142: Hero Worship

Hero Worship

"Gaming became a recluse. It stayed in its bedroom most nights, and like every sulking teenager it hung posters of its idols on the walls. A ferociously bearded Richard Garriott. A godlike silhouette of Will Wright. A revealing portrait of Peter Molyneux wearing only a coy smile. Lying in bed at night, gaming would whisper to itself that one day - one day - it would be revered by all."

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How fitting that just before I read this article, I was researching on Albert Camus's "The Myth of Sisyphus," an essay that focuses on humanity's encounter with the absurd. A lot of things just seemed to match...

By the way, excellent first article here Michael.

Indeed! Good article.

Lovely article.

I find that I generaly will "worship" a studio over an individual. Blizzard is greater then Mike Morhaime, Biowares games werent only made by Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk and i dont even know the names of any developers at Bungie.

The only exception I have to this rule would be Tim Schafer, but "his" games I dont view in the same way I view other games. They are merely pieces of art put into the shells of games and the team behind them seem irelevant (but this is probably far from reality).

The article was bad in the form of it sounded more like self realization of yourself and not the reader.

I had no idea whom Kim Swift was nor did I care when I read this. And ooh, how dare you mock on Spore! ;o It looks pure awesome for about 15-30min time / day when you can be arsed to make a new race in it.

I don't "worship" people or studios as the above mentions but I do agree on that Blizzard makes truely excellent games and I can't almost wait for Starcraft II since I view Starcraft as their best creation next to Warcraft. I don't worship people or studios although I do worship Nintendo <_<, I worship good & fun games!

Ha, no one gets to be called a hero till they're dead. No one thanked Samuel Johnson for inventing literary criticism until his corpse was six feet under and his harshest critiques realized they kinda missed him. Lester Bangs got the same treatment.

Once you're gone people gloss over your failings and celebrate your triumphs. Does anyone remember Shakespeare's 'A Winter's Tale'? What about Alfred Hitchcock's bad movies? I think Cook is right, we need our game heroes to die so we can celebrate their genius without them proving us wrong.

But do heroes fail because they were just artificial heroes, or because their subsequent work could NEVER live up to our expectation of them, having placed them on this pedestal? See: George Lucas.

Short Story: I have favorites, for sure, but I guess I've never worshipped any game or person enough to be disappointed if/when they screwed up. Horray for being jaded! n_n

(This is much of the same, only more long-winded, read at your own desire to waste your time.)
Long Story: I agree with most of that, but the part that struck me was when it was finally noted that, just maybe, Spore won't be as completely amazing and spectacular as everyone is expecting it to be... On that note, add Little Big Planet (?), they'll both be a disappointment, and I want everyone to know that I effing called it. Meh, maybe it's just me, but I never cared about the names behind the games I was playing, I just picked up whatever sounded good and played it. I never worshipped a person, or even a game/series, not even now, when I actually care to say I'm a fan of a game/series... There's always exceptions, both now and in the future, so I won't be too surprised when my beloved Harvest Moon series drops yet another mediocre title (and I have to go back to HM64 or HMFoMT) or Nobuos new album is full of sub-par renditions that rely on nostalgia for sales (and I have to go back to the first album). I guess I've learned, even before I got to the point where I'd need to, never to expect anything out of a game but the worst... So while I do have favorites, I don't think they are infallible, so I'm never so thoroughly disappointed as you describe in this article.

"I had no idea whom Kim Swift was nor did I care when I read this." So? Is this the first time that an article in The Escapist has mentioned something about video games that was news to you? And who decided that articles must be about the reader and not the author in order to be good?

As for the article, I enjoyed it. I guess we'll always have people fawning over Carmack, Miyamoto, and others, and perhaps it is new that people are realizing that they're not gods and goddesses but mere mortals with flaws.

Hero worship is not about the Heroes themselves, it's about the people doing the worshiping.

It's one of our oldest instincts: someone glorious and flawless you can grow up to be JUST LIKE someday. When you're small, it's the heroes you see on TV, when you're big, it's the Heroes you read about in the newspapers and while there is certainly no shortage of people willing to spend time on that Pedestal, it's still about you, the common Human, and your desire to be something better.

I personally think anything that results in people taking steps to better themselves and live up to their dreams isn't a bad thing.

Perhaps I should add that realizing that your heroes are no longer gods is actually encouraging because it shows you CAN be like them.

I found the article to be an engaging perspective into the psyche surrounding this industry. I've gamed since my father purchased a 286, and I feel fortunate to have witnessed (similar to most of you) the technology -- and the hype -- bloom firsthand.

Now that I'm older (read: married with children) I cannot approach gaming as I had done in the past, and that, perhaps, is one of the reasons I identify with Michael's abrasive opinion. The gaming industry is now at arm's length from me. I lack the capacity of awe towards blockbuster advertising, aggressive previews, or any other form of pre-release revenue drumming seen in the last decade. But I may be straying from Michael's topic.

This shift away from a small, idyllic industry is inevitable. Popularity brings a whirlwind of expectations from consumers, critics, developers, and their publishers, and that's where things can get mucked up. On top of that, nostalgia has a way of romanticizing the past.

This column could have been called "One Man's Journey from Wide Eyed to Eyes Open". I have gone through several of these "story arcs" of blind admiration to acknowledgment of imperfections, from hero worship to being in love to really digging a song. I urge everyone to refrain from being defensively cynical, having heroes means you have aspects that you respect and aspire to. Who would want to live without that?

As a father of two, I can see my kids enjoying that early shiny wonder and delight at finding a person to make into a personal hero. Yes they know rationally that their hero is not perfect, but they choose to ignore that because its fun (and somewhat necessary) to make their own pantheon of gods.

The big take-away I get from your very engaging column is how much games and their creators fulfilled the needs of your personal mythos. I am old enough that video-gaming happened during my late teen years, so my earliest heroes were in books (no, not SCROLLS! I am not that old!) and TV.

Mm, I do understand your way of thinking, but I can not agree that it is Hero worship in itself that has destroyed the gaming industry. I do not even think the gaming industry is ruined. I'd rather like to point to the fact that the more games that are produced, the more bad (or conventional) games are going to be produced and it will, thus, be harder to find the nuggets out there.

Furthermore, it may also very well be that when games where relatively new, those who experienced them found the concept to be a new, refreshing experience and thus both remember them as more unique than they actually are, living off nostalgia, not accepting that they are, and judged them from that aspect, having not much to compare with.

Admittedly, as one can make a lot of money from the business nowadays, many developers might not feel a need to produce anything unique. Too bad, huh, considering the untapped potential going to waste, and the time spent by gamers, trying to find the games they would enjoy.

Good article anyways, with its interesting theories and enjoyable content. Cudos!

Perhaps the compelling tone of this article is the author's self-realization of idolatry (for lack of a better term) and the demystification of his subject afterwards. It's a universal experience.

Wily is correct in his assertion that we need models to which we aspire. Otherwise, people could get lost in the muck of daily living. Models allow people a way to see outside their personal or environmental flaws, and they become a beacon of sorts which can shift from their original meaning as we mature. And there is nothing wrong with that. Exploration, discovery, and revelation circle back into itself as we find someone to replace the older heroes who don't fit our current needs.

Well.

...That was a bit of a mind****. Good job. I like a good mind****.

So, Smoke, Cuddle, Talk, or Sleep? Your choice.

Names have never been very important to me as much as game concepts. If Miyamoto retired tomorrow, I'd still buy a Mario game two years down the line. I buy it for nostalgia. If it weren't for Spore, I would gladly ignore Will Wright. It's the game I've wanted to make since grade school. Molyneux... I've long since learned to ignore. Still keeping an eye on Fable 2. It looks to live up to at least some of Molyneux's ramblings on Project Ego.

You want to get me rabid about a game, sure. That's easy enough. Hero Worship... well. Maybe Will Wright. Maybe. I'm not sure whether to blame him for "The Sims 2: Nose Picking Party." He makes good speeches at least. Seems to be more of a tinker than a game designer.

I found the article somewhat off center in that people tend to "worship" games, franchises, systems, and occasionally companies, and only indirectly revere individuals for or by a somewhat fickle result of the things they create. For example, Nintendo "fanboys" are often considered the most profuse in their confidence with franchises, systems, and people such as Miyamoto. This, using my given logic, is because most applicable successes are first party, creating only a single demagogue for all the potential Hero Worship.

Additionally, I disagree that "the man" or any other industrial authority is controlling the focus of the alleged adoration. Certainly, the media decides which propaganda we are most commonly exposed to, but it is the individual who chooses their hero's, if any, based on the aforementioned criteria.

That said, I thought it was generally well-written, albeit possibly inconclusive or arbitrary to those who cannot sympathize with the conditions of the given story.

Another ingredient for the broken hero illusions is that it's just not "cool" to like stuff anymore. I think Yahtzee said it best (like he says almost everything best) when talking about Portal and why he's not criticizing it:

Yahtzee:
Yeah, I know it's not very funny to love a game, but fuck you!

It's just not cool to like anything anymore, the age of savage all-encompassing spoofs has ushered in an age of timidity.

Now, I'm not suggesting innocence on the part of the "heroes" themselves. Gaming still hasn't left its adolescence, and right now it's going through the same syndrome that's destroyed Hollywood: Sequelitis. And many of our "heroes" are adding to the anger by falling victim to it. But the few gems are getting lost in the flame fest.

L.B. Jeffries:
Once you're gone people gloss over your failings and celebrate your triumphs. Does anyone remember Shakespeare's 'A Winter's Tale'?

Um, I remember it, because it's a great play.

Sylocat:
Um, I remember it, because it's a great play.

What's your favorite part? The guy being chased off stage by a bear or when the love interest fakes being a statue for an entire scene for kicks? I don't think it's a terrible play but it's definitely one of Shakespeare's worst compared to his other stuff.

Hmm.

This is probably way off-topic, but I think hero worship is bad. There are no heroes. We're all just people roaming around, trying to make the best of the situation. This is the same with everyone, from Napoleon to that guy who just saved that little girl from drowning. What I can't understand is why so many people seem to insist on that certain people are 'special' and can do stuff better than anyone else. I mean, look at Alexander the "Great". I've seen people call him an "hero". Why is that? It's totally uncalled for! He would be *nothing* if he didn't have the support of his army. Why aren't the soldiers heroes? Is that title reserved for leaders? And in any case, what "heroic" things did he do? Wage war and conquer! Awesome, right? Not really. Or take the previously mentioned savior of the drowning little girl. Everyone would have done the same, had they shared that persons experiences and that very same situation. Also, he's probably not even doing it for the little girl. He's doing it because if he didn't, he would feel bad about leaving the little girl to die. He's acting egoistically, as we all are, all the time, hence he's no better than any of us.

Though I can see how it might be beneficial to have illusions about heroes, that's all they are. Illusions. (Much like someone mentioned in that creationism vs. evolution comment page, it's sometimes pleasant to have illusions like that, but it doesn't make it any more true. And once you've realized the truth, there's no going back!)

(Then again, the reason I think of it like this is because I'm somewhat of a cynic and a firm believer in determinism to boot.)

On-topic:
It was a... surreal article. I can't really sympathize, since I can't seem to grasp this "hero" thing. In my opinion, the reason the video game market has turned shittier in the later years is because of popularity, as people have mentioned before. Mediocrity and popularity go hand-in-hand. That's not to say that anything popular is bad, but that's just how capitalism works. I've briefly studied some of the business models that, for example, Microsoft is using, and it's basically CUT EXPENSES, CUT QUALITY, CUT PRODUCTION TIME, MAXIMIZE PROFIT. It works wonders if you just want to earn money, but it really doesn't do anything to help the quality of the product. When an industry is small, you don't have the mega cooperations, and thus their quality-shafting plans. They make games because they have a passion about it, they're not just out to make money. (Of course, to make money is also a priority, but not necessarily at the expense of quality.) Now, if the general public wasn't a bunch of idiots, then the corporations might be forced to produce quality, or people might not buy them. Sadly, this is not the case. Regular Joe does not care about quality. As long as the advertising campaign is aggressive enough and lots of other morons are playing it, he's buying it. Same with the music industry. It's not about the music any longer. At least not as much as it used to. It's about clothes, fashion, celebrities (and worship of them- O WAIT NAO, WAT IS DAT? SUM HERO WORSHIP U SAI? Again, they're nothing more than illusions of what we want them to be.)

Anyhoo, this turned out longer than I meant it to be. Just glad to get that off my chest.

Interesting article indeed.

I think 'Hero Worship' is more a symptom of the disease than the virus afflicting gaming itself.

Similarly, massive monetary investment into gaming isn't necessarily the root of gaming's problems.

The root of all gaming evil is, imho, the assumption on the part of the money-masters that games are 'just games' and don't have to (or can't) be anything more than mere spectacle. Then again, I'm probably just a 'games are art' hippie with too much time on my hands.

'Our Society' (the one that we all sort of belong to in the global sense) is an obsessive one. We love and we hate. LA no more has a monopoly on obsessive hero worship than any other arena, *cough* democratic primary *cough* but few obsessions have been portrayed as negatively as gaming.

Or maybe, as a gamer, I'm more sensitive to the negative portrayals.

But I digress.

Hero Worship is just one facet of the obsessions of an obsessive society. We know someone who plays WoW too much. If we have not ourselves seen the edge of 'The Pit', we know personally those who have.

I thought the article was articulate descriptive. I didn't identify with the hero worship, but I could see it.

On the topic of Heroes, I think they are necessary. In terms of learning to be better human beings, it's helpful and easy to look at people who do things wrong and say "I won't do that". But there are so many things to do wrong and it can be so hard to get things right that having a good example to look to is really important. A simple example of this: cooking. You have to be careful and conscientious of each thing you are preparing, but you have to prepare more than one thing at once, and there are many time restrictions for how long each thing has to be doing what where. Seeing someone who can beat an egg right while also keeping an eye on the roast and remebering to take the cake out of the fridge in twenty minutes is a lot more helpful than seeing someone burning the roast and thinking "mental note: don't overcook roast.
A more complex example would be compassion. It's easy to see someone give too much out of compassion and say "Don't give too much or you end up suffering." But if you can see someone who can truly feel compassion for other humans and help them without causing themselves harm, it is much more helpful in teaching you how to become a more compassionate person.
Hero worship is pretty bad though. The compassionate person could be a terrible cook. Obviously we don't care if the compassionate person is a terrible cook, but what about the video game designer who is a terrible leader? Or an insufferably arrogant snob? By elevating them we do ourselves no good.
I really write a lot. I guess I am just silly like that.

I must say that I NEVER look at a game that is part of a series to have merit solely because it has the name of perhaps one of the best games I have ever played. As I see it, I look at Doom and then Doom 3 as two seperate entities and any merits they earn are because they individually have merit. I mean, just because the older brother of someone might be incredibly smart, sexy, funny, doesn't mean you should assume the younger brother is the same. Some of the biggest dissapointments in my life have come from sequels of popular games, Halo 2, 3, Turok, Super Mario Sunshine are some examples of games that I was dissapointed in. Same can be said for movies in a way, just because you loved Spiderman does not mean your little cup of joy will overflow when you see the Spiderman 3.
Heroes are important as models of what we should try to be but I say we should not follow to closely or else we will just be lackies and never trying to be someone else's hero for them to look up to.

The main problem is, as games become more expensive, time-consuming and difficult to make, and as the novelty of everything developers can add wears off, the standards for success become exponentially lower. We have reached the point where it is not worth the developers time to make something worth the players time.

wow i feel bad knowing i am not going to be writing a wall of text like the posts before me, but that was an amazing article!!

im glad the picture caught my eye.

Congratulations on a wonderfully written article.

I tend to more idolize the game itself rather than the people who make it, sometimes even the producer for bringing the game to life. Personally anytime a sequel to one of my favorite games comes out I approach it with a "You have the name of a legend, I dare you to top it" mindset. Unfortunately with the way todays games are that has never been the case. So I play the new game and remember what gaming used to be. But in a way it makes the games I idolized before all the greater because when this mockery of my childhood legend is sour in my mouth I know that I can always go back, plug that snes in, and replay the legend that captured my heart before. Not just with a sense of nostalgia but with a sense of gratitude for what it gave me so many years ago and still does to this day. A game to give me hope for a better tomorrow in gaming.

 

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