Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Triple-A Ain't What it Used to Be

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 8 Apr 2014 12:00
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What concerns me about the games industry at present - one of the things, I should say, or we'll be here all night - is what little connection there seems to be between the level of a game's profile and its genuine quality. To put that another way, it seems like the experiences of players and the actual meat-and-potatoes content of a game have almost been entirely stricken from the agenda when it comes to the media surrounding the game. And the conversation always seems to mysteriously end when the game actually comes out.

Look at the box art for Titanfall on Google Image Search and you'll see a medal pinned to it boasting that it received over 60 awards at E3. But that would have been when it was in preview form, before anyone had a full picture of the actual game. Sight unseen, the marketers dutifully plaster ads across billboards and along the sides of buses, cutting trailers together from the scripted spectacular moments awkwardly forced into the game, then putting them where they can get the most eyeballs. The media are subtly carrot-and-sticked into providing endless coverage that become more like coverage of hype surrounding a game rather than the game itself. And in more recent years you can add the courting of Let's Players and such figures, those who have been rather coldly and euphemistically named 'influencers' by the businessmen who took notice.

But the moment the game is out, and placed in the hands of people with no vested interest in making it look good, then all of that seems to end. That which any idiot could have seen was the usual generic tosh is now revealed as such, but everyone stops listening. The machine has already moved on to start hyping up the next big thing on which hundreds of Christmas bonuses depend. Over and over again this happens. I know full well I am not telling you anything you do not already know, but I just want to ask - you do know that this isn't cool, right?

I mean, 'triple-A' used to mean good. It used to mean the very epitome of good. 'A' alone was supposed to mean top-notch perfection, and AAA was like three times that. But we have reached the point that 'triple-A' is now a term that I associate solely with negativity. Somewhere along the line 'triple-A' stopped being a label that is applied to a game after its good quality has been determined, but one that is applied before the game has even begun development, to describe the manner in which it will be created and hyped.

I feel like we're all living in somebody else's fantasy world. A small elite group decides that their riches and power means that they have control over the very fabric of the universe. They decide ahead of time that the game they are creating is going to be so amazing that it will be championed to the heavens, its name in lights and chanted by the adoring masses. And if the universe does not seem to agree with this position, they will use their power and wealth to put a facade around it so that it looks like it does. Poster campaigns and billboards and trailers, a bit of veiled threat to the media now and then. But it's like a movie set in a desert. A dazzling exterior painted on canvas, and underneath, nothing.

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