Petitions and Video Games Don’t Mix

Like many series, the Paper Mario games have been caught in a downward spiral from which they don’t yet seem capable of recovering.  While Super Paper Mario was certainly not the most popular game in the franchise, it was not until Sticker Star that I believe the series’ decay became clear.  Not long ago, I somehow managed to stumble across a trailer for the newest Paper Mario game, Color Splash for the Wii U.  I had not been looking for it, as I had lost interest in new entries for the series ever since its decline.  Nevertheless, I decided to check it out.

After watching this short video, my initial thoughts on the upcoming Paper Mario game were a bit muddled, to be honest.  It looked…cute, I suppose, and they definitely appeared to be taking the whole “paper” theme to new levels.  But was it going to be another traditional Paper Mario game like the original and The Thousand-Year Door or was it going to continue the unfortunate decline of a once great series?  It was rather difficult to judge the game too much based on one short video, but I had a strong feeling this game was leaning towards mimicking Sticker Star rather than any of the original Paper Mario games.

Called Color Splash, this game has Mario visiting Prism Island, which is in danger of losing its color.  I’m all for the Paper Mario games embracing the “paper” half of the title, but only within certain limits, as I always felt that Paper Mario was largely only “paper” in art style and nothing more.  It’s the difference between paper Mario himself looking like a flat cutout, but acting almost the same in all other respects, and the yarn Kirby in Kirby’s Epic Yarn having the actual ability to unzip things in his environment or unravel enemies.

Now, forgive me if I sound contradictory here, but I must admit at this time that I wasn’t actually a big fan of Kirby’s Epic Yarn.  I know a lot of people liked it, but I just felt as if the yarn aesthetic was more of a gimmick than anything meaningful.  It was a cute game, yes, but does it have the same feel to me as a traditional Kirby game?  No.  It was cute and surprising during my initial playthrough, but after that, I’m back to games like Kirby Superstar and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, which are more traditional titles that follow the pattern that made Kirby a success to begin with.

This is where the Paper Mario series has gone wrong, and I think almost any fan will agree with me on this one.  Sticker Star felt like a gimmick.  Maybe Super Paper Mario wasn’t the best game in the series, and the whole flipping between 2D and 3D concept felt rather gimmicky, but it was still a pretty fun game.  It was just kind of like Paper Mario “light”, keeping the same main characters and the same level of story, but just scaling back on the RPG elements as it relates to battles.  I never played Sticker Star, despite my great love for the Paper Mario series, but one thing that made me reluctant to try it out was when I heard that battles were fought with a limited number of stickers, making item management more important, an aspect of the game that took away many people’s enjoyment of it.  (It’s that very thing that made Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories more of a chore for me to play than something actually entertaining.)

And further research taught me that Color Splash is going to have the same issue.  It appears that this game employs cards in battle, and from what other Youtubers have said, it sounds as if battles are unnecessary because it only uses up your limited cards and paint without giving you anything useful in return, like experience.  What kind of RPG doesn’t allow you to gain experience?  You may as well just play a regular Super Mario Bros game, where battles are also largely optional and have no real impact.

Now, before I go any further, this post is not meant to sway anyone’s opinion on Color Splash.  These are merely my own thoughts, provided for background purposes.  As I sought out more information on the game, I always turn to the Reception section of the game’s Wikipedia article, and I was surprised to see that a petition had been created with the hopes of cancelling this game.  The same had also been done with what is probably a more well-known example, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a game that angered many fans because it was using the Metroid Prime title without appearing to have any relation to the Metroid Prime series.

I’m not good about keeping up with gaming news, so I was rather shocked that people had expressed their dislike for an upcoming title in this way, and it got me thinking of some posts Cary and Hatm0nster had recently written about hype.  To summarize (please check out their posts for the full story), they discussed the intense negative reaction of fans when they learned that No Man’s Sky was being delayed, to the point of even sending death threats to the game’s developer, Hello Games.  While a petition is certainly far more peaceful than death threats, it is a bit surprising sometimes to see how fans will react to news they don’t like.  On one hand, you have fans enraged over the delay of a game they think will be good, or you have fans angry over the development of a game they think will be bad or will otherwise tarnish a good series.

Which brings me to the main point of this post.  Is it appropriate to petition for a game to be cancelled?  Because I, for one, just don’t feel like that’s really the right way to go about it.  If we simply demanded every game that didn’t look good in a two minute trailer (which represents a tiny fraction of the game’s entire length, mind you) be cancelled, then we could very well miss out on a lot of good games.  If this was how we reacted to all games that differed from our expectations, maybe, for the sake of an example, Majora’s Mask would have been cancelled.  Oh, this game doesn’t look like a traditional Zelda game.  We have a time limit.  There are only four dungeons.  And what’s this, it doesn’t even take place in Hyrule?  Let’s put a stop to it before it can even see the light of day.

No.  That just…doesn’t sound like the right response, now does it?  The way I feel about it, it’s the developers’ business to make whatever games they choose, and it’s our business to buy the games we are interested in and pass on the games we don’t want.  Is it such a disaster if a bad game reaches completion and is released for public sale?  No.  Don’t buy it if you don’t want it.  How can we even judge how good a game will be until it’s been released and we’re able to read reviews from people who have played it and watch actual gameplay footage that give us a better picture of what the game is really like?  Petitioning for games to be cancelled could easily prevent good games from being created, and, you know what, it won’t stop bad games from being published that were merely lucky enough to have good trailers.

I completely agree that developers should listen to the fans when we share our opinions in a respectful manner (with an emphasis on “respectful”), and I also believe that developers should take the fans’ suggestions into consideration.  If fans are begging Nintendo to make a traditional Paper Mario game, they should respect the opinions of the people who support their games, or at least try and meet us at some middle ground.  Fine, make Color Splash, but make the battles more like those of the traditional Paper Mario games.  That might help to ease fans’ doubts about the game.  Then, maybe the gimmick of painting things that have lost their color won’t seem so bad anymore.  Maybe.

The thing is, we, as the consumers, don’t always have much say in what is made, whether it be movies, books, or video games.  I admire any developer who can humble themselves and actually listen when the fans have something to say, but in the end, we can only control our own actions, not the actions of the people working at Nintendo or Hello Games or anyone else.  In that case, what can we do?  Well, when words don’t work, let our money speak for us.  Support the games you like; don’t support the games you don’t like.  If games like Color Splash and Federation Force receive poor sales, then perhaps Nintendo will realize that we were serious when we said we didn’t want these games.

Of course, if you think either game looks interesting, by all means, go and buy it.  I am not asking anyone to boycott these games on principle.  I only believe that money sometimes speaks louder than words, and if not enough people are interested in a game, then change might happen.  Both games are scheduled for release by the end of 2016, so obviously the petitions did not prevent these games from being developed.  As for my own intentions, I don’t have any desire to buy Federation Force, as it doesn’t interest me.  As far as Color Splash is concerned, well, I’m on the fence about this one.  I don’t like certain aspects of the game, such as the battle system in particular, but it’s still too early to decide whether or not the rest of the game will still be something fun to play.  Maybe it will end up being a better game than we all think.  It’s just too early to say for sure.

In the end, we don’t need to go to such extreme measures because we aren’t happy about something that has happened to our games.  Anger is not the answer.  Neither are petitions.  I’m disappointed, too, when a series I like changes, but it happens.  I just won’t buy the games anymore, and if enough people do the same, wise developers will take notice and make a change.  If not, then I suppose that’s life.  There are plenty of other good games out there to play.

So what do you think?  Should gamers ever petition for a game to be cancelled?  If so, in what circumstances is this appropriate?  Also, what are your thoughts on the games I discussed above?  Please let me know in the comments.

Ducks That Go Splash

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Really enjoyed this article. The demanding nature of some gamers now, the sense of entitlement, is kind of out of hand. As you point out – the negative reaction to the No Man’s Sky delay was, frankly, an embarrassment to us all.

    Some gamers now know what they want, and know how they want it! Which has led us to the point where developers take no risks, there are few original titles, everything is a sequel, and the big games have become identical to each other in terms of graphics and gameplay.

    For Paper Mario, I hope they lay off the gimmicks and go back to the light RPG style of the earlier ones. But as you say – petitions don’t work. The only way to see change in the industry is to vote with your wallet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Entitlement is the perfect word for it. When developers don’t do what we want, we feel as if we’ve been personally insulted, but the truth is, we have no personal relationship to these companies. The people at Nintendo or Rareware or wherever might make games we play, but we are still strangers to each other, and we have no right to demand that strangers do what we want.

      Anyway, you’re quite correct, maybe developers are indeed listening to us because we have so many games out there that are almost clones of other games that have already been made. It’s difficult to find anything unique anymore because we all want games that are similar to what we already own. Risk is not always bad. Sometimes the best games are the ones that are completely different, so gamers need to stop demanding that every series stay the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hatm0nster says:

    This reminds me of the “gamer entitlement” debate that was going on in the wake of BioWare’s decision to alter the Mass Effect 3 ending. Many of us have gotten into this weird mindset that has us thinking that we have the right to demand just about anything from a developer, even if what we’re asking is impossible.

    What good is a petition going to do anybody? Nintendo is not going to cancel a game that they’ve sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) into just because a few people whined about a trailer and started a petition. That’s never going to happen.

    Further, these sorts of actions are just plain selfish. Sure, there are plenty who don’t want these games, but I’m sure there are some out there who do. What right do we have to say that they shouldn’t be able to have these games available to them?

    I think you’ve laid out the reality here quite well: we DON’T have the right to demand anything of Nintendo or any other developer. We’re simply consumers, and the best way to influence a company is either buying or not buying their products. That’s it.

    I don’t want to think that gamers as a group feel entitled to more than they should, but expecting a developer to make drastic changes to thier plans just because we asked is the very definition of entitlement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      You make some very good points, and I definitely agree that these petitions are rather selfish. Like you said, why should one group of people decide which games become available to the public and which games don’t? For example, a lot of people didn’t really like Star Fox Adventures because it was nothing like a traditional Star Fox game. I could definitely see people trying to cancel a game like that nowadays. Nevertheless, I love that game, and it’s actually one of my favorites on the GameCube. It wouldn’t be fair if a group of people prevented that game’s release. There will almost always be someone who enjoys a game, and that’s what matters.

      Frankly, any creative endeavor, whether it be video games, novels, or movies should be created based on the vision of the ones creating it. I know I wouldn’t like it if I had some idea for a novel, for example, that was personal to me, and people demanded I change it. In the case of a book, the author should have full freedom to take their story in whatever direction they want. The same goes for video games.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shell Games says:

    I think if there’s a legitimate pressing reason for gamers to want a game to be cancelled, like if you had a game glorifying slavery or apartheid or something, a petition and outrage would be acceptable. (However, in such a situation I’ve known gamers to be more outspoken about “free expression” and “censorship” when it comes to producing works that trivialize things like real-world travesties.) However, just because you don’t like it? That’s entitlement. And gamers are so prone to it!

    I’ve noticed/heard lots of complaints about Pokemon Go, with players insisting that by taking out tracking and not having perfect servers that they would uninstall their games and force a sharp decline in Niantic’s profits or what have you… While they continued to twiddle their thumbs and get pokeballs from pokestops. The latest updated added images of grass to the “nearby” menu, as well as making said menu update much more frequently and accurately. I listened to a woman complain for TEN MINUTES about how the grass was the worst thing to happen to the game. GRASS.

    I think you’re onto something when you suggest that things like the changing of a series is normal and not getting what we want is just a part of life. The only two useful ways of trying to persuade developers otherwise is through constructive suggestion and our wallets.

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      I completely agree with your idea on when games should be petitioned. The only reason I can think of that a game should ever be petitioned is if, like you said, it supports something offensive. That would definitely be the point when a developer crosses a line. But there is certainly nothing offensive about Color Splash having a less than satisfactory battle system, and thus, there is no justified reason to demand the game be cancelled.

      Ah, that’s rather amusing about Pokemon Go. Sometimes people take their games far too seriously. A little change is not the end of the world. This kind of reminds me of how I recently read a lot of complaints about some supposed lag in Half-Life 2. I have, according to these very same people, the worst version of the game (the PS3 version), and I rarely noticed a thing. People get so outraged about these kinds of things. My goodness, people, the game might slow down for a split second from time to time. It’s no big deal. Even once I became aware of the issue and went out of my way to seek it out just so I could see what they were talking about, I rarely noticed anything out of the ordinary. And yet the people on the forums seemed quite distraught about this.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Arec says:

    I feel like petitioning may be a strong route but that’s because I am lazy and feel that just not buying/endorsing the game would be appropriate. I am simple.

    However, I feel there are series that should have stopped long ago. I personally feel Nintendo is guilty of this with all of their mainstream titles.

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      Sometimes the simplest route is the most effective. The only thing video game developers will truly take seriously is poor sales, not petitions or anything else.

      And that’s quite true that some series do need to just end. They can’t go on forever without getting stale or simply straying too far from what the fans originally enjoyed about them. I still do enjoy a lot of Nintendo’s main series like Zelda and such (though I admit that I’ve gotten rather tired of all the gimmicky Kirby titles and the New Super Mario Bros games…), but I do think that Nintendo is one of the more stubborn companies when it comes to doing what they want and disregarding what the fans ask for. It’s like how many people disliked the Wii’s strange controller and the way its graphics lagged far behind its competitors. And what does Nintendo do? They release the Wii U, with graphics nearly identical to the Wii’s, and with a controller that is nearly as awkward and which weighs three times as much. Um, Nintendo just doesn’t get it sometimes.

      Like

  5. I’m with you that these outcries are immature and entitled to say the least. As you say, there a lot of now-popular titles that received negative backlash pre-release, first one that comes to my mind is Metroid Prime. First person Metroid, an outside American developer who had never made a game prior, unfavourable impressions from the gaming media… and then it comes out and is branded a stone cold classic.

    I think fans need to take a step back and consider that the task of game developers is not to give fans what they want, but to give them something they don’t know they want. That means developers need to be open to taking an established franchise in a new direction, even if it doesn’t sound good ON PAPER. Fan feedback is all well and good but if you base every game on it, then you run the risk of franchises becoming stale.

    Like

    1. duckofindeed says:

      You make some very good points. Your example with Metroid Prime is perfect proof that we can’t judge a game until after it’s released. That’s also interesting what you said about developers giving us games we didn’t know we wanted. People don’t like change, so any change to an established franchise is usually meant with complaints. But change can be very good for a franchise, and we should trust that the game developers know what they’re doing. They want to make money, so they’re only going to make games they think people want to buy. If their decisions hurt a franchise, they certainly didn’t intend for that to happen.

      I guess in the end, the fans need to realize that we aren’t any more capable of making wise decisions than the creators of these games are. (Probably less so, in most cases.) We need to just let them do their jobs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. As a fan I will gladly throw up my hands and say I don’t know the first thing about how to actually make a game. I’d rather leave that to the professionals who (hopefully) know they’re what doing.

        Also I wonder if with Colour Splash/Federation Force people feel a duty to buy these games because they like the franchise and want it to continue (in a way they like)…? I don’t agree with this vote with your dollar idea. One sale is not going to change the fortunes of a game, and it’s not like game publishers have any way of knowing why someone did or didn’t buy a game. Whether you buy it or not, you’re not going to “send a message”. Really I think you should just buy what you like and don’t buy what you don’t 🙂

        Like

      2. duckofindeed says:

        That’s true what you say about the “voting with our dollars” idea. Even if Color Splash, for example, gets poor sales, it isn’t necessarily going to tell Nintendo anything. They may simply think people aren’t interested in Paper Mario anymore and just not make them anymore. I guess we get too caught up sometimes in the idea of influencing developers. Maybe if I contact them and let them know my thoughts on… Maybe if enough people don’t buy this game, this will happen…

        I guess it all leads back to the idea that we need to just step back and let the companies do things their way. It’s not up to us to influence the decisions some company we don’t work for makes. Like you said, just buy the games you want. Which is what we all used to do until petitions and public outrage complicated everything.

        Liked by 1 person

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