Thursday, April 23, 2015

Splatoon Will Probably Be Better Without Voicechat

So I've been pretty excited about Nintendo's bizarre third person shooter, Splatoon, since it was unveiled at e3 last year. It's a novel take on the third person shooter format, in that it focuses on territory control over just simple combat, in addition to a slick art style and all ages appeal.

It's also been plagued by complaints at almost every step of its development. Initially people were upset at the lack of basic deathmatch, despite the fact that deathmatch gameplay would both undermine the key innovation at the heart of the game, and be redundant, since you can get that experience in almost every other third person shooter on the market. Dumb.

The newest controversy has surrounded Nintendo's decision not to include online voice chat in the game, with some people going as far as to have their entire purchase decision based purely on the lack or presence of this single feature. People seem to think that Nintendo is refusing to get on board with a feature that has become standard, and therefore a necessity, because they are old fashioned and out of touch.

First of all, these same kinds of complaints have been happening forever for Nintendo. Whether it was their decision not to switch to CD with the n64, or their decision not to focus on online connectivity with the Gamecube, Nintendo has long had to battle against the perception that they are the old heads of the industry. Mind you, neither of the above decisions were objectively bad; both consoles still had tons of excellent games, many of which provided experiences that were totally unavailable on other consoles. But subjectively, people's expectations were betrayed. Subjectivity is the issue here.

I think we live in an age where the individual opinion is perceived as being more important than ever before, but it seems that this has caused people to lose perspective altogether. The line between subjective judgment and objective truth has been blurred to the point where I don't think most people even try to discern the difference. I understand that true objectivity is nearly impossible, but I think you can get pretty damn close if you keep an open mind and look at things from a distance.

Subjectively, any set of arbitrary expectations can be used as a standard for judgment, but that's irrational and self centered. We've come to view games purely in the context of how they conform to our own, largely arbitrary, preferences, as opposed to independent pieces of art, to be experienced and learned from. Nobody cares what creators have to say, unless they are spilling details on DLC.

At the end of the day, we're faced with a pretty simple choice. Do we want to be pleased and entertained, or do we want to explore and experience? If all we want is the gratification of our expectations, then all we'll get is banal redundancy. Splatoon might not have the exact feature set of any other third person shooter, but that's because it isn't supposed to be any other third person shooter. It's a different approach, and in a world full of copycats and me-toos, we ought to relish those differences.

Soap box speech over.

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