Hawley witnesses culture. Is confused.

March 16, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I was lucky enough to be able to hear and see Star Wars In Concert, in the fabulous position of the third row from the front, and directly opposite the conductor.

Now I’m not a big (in Sam the Eagle stylee) CULTURE! fan, as I’m too much of a geek.  And whilst my musical tastes can be eclectic, I’m not the sort to follow classical music enough to pay horrendous amounts of cash to wear a suit for fun, and sit with posh people whilst they comment on how the chap at the front held his stick thingy (conductors always make me think of Bez.  Orchestra dancer, that sort of thing.  Makes me giggle).

Star Wars is pretty much the limit of my going to listen to philharmonic orchestras in the flesh, and there’s no surprise really.  It *is* about the music, and I love the music of the films.  To use more technical terminology, the Intellectual Property of Star Wars is enough of a draw to get me out of the house and into a concert hall for a couple of hours, in a way that the usual high culture operatic/symphonic attractions never will.

But we all know that a strong Intellectual Property is a good draw.  It’s a super-duper foot-in-the-door, allowing the salesman to walk on in.  This is not my point.

My point is that this was the *second* time I’ve heard the music of Star Wars live.  The first time was at the premiere of Episode 3 in the park opposite the Odeon in Leicester Square, in a free gig.  And that too was a fantastic couple of hours.

The fact that the first time was such a memorable musical evening meant that there was no question of refusing the offer of a ticket to see the gig last night.  Despite the fact that this was a pay gig rather than free, I didn’t need to worry that I’d be wasting money on a bad night out.

For me, it’s not enough to have a strong Intellectual Property.  To make that Intellectual Property work properly, there *must* be a strong product making use of that property.

MMOs would do well to take heed.  No, this isn’t *just* another dig at Star Trek Online, it’s a dig at quite a number of MMO developers who have taken someone else’s Intellectual Property, and used it purely as a marketing tool.

Make a product strong enough to match the original source, rather than using it to generate pre-release hype, a honey-trap for box purchases, and an easy way of deciding what art to use to skin the game.

In board gaming circles, gags are made about “themes” being glued on to a particular game mechanic.  You might be pretending to build a Spanish palace, but that’s just there to help you get to grips with dealing with some mechanics that would otherwise be very dull, dry and probably confusing.

I worry that MMO gaming will head in a similar direction.  The same old quest/kill/instance/raid grind, dressed up in your favourite skin.  How long will it be before someone creates a Universal MMO, where you fire it up, and then load your favourite skin on top?  You can shoot at stormtroopers with your blaster, whilst the tank sees everyone chopping up orcs, and on the healer’s monitor is a battle between superheroes and villainous mooks.  Everyone in the same group, everyone with their own graphical skin allowing them to play the game they want to play.

Only it isn’t.  It’s a homogenised experience, a game designed to please as many as possible, but lacking the personalisation that would make the game Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, or Fantastic 4/Justice League/Insert Superhero Franchise Here.

I’d like games developers to continue making their games individual.  To create games that work within and around their chosen Intellectual Properties, ones that stand up as examples not only of good games, but good entries in the canon.   To have enough stones to hold out against the money-persons, and create a strong product, one that could stand up in its own right, yet one that uses and becomes part of an Intellectual Property, and that is released when it’s ready.

I can dream.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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