seems only fair.

No, I don't mean worgen.

I like you, draenei. I just don’t like what comes along with you.

Blizzard feels like that guy that you met in college who always seemed to have all sorts of creative ideas, and you guys had a lot of fun.  But then you fell out of touch for a while, and you heard his wife left him, and when you go back over to see him… there are, like, seven confederate flag stickers on his truck despite the fact that you live in a northern state.  He’s mixed his porn in with his regular DVD collection, and half of it is unlabeled bootlegs anyway, and you get the sense that maybe he was always kind of creepy but you just didn’t notice it before.  Also, he has a dog that is always barking, whether you’re there or not, and you have never actually seen the dog in the house.

EA feels like the gal who comes over to every party with a big bowl of potato salad.  She’s always friendly, and she’s always kind of boring, but she seems inoffensive to you.  As soon as she leaves the room, everyone eats the potato salad and loves it, but they spend the whole time complaining about how much they hate her.  They also blame her for when Chad got fired, even though you remember that had more to do with Chad’s habit of smoking weed at work.

Nintendo feels like the uncle you have that you love, because he’s family, and everyone else seems to think he’s super cool, but whenever you guys hang out you just wind up feeling bored.  You start to wonder whether you really like him or just the idea of him.  Also, every Christmas present he gives you breaks in ten minutes.

Square feels like a performer you really liked when she started out, back when you were still just a kid.  You’ve followed her as you’ve both gotten older, and you still enjoy her work, but after a while it seems like even she’s not sure how to top some of her best material.  Sure, she still produces great stuff, but every time it seems like she’s not totally sure how.  You know she gets a lot of flak from people who idolize what she did before, but you also know it’s hard to keep reinventing yourself.  Still, you mostly keep quiet, because she’s been around so long that it’s pretty much impossible to connect with her on any kind of deeply personal level.

Sort of, briefly?

“Hey guys, we remembered that you liked our games when they were fun to play. Maybe we can do that again?”

Sega seems to be that uncle that was always jealous of your other uncle, and he’s basically let that sense of inferiority eat at him until now, so he’s mostly operating now out of hatred for others being more popular.  He used to be fun to hang out with, but he’s not any more, and you know for a fact most of that is because he just doesn’t like you much any more.

Microsoft is the kid who moved into your dorm halfway through college and spent her whole time trying to insert herself into the social circle whether you wanted her there or not.  She’s not malicious, but she comes off as clueless, and she’s intend on forcing you to enjoy the things she likes as well as what you like, even if you’re not really a fan.  Everyone hung out with her for a while, but you think a lot of that came down to the fact that your other friends just got insufferable for a while and no one really wanted to be around them.

Sony is the guy who everyone liked through grade school, then the guy everyone liked through high school, and then the guy who no one could stand in college because he thought that he could simply do no wrong despite all evidence to the contrary.  Now he’s picking up the pieces again and seems to have his act together, at least for the moment.  You’re not exactly friends again, but you’re working on it.

I like how, as time goes by, discussion about Episode 3 has morphed into talk about Half-Life 3 because everyone's given up.

Not that Valve is immune to people idolizing the company or to doing generally stupid crap, to be fair.

Valve owns the comic book store.  It doesn’t matter if you like any of the comics he makes or not; he owns the store, and it’s a good store.  Anything else is basically gravy.

Capcom is the girl who used to be beautiful and brilliant and creative, and these days she’s essentially coasting on the goodwill she generated when she was younger because no one has the guts to straight-up tell her she’s running her life into the ground.  You watched THQ make a lot of the same stupid mistakes, and no one said anything then, either, and you’re so sure the same thing is going to happen.

Rockstar feels like the guy you met when he was first starting out, and when he had his first big success it was great.  But at some point he seems to believe that he got too good for his own fanbase, and while he’s still doing the same basic stuff, it’s not nearly as good as what’s being done in terms of derivatives of that original conceit.  You want to like him, but there’s a distance there you don’t know how to bridge, and ultimately you’re not friends any more because of it.

Ubisoft is the guy you never connected with on a personal level anyway, and he comes across as hollow.  Every time you talk with him you feel like he’s just feeding you something he found on the internet without any real passion.  Which is, you know, whatever.  You have him friended on Facebook mostly because you never go there anyway.

Indie studios, meanwhile, are the vast and marvelous groups of people you meet on a regular basis, people that you never would have imagined before but who enrich your life as a whole.  Sure, sometimes they’re complete douchebags, but the ones that aren’t make it all the much better.  You want to get to know people like Supergiant, and you hope that as the years go by they become more a part of your life.  That’s a big part of why you keep going to these parties in the first place.

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About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

One response to “Game companies feel like people”

  1. Tyler F.M. Edwards says :

    I had a similar thought aways back when I came to the conclusion Blizzard feels like some guy you were friends with growing up who’s still a kid in a lot of ways — good and bad. He’s not too bright, and he’s kind of douchey at times, but he’s a lot of fun, so you still hang out with him sometimes for the laughs and the memories. Just don’t try to have a serious conversation with him.

    Or such is my feeling on the matter.

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