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Bill Murphy: Enough Hyperbole

Columns By William Murphy on February 24, 2011

Enough Hyperbole

There’s something that’s bothering me lately in the games industry as a whole.  It’s the tendency for fans and PR folks alike to use hyperbole as a way to get their point across.  I mean they use it so freaking much it might as well be heroin and the collective consciousness of the people serve as the vein.  Hyperbole is becoming the drug of the masses and soon the world shall follow down the drain. 

See what I did there?

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Really though.  I’m actually a fan of hyperbole when it’s used for entertainment purposes.  I think it has its place in editorial content, works of fiction, film, and so forth.  Our own Adam Janovyak uses his insane ability to make everything exaggerate to great effect.  Yahtzee over at the Escapist is another guy who excels at making mountains out of molehills.  But it’s when Public Relations people and players alike start in on the extremely verbose and melodramatic complaints and adulations that really make us all seem like a bunch of self-serving sycophants and borderline sociopaths.

(More hyperbole.)

We love these games.  I get that.  We spend hours and hours playing them, reading about them, talking about them, and probably even dreaming about them.  That kind of obsession leads to the sort of inane babbling I spoke about in my recent console MMO editorial: players who think they’re designers.  Armchair quarterbacks are annoying, and so are armchair developers.  It’s one thing to posit an idea in a thoughtful and constructive manner.  It’s an entirely different thing to offer that idea when combined with vitriol, clenched fists, and a frothing mouth (have you got it yet that I’m being a hypocrite?).

But I’m not just talking about the players and their reactions here.  The hyperbole tent covers a whole slew of people, and those who should be even more wary of just what they say are the PR and industry folks.  It’s one thing to hype your game.  I think we all get that you should be trying to spread the word about your title, especially when it’s costing millions of dollars and investors are expecting to see an ROI in the near future.  But what I don’t get is when game development became all about over-selling and under-delivering.

Don’t try to tell me that it’s just the way it has to be, either.  EVE Online didn’t get to where it is by sending out tons of “Our game is like Jesus!” e-mails.  CCP got their reputation by consistently delivering great content to EVE.  The World of Darkness is among one of the more anticipated titles by MMO gamers because of the studio making it, not because they’ve exactly been hyping the hell out of it (how much of the game have we actually seen?).  When you come out guns blazing about how your new game is going to “tear the roof off the mother”, all it does is set you up to fail.

This week’s column is short and sweet folks.  Hyperbole has its place.  For entertainment purposes it’s grand.  For suggestions to developers it rarely works.  For PR releases, it’s a double-edged sword and shouldn’t be trifled with.  If we could all just get on this particular bandwagon, I think a lot of the cynicism we see in our community would be subdued.  Pipedream?  Probably.  But we all need something to cling to, right?

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.