Tag Archives: gaming

Mistaken Fantasies of Ownership

Its Dead JimWondercon is coming up at the end of the month and, of course, we’re going.  Don’t worry, I’ll do what I always do, post progress reports for the convention on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and will have regular posts those days as well.  However, that’s not what this article is all about.

I see a lot of old-school MMO players who seem to think that because they’ve been playing in that particular genre of video games for a long time, that somehow that gives them some say in how modern-day video games are made, like someone ought to have consulted them before daring to make any changes in the genre.  Far too many of them feel entitled to get a game made specifically for them, whether or not it’s financially viable, just because they’ve somehow “earned” it.

But that brings us back around to Wondercon, or more properly, Wondercon’s big brother, San Diego Comicon.  I started going to that convention back in the mid-70s when it was only a few years old and attended for close to 40 years straight.  Hell, I’ve not only been an attendee, not only been a volunteer, I’ve been on staff for the convention.  Today, I don’t go anymore, I don’t really like what it’s become and it’s just not fun anymore.  However, does my longevity in attendance and organization mean I somehow have some control over what they do with their convention?  Should they have come and consulted me before they made any changes?  Of course not!

To be sure, this is all a bunch of entitlement nonsense, people thinking that they deserve to be rewarded with exactly what they want, just because they want it.  We’ve raised a generation or two of people whose entire mindset is “gimme gimme gimme!  mine mine mine!”  They think that the planet owes them whatever they can wish for and if they don’t get it immediately, then they’re entitled to sit there and whine about what an unfair place the world is.

What’s worse, even after you explain to them why it’s unlikely that they’ll get what they want, they just don’t care.  I’ve had people tell me “I’m a consumer, not a stockholder, I don’t care about their business considerations, all I care about is getting what I want!”  What would happen if I took that attitude with regard to SDCC?  I don’t care that all businesses exist to make money!  I want them to be a smaller convention that only caters to those things I’m interested in!  If they don’t do exactly what I want, I’m going to sit here and hold my breath until I turn blue!  Waaaaaaah!

They’d tell me what to go do with myself and rightfully so, just as MMO developers ought to tell these old-school nuts where they can shove their entitlement fantasies.  It’s one thing to say “I’d really like to have this but I understand that in the current gaming market, it’s just not popular enough to engender the millions of dollars and years of development time required”.  I can live with that.  It’s the people who jump up and down and demand that someone out there cater just to them that make me want to knock people in the head.

And finally, for those people who say “you don’t know that the game I want will fail”, you’re right.  I don’t know, to any absolute degree of certainty, that your game will financially combust, but neither do I have any reason to think, nor evidence to support, a claim that it will be financially successful.  Luckily, business decisions are not made on the basis of spending money on every cockamamie idea that comes down the road that cannot be proven wrong, they require good evidence that the project will provide a significant return on investment.  There is no reason to think that an old-school MMO will do that, therefore, nobody makes them.

Logic, whatever will they come up with next?

Being a Rational Skeptic: The Hobby Edition

Planet RationalI’ve spoken at length about being a skeptic, as opposed to just being skeptical about a few sundry subjects.  We even dedicated a segment to it on our podcast, The Bitchspot Report.  I made it very clear that you can differentiate between someone who is skeptical, that applies logic and reason to one or to several areas of their lives, and someone who is a skeptic, who applies those logical rules to every aspect of their life without exception.  I definitely fall into the latter.

However, I find that most people simply cannot manage it, they cannot maintain their skepticism full time.  Hell, for a lot of people, they cannot even maintain it a small percentage of the time.  Nowhere is this more plain to me than when it comes to hobbies.  I know I’ve talked about some of these things before, but not from this particular angle, so please bear with me.

Collecting: Stamps – It really doesn’t matter what you collect, it seems, there are always complaints about how it’s produced, how much it costs, how hard it is to find, etc.  Take U.S. postage stamps for example.  Everyone always complains how many stamps are released each and every year, the USPS releases even more stamps than the year before.  In 2013, for example, they’ve already either released or announced for release in the first quarter, more than 100 face-different stamps, making 2013 almost certainly the history-leader in number of different stamps to be issued.  Why?  Certainly it isn’t for the envelope-mailing public, it is aimed specifically at the collector market and designed to bring in more revenue for the nearly bankrupt USPS.  Collectors everywhere complain long and loud about how expensive it is to collect U.S. stamps and condemn the USPS for their tactics,  yet they refuse to consider the obvious solution to the problem:  stop collecting new U.S. postage stamps!  In fact, not only do they refuse to consider it, they refuse, by and large, to even talk about the possibility.  The moment the idea even comes up, conversation virtually stops.  The very idea of not mindlessly buying everything that comes out, no matter how ugly, overpriced or overproduced it is, it’s like suggesting sawing the head off their cat.  The same person will scream about how terrible what the USPS is doing and then, in the next breath, say they’ll be in line Friday to buy a whole pile of these stamps, in every conceivable format, to stick them in an album.  Seriously?!?!?!?

Collecting: Action Figures – It’s not like  action figure collectors are any better.  The whole of the collector fanbase has been abuzz with the severe reduction in articulation in both Hasbro and Mattel figures.  Many lines are now coming with 5-points of articulation, which is utterly absurd considering at one point, some figures were coming with 30-35 points of articulation.  Lots of modern action figures are essentially lumps of poorly painted plastic that hardly do anything, they’re more like inaction figures.  The prices suck too.  The figure quality becomes cheaper, the prices become more expensive, the selection of figures becomes more limited as well as companies are taking fewer risks and over-producing the most popular characters again and again.  Add the fact that so many stores, after getting burned by the poor case packing schemes, are just not ordering much, if any, new product and the shelves are bare.  So what do action figure collectors do?  Do they rationally consider their purchases?  Of course not!  They whip out the credit card and buy everything, no matter how badly made or how expensive it happens to be.  In fact, some of them are convinced that if they only support the manufacturers who, according to them, are doing everything wrong, that maybe things will improve, so they’re buying even more things that they scream about!  How is this rational?

Pets –  Yes, I know pets really aren’t a hobby, but I see the same kind of fanatical nonsense here as well.  So many people act like their pets are really their children and treat them better than they treat themselves.  Of course, don’t dare suggest that people with a dozen parrots, who can hardly afford macaroni and cheese for themselves shouldn’t have that many birds, or that they should stop desperately looking around for more birds to adopt, or that they should stop treating their birds lavishly, they’ll scream at you and call you names.  In fact, if you don’t adopt their methods, they’ll call you names anyhow.  That’s not how rational people work, it’s how fanatics function.  If you remember, not too long ago I wrote about a bruhaha that happened on a forum where the bird crazies were criticizing the ASPCA for giving what they viewed as a bad impression of the costs of pet ownership.  While I agree there may be some bad numbers in there, they screamed because they viewed their absurd spoiling of their birds to be the norm that everyone ought to be doing.  I think it said that for a small bird, $25 a year in toys would suffice.  Oh hell no!  These people spend over $100 a month on toys!  they order raw materials online and spend all their time building toys!  They spend half their days arranging and re-arranging the toys in the cage!  They have tubs of toys that have never even been used and they’re still getting more!  They feed their birds the most expensive premium food money can buy and that’s not even good enough, they have to cook their own organic food, designed just for the birds, as a supplement.  In fact, I know of at least one person who planted a variety of fruit trees in their back yard because they didn’t trust any other source for fresh fruit without pesticides, etc.  Then, these people take their birds to the vet several times a year, just to have a battery of tests done, on the off chance that something might be wrong.  They spend thousands of dollars a year in preventative care and all they accomplish is keeping their vet in BMWs, while they drive around in beat up 20-year old cars.  And then, because that’s what they do, they expect that everyone else out there ought to do the same or they’re a bad pet owner.  It’s just ludicrous.

Gaming –  Yup, it happens here too and for a lot of the same reasons I noted above under collecting.  If you’ve ever hung out in a gaming forum, you’ll see all manner of bitching and whining about how horrible MMOs are today, how there isn’t a single game out there worth playing, that the  games are all stupid and dumbed down and the people are horrible, but these same people who complain about every aspect of gaming will advance purchase every damn new MMO that comes on the market!  Every single solitary one!  And then, they’ll sit there and complain how awful they are, while plunking down a monthly fee every month!  But don’t suggest that if they hate these games so much, they should go find something else to do.  Oh no!  They think they deserve to have the perfect game to play, even if it would be a massive financial failure in the real world.  Many of them are convinced that because they’ve been playing these games that they now hate for so many years, they are uniquely qualified and somehow deserving of being able to define what they games are and how they’re made and damn it, everyone ought to listen!

It’s not just the religious people who are fucking stupid, it’s EVERYBODY!  Is it any wonder I spend so much time looking at humanity and being frustrated?

Hobby Loyalty

Einstein InsanityEinstein InsanityI seriously don’t get the desire of hobbyists to have utter loyalty to the source of their hobbydom, even when that source is really screwing up.  I see this kind of fanatical devotion in a lot of hobbies, in fact, maybe in all hobbies, where people think they somehow owe it to companies or organizations to overlook their shortcomings, even when they have nothing but criticism for those shortcomings.

Case in point, as everyone knows, I collect stamps.  I have been highly critical of the number of stamps the United States Postal Service releases every year, it’s an absurd amount and increasing year after year, specifically to sell more stamps to collectors.  There was a time when you could buy an entire year’s output of stamps, adjusted for inflation, for a few bucks.  Today, it’s a few hundred dollars.  There’s no reason for it, other than to screw the collector.  So in 1993, I opted out.  I no longer collect new issues of U.S. stamps and have never regretted that decision.  However, holy shit, you tell most U.S. collectors that you’re not buying everything the USPS puts out and they are aghast.  How dare I not support them to my very last dollar!  In fact, when I tell people that I hardly send anything through the mails, I get criticized for sending the USPS spiraling down into bankruptcy.  Sorry, their mismanagement is not my problem and since I couldn’t care less what stamps they put out today, I really don’t care if they go out of business entirely.  In fact, I hope they do.

The same is true of action figures, which I pretty much gave up on this year.  I still keep a toe in the hobby so I know what’s going on, but likewise, there are people who think that no matter how expensive it gets, no matter how bad the quality gets, no matter how horrendous the distribution of action figures gets, we somehow owe it to Hasbro and Mattel to keep buying every crappy thing they put out, no matter how much we don’t want to.  It’s our responsibility to prop up an industry, no matter how bad it gets, because we’re fanatically devoted to getting our new plastic fix.

Another group that has this same problem are MMO gamers.  Over the years, many of them assert that the MMO industry has gone downhill, the games are simplified to the point of absurdity, they’re not fun, they’re stupid, yet the concept of not playing an MMO, even one they hate with a passion, is beyond considering.  They will pay money month after month for a game that they detest and spend all of their time sitting on a forum bitching and whining about because they cannot bring themselves to admit that they’ve outgrown the industry and they want something that so few people want, there’s no chance that a developer is ever going to make a game they’ll like.

To be honest, the more I think about it, a lot of hard-core comic book fans are the same.  They complain long and loud about how awful comics have become and how much they hate all the decisions made by comic companies.  When DC came out with their New 52, lots of people were up in arms, claiming it would ruin the industry.  However, suggest to those people that they stop buying the comics they detest and you hear cries of “heresy”!  They can’t possibly do that, how else will they get their comic fix?  They would rather pay for things they detest and then complain about it than to take a stand and vote with their wallets and just go find something different to do.

Hey, not to leave anyone out, what about music or movie fanatics?  I can’t tell you how many times I see people whining loud and long about how bad music is or how expensive it is or how horrible anything coming out of Hollywood is, but they’re the ones with terabytes of music on their MP3 players and they’re the ones standing in line all night to get into the first showing of the next movie.

Sorry, that’s not for me.  I have never been fanatical about, well, anything.  I collect because I want to collect.  I get what I want to get.  When I stop wanting to collect a particular thing, I stop.  I don’t get the jitters.  I don’t get upset.  I don’t have withdrawal symptoms.  I just stop.  It was fun while it lasted.  I will enjoy what I have and move on to something else.  I do not understand the kind of obsessive/compulsive personalities that have to get a particular thing, no matter how awful it gets.  I play games because they’re fun.  When they stop being fun, I stop playing them.  When books stop being good, I stop reading them.  When movies aren’t interesting, I stop watching them.  I don’t have any absurdly strong attachment to any particular thing, my life does not revolve around any specific action or event.  If I stop wanting to do something, I simply stop doing it.  I just don’t get people who cannot bring themselves to do the same.

Unfortunately, I see the same thing happening in the atheist community as well.  So many people bitch and whine about how much they hate Atheism+, how they wish it would just go away, yet they spend all their time following all the asshats around, following their every move and commenting on their every word, even though they know for a fact that it’s that very attention that keeps Atheism+ going.  It’s about as ridiculous as the people who hate religion, who say they wish religion would vanish, who adamantly want religion to stop impacting on their lives, then they follow the religious around like rabid lunatics, they constantly harass them on Twitter, post to religious hashtags specifically to cause an adverse reaction, then whine about how the religious are bothering them.  It really gets ridiculous.

People seem to be their own worst enemies, they don’t seem to be able to just walk away from things they hate, they don’t understand that nothing will change for the better if they keep up the status quo.  You don’t like how video games are?  Stop playing those video games.  Vote with your wallet.  You don’t like those toys or stamps or comics?  Don’t buy them!  You can’t stand being around a particular group?  Stop being around them!  I don’t think this is rocket science, it’s common sense, but unfortunately, as is all too painful these days, common sense isn’t terribly common.