I’m writing this before my favorite holiday on the Internet has happened, but you’ll be reading it afterwards. Yes, Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year by far, but my favorite time to be online is April Fools’ Day. I absolutely adore seeing people be creative with elaborate, amusing, and entirely absurd jokes centered around games, online culture, and our general tendency to take everything far more seriously than is entirely healthy.
I especially like all of the various gags put forth by MMO companies, but you probably would guess that.
Oddly, I also see a lot of people posting about how much they hate the day, which strikes me as counterproductive. Literally all of the skills you acquire on April 1st are applicable to the online environment year-round. Part of the fun of the day, I find, is the fact that almost everything you’ll see online is explicitly a joke… but it’s never a joke you can just outright ignore, because it has elements of truth. It forces you to do a critical reading of everything you see, which is something you should be doing anyhow.
Last week’s tempest in a teacup was the announcement that Nintendo was finally hopping into the mobile games arena, a fact which the rest of the gaming industry responded to chiefly with a sigh and perhaps a muttered “welcome to here” or something similar. This is not revolutionary or stunning. Mobile gaming is as genuine a form of gaming as, well, anything that’s been coming out over the past decade.
What was surprising were the number of people clinging to the idea that this was some major change, as if Nintendo’s refusal to get into the space before now was indicative of a philosophical stance rather than a deeply calcified corporate structure incapable of forward motion.
Nintendo’s issues as a company are best addressed in another article (and probably will be), so I’m not going to go into that here. But it’s always surprised me, to this date, how many people think that the way games were released was indicative of anything more than how things were in terms of technology. The idea that the game arrangement we grew up with as children is in some way indicative of how things ought to be, from here to eternity.
What bothers me about “retro” games so often is that they miss the entire point of the exercise. The games that I played as a child were not in any way, shape, or form undiluted masterpieces; they were products of their time as surely as anything. Too often retro games wind up treating the entirety of these games as religious experiences, as if every single element was equally important in making games fun and you can’t have a truly fun game without a whole pile of obscuring and unpleasant tedious components.
In theory, you can do better. You can take the parts that did work, the genres and elements that don’t really make it in the triple-A marketplace these days, and get rid of the tedium and missteps. Cut out the spirit and pull that forward, but leave the bones where they lie. Separate the platform and the moment from the overall experience.
The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight is close to what I’d consider a prime example of how to do exactly that. It’s not entirely there, and some bits and pieces are unlikely to change before it moves from Early Access to an actual launch. But even those broken bits aren’t broken enough to make it an exercise in tedium.
As you read this – but not as I write this, since I work ahead – I’m getting my last preparations in order for another ride up to Boston for PAX East. I’ve been going every single year for work since it first started running, and every year I have kind of hoped that this would be the year I didn’t have to go, because I don’t particularly like Boston or conventions in general. Yet it keeps happening no matter how many stars seem to align against it. Here I go again on my own, et cetera.
Despite my stated dislike for conventions, though, there’s a lot of good that does come out of them, sometimes in spite of everything. So as much as people complain about the lines, the smell of sweat, the crowds, the expense, and the creepers that infest every event like a Minecraft region gone horribly wrong, there are two good reasons to still head up to one if you can take the time. Even when I don’t want to ship out – which is usually the time – I’m happy that these are still there.