June 22nd, 2010

Games: Playstation

Random video game thoughts

World of Warcraft has been out for a little over five years now. There's a part of my mind that thinks "just five years? I feel like it's been around forever." Then there's the part of me that's more in tune with the usual video game life cycle and the part of me that clearly remembers a point where people weren't talking about WoW all the time, and those parts think "Dear gods, it's still alive after more than five years?!?"

On a totally unrelated note, i find the phrase "sent to die" interesting. As far as i can remember i've only started hearing the phrase in common usage within the last year (at least in reference to video games anyways.) In fact i think i first started hearing it pop up around October or so last year. Maybe it used to come up every year before christmas in relation to the holiday rush, but this year all of the sudden big name video games are coming out pretty much every month, so there are a lot more occasions to talk about something being sent to die.

The interesting bit is how many different ways that phrase gets used in various contexts. There's the heroic sense, someone is being sent on what is effectively a suicide mission, but great things are expected to result from it. Perhaps not surprisingly this tends to pop up most often in relation to jesus. There's the usage in reference to war, where most often it's used to refer to a situation where people are ostensibly dying for a purpose, but at least some people think that purpose either isn't actually being achieved, or isn't worth that price to achieve. Then there's the gulag sense, where the people in authority want someone or some group of people dead. They aren't sent for a purpose that just happens to result in their death, death itself is the goal.

However in the video game industry the most common usage is when a video game is scheduled for a release date in the same general time frame as the release of a much more popular game in the same genre, which presumably appeals to the same fanbase. It's also occasionally used in reference to a game that's being released with pretty much zero advertising or promotion. And not too infrequently the same unfortunate game falls into both categories at once. Everyone expects the game to be totally crushed by the competition and the publisher doesn't seem to care at all.

It's the totally apathetic version of the phrase. It's closest to the soldiers in war usage above, but even in that situation the army usually gives the cannon fodder a minimal amount of training (here's a gun, here's how you fire it, good luck!) and expects at least a modest return out of the effort, even if it's only to counteract the enemy's cannon fodder. If you ignore the PR speak you get impression that a lot of game publishers don't care even that much. They've decided, through whatever arcane process, that the game is worth publishing, but not worth supporting in any manner whatsoever. Sometimes there's the allegation that a foreign arm of the company insisted a particular game needed to be released locally but the local arm of the company didn't agree with that decision and thus will follow only the letter of the order and not the spirit, but often it doesn't seem to make even that much sense.