Last time, I ranted like Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery against the Star Wars franchise. This time, I promise to deliver more constructive criticism.
It all comes down to expectations, and how marketing and advertising makes a certain promise to the audience, but the actual product delivers something else.
This phenomenon has been around since the dawn of marketing and advertising. So long as the product meats certain expectations, consumers don’t complain much and won’t walk away. But there is a line.
For example, have you seen the artwork for those old Atari video games in the 1980s? And then compared that artwork to the actual game play? Yet video gamers came to expect this, so it was okay (until Atari had to compete with Nintendo and other rivals).
Yet if the expectations don’t match the advertising, then consumers will howl. It’s why people like me continue to deride the Star Wars prequels to this day, though I used to be a huge Star Wars fan. The Last Jedi pretty much killed the franchise because it failed to deliver my expectations that Star Wars is a drama, not a comedy.
As for RPGs, with D&D Third Edition, the marketing promoted the games as simpler system, the d20 mechanic intuitive, and giving players more character built options. Who would have guessed that by character level 10th (or the year 2002) rules bloat made the game play, at times, slow to a crawl and players and DMs stacked modifier after modifier. The game became boring.
D&D Fourth Edition marketing, again, argued for a simpler system which would fix the problems with D&D Third Edition. Instead, gamers received a strange World of Warcraft emulation. I bought into wholesale expecting it would be easier to DM; the reality, for me anyway, it was a headache to DM for low-level characters and the faulting editing with the core rulebooks made me want to chuck it all into a woodchipper. That game wasted three months of my time and disappointed myself and my players.
D&D Fifth Edition is another beast. I recognize it as D&D, but I have no motivation to play it. The marketing didn’t lure me initially, in part because the D&D franchise had failed to meet my expectations twice before. I eventually bought the Player’s Handbook using credit card points, read through parts of it, and nothing appealed to me, or got me excited. I’m a holdout.
Furthermore, most of the official products for D&D Fifth Edition are rehashes of older material going back to AD&D makes me even less interested. How many times must players chase after the lich Acererak since the original Tomb of Horrors? (Oh, but this time its in the Forgotten Realms(!), which one massive hodgepodge derivative of real-world fantasy literature, history, cultures, and mythology, which makes me even more disinterested.
Just reading the D&D Fifth Edition Player’s Handbook almost makes me channel my inner Annie Wilkes–all those references to existing D&D products from the past. It’s all be done before and it keeps coming back.
The other day, while at my favorite local gaming store, a couple friends were fawning over The Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and I wanted to shout:
I had promised I’d be more constructive, so here’s my advice, to all of those gamers (and people in general) out there who might feel left in the dust with the latest and greatest media sensation in geek-dom or RPG you’re supposed to like:
It’s fine not to like it. Chances are, if you don’t like it, you’re probably not part of the target audiences. And guess what? It’s fine to voice your dissenting opinion.
It’s fine not to feel obligated to join the crowd and like what everybody else supposedly likes. There’s nothing wrong with bowing out and saying: not for me thanks.
It’s fine to leave a group. You might come off as an elitist bastard. But that’s okay, maybe someday–sooner or later–they’ll realize you have taste, you have standards.
What’s not fine is going Annie Wilkes on somebody, telling a gamer designer, artist, or other creator they should be fired or are waste of carbon.
Save that kind of vitriol for the politicians.
It’s a waste of energy to tear what your supposed to like down. I know for a fact those fine folks at Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro/Disney (whomever it is now) will push mainstream D&D and the Star Wars franchises for every last penny. I won’t stop that.
But I can go another direction…
If you’re really that opposed to what your supposed to like, then create something of your own. That’s the best course of action.
The second best course of action is support something you do like. Build it up. Find others who are like-minded.
The third best course of action is speak your criticism to only those who are willing to listen. It’s okay to vent your annoyances.
The last best (or worst, depending on the context) course of action is to remain silent.