I’m sure that saying this out loud will get me cast out of the garden but here it is anyway: I didn’t like the Dragon Age: Origins launch trailer. At all. It looked like a warmed-over ad for Fellowship of the Ring, with a dash of wire-fighting thrown in for good measure. I watched it a few times to make sure I wasn’t missing out on some underlying goodness but the more I saw, the less I liked.
My disappointment was disappointing. I’ve been looking forward to Dragon Age: Origins for quite awhile now but because I like to go into games as “cold” as possible, I’ve avoided learning anything more about it than absolutely necessary. So while I’m really not a fan, I’m definitely a fan in waiting; yet there I was, fists clenched, brow furrowed, aggravation rising, all thanks to a video that the rest of the internet seemed to think was the hottest thing to hit the tubes since the alien sideboob.
I mentioned this to a good friend of mine, an old-time gamer with the sort of hardcore chops that put mine to shame. He seemed genuinely amused by my concerns. “You’re just pissed off because they’re not making Baldur’s Gate 3,” he proclaimed. “You’re getting old.”
Getting old? No way to deny that I’m getting older, sure, but getting old is a whole ‘nother ball of liver spots. And if it’s true, then the obvious implication is that my perspective is skewed not just for Dragon Age, but for every game. Has decrepitude, in fact, been sneaking up on me so insidiously that I just haven’t noticed?
Things have definitely changed over these past many years. I’ve found an appreciation for platformers like Braid and Trine after years of unabashedly hating the genre. I don’t just subscribe to the PopCap newsletter, I actually pay attention to it. My Freecell record stands at 1373/134 and I will totally kick your ass at hidden object games.
That said,I haven’t completely turned into my mom just yet. I played, and loved, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, a game that made its notorious predecessor seem coherent (and easy) by comparison; likewise, Dead Space was a blast but not exactly a heavyweight on the challenge scale. I’ve got over 160 hours sunk into Fallout 3 without the DLC. My Team Fortress 2 “thing?” That’s not obsessive-compulsive, that’s hardcore.
So yeah, I still got it, but to borrow from the old cliche, I’m not completely clear on what “it” is anymore. Age is obviously taking a toll that goes beyond mere dulled reflexes. My tastes are changing and expanding; God help me, they might even be maturing. It’s hard to believe, especially since my radio dial hasn’t moved off The Hawk: Classic Rock since, oh, about 1997, but there it is.
And that may be the problem. Let me draw an analogy to another subject that’s near and dear to my heart: Beer. When I was younger and the devil’s suds took hold of my life, I tended to stick with whatever cheap, wet crap everybody else was drinking. But as the years drifted by, I began indulging in a much wider range of brews: Coffee porters, dopplebocks, Belgian trappist ales, that sort of thing. And growing hand-in-hand with those broadened horizons has been my disdain for the cheap swill that sells by the truckload down at the local Guzzle ‘n’ Punch.
I suspect something similar is happening with videogames. Technological whiz-bangery and LOUD NOISES are no longer enough to satisfy. I’d far rather play a game that takes a risk and stumbles – think Mirror’s Edge here – than something that merely polishes the same old crap to a gleaming shine. So when an advertising campaign implies that a new game – even a new BioWare game – will be all sizzle and no steak, my patience wears thin.
Which isn’t to suggest that I think Dragon Age will be a shiny turd. A very reliable source has assured me that it will rock my socks off and that means more to me than anything the BioWare marketing department might come up with. But the trailer still irks and the question still hangs: Why is BioWare pimping this game like it’s a new Michael Bay movie?
Because I’m getting old, that’s why. Just like the beer commercials crawling with bikini-clad bizzos and the unshaven hipsters who chase after them like oxygen-starved puppies, these Dragon Age ads aren’t for me. I’m too old, too crotchety, too set in my ways and, as owner of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn Collector’s Edition Number 56135 of 62000, I’ll be buying the goddamn thing on release day anyway and they know it. They’re not chasing the stooped, fist-shaking demographic with this stuff. We’ve been in the bag from the moment someone burped and it sounded like “Minscandboo.”
These ads are for the “kids,” those who don’t have the decade-old BioWare experience to fall back on and for whom the promise of an accessible cinematic experience is far more important than 80-plus hours of open-ended role-playing action. They need a little more flash-and-bang to get them to the cash register and BioWare is giving it to them in spades. Age has given me the wisdom to recognize this tactic for what it is. Accepting it gracefully? I’m still working on that one.
Andy Chalk is going to celebrate the release of Dragon Age: Origins by getting tanked up on St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout on launch day.