Bad like crossing the streams! This was part of a response to things that weirdfolio said, and it has to do with my opinions regarding why we shouldn’t be afraid of really trying to mix things up with the fantasy genre and exploring where it could go.
EDIT: So, guess who intended to use cuts but then COMPLETELY FORGOT?
FIRE TECHNOLOGY BAD
A lot of why people freak out over the steampunk/clockpunk element is, to an extent, a form of pseudo-xenophobia. See, they’re scared of it and they feel threatened by it. That might sound like a silly thing to say, even extreme if I tilt my head sideways and squint, but there’s a ring of truth to it. Why? Well, it’s about escapism a lot and some people don’t realise that you can bring more elements of the real world into a fantasy setting without making it bad.
I mean, the whole notion is illogical to begin with. It’s based on the idea that adding familiar elements is bad. Therefore, by that logic, fantasy should be about playing abstract blobs in logic in a reality that we perceive only through warped synaesthesia. Actually, that’s kind of interesting, and would be. But it’s not a great foundation to tell a story with. This is why fantasy is a mix of familiarity and more exotic elements.
But here’s where it gets twisted.
A lot of them claim that because they’re so used to fantasy as it is now, they don’t want anything else. They understand magic, and elves with giant boobs, and bows that can nuke things from six miles away with magic arrows, but they can’t wrap their minds around how technology could fit into a fantasy setting. Because it’s adding an element of reality, which is unfamiliar to these people (??) to fantasy.
It’s like Final Fantasy VII never happened.
One thing I’ve always said is that fantasy is basically everything you could imagine. I mean, to me, fantasy is technological spires, flying islands, art nouveau airships, dragons (lots of dragons), peoples of various species and things. And… the very idea really is that if you want it to happen, it can, because it’s fantasy. So, if I wanted a werewolf with a dieselpunk mecha-arm who’s able to shoot his hand to use as a grappling hook, then I can totally do that. Because fantasy.
Fantasy comprises many sub-genres, after all. Let’s do a list, because I love lists! Who doesn’t like a list? What I’m going to do here is genre and example.
I mean, you can include elements of all of those in a fantasy Universe without breaking fantasy. I see no reason for not having rayguns alongside magic, myself, but that’s how my imagination works. It’s also apparently how the Larian Studios (Dragon Commander developers) people work too, apparently, since they like strapping jetpacks to dragons.
Jetpacks to dragons. Why is this not awesome?
It’s completely awesome.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is is that people believe that they have this purist take on fantasy, this genre correct take. Which is basically ‘Tolkien, but forget the orcs happened. Oh, and add pointy ears to the elves, and hair to the feet of the hobbits. You know.’ So this is what you have. And because not everyone has done the mixing of genres right, and sometimes you have a mish-mash of a melting pot with no visible creative direction (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft), people believe it can’t be done.
Again, it’s like Final Fantasy VII never happened.
So people are just really attached to their busty elves and their magic bows, and they can’t open their minds to the ideas of things like steampunk, atompunk, dieselpunk, or science-fantasy elements because they’re afraid that they’ll lose everything that made their fantasy special forever. Which is a silly and irrational fear, and those kinds of fears (silly and irrational ones) are the hardest to talk people out of.
So it becomes this Inquisition-like thing where people fight the very notion of technology being introduced to a world. So you have people screaming about guns going too far, and that they want the world to remain the same, in a field of perfect stasis, like a house in a snow globe… forever. I don’t know about you, but that tweaks me. It really gets to me.
I don’t think that a world should be denied progression. It can’t be any fun for them to constantly, forever be in a twee backwater. Why can’t you mix stuff like Phantasy Star tech mixed with magic and dragons? I think it’s fine. Nothing wrong with it.
I mean, one of the things that made me the happiest lately (and I’m sure some people made annoyed sounds about it) was how Legend of Korra showed clearly tech progression over Avatar: The Last Airbender. You had cars, mechs, and even bi-planes! Man, bi-planes in a fantasy setting make me happy. Anyone remember Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magicks Obscura? Orcs in bi-planes, ogres with chainguns.
And why not? Really.
The problem is is that when people cling to what they believe is the correct way of doing something, not only do they become the worst sorts of rabid hipsters, but they cause an entire genre to stagnate. To die. I mean, I’ve looked at fantasy settings often and thought to myself - man, that just seems dead inside, hollow, empty. It’s just so commercial, it’s there to make people happy, but it has absolutely no personality of its own.
And then I think of the likes of Grandia, and Skies of Arcadia, and Final Fantasy VII and it’s a little bit depressing that the majority have pulled us down into this rut.
It’s not that I can’t see why, and it’s not that I don’t sympathise even. But I think that eventually they just need to let go enough for there to be some advancement in the genre. I think that there’ll always be people appealing to niche genres like that, but what you’re going to find is that if you’re responsible for shipping out Utterly Generic Fantasy Setting #4,092, then people are going to get a bit sick of it.
And that’s where we’re at right now.
What’s happening is that developers are finding that Generic Fantasy Name: Generic Fantasy Subtitle isn’t selling, so they’re trying different stuff. Why is there steampunk in Guild Wars 2? Because there’s a massive group of steampunk fans out there, and if you create a generic fantasy world, limited to this silly genre purism, then you cut them out. They become unserved customers.
It’s the same when someone likes playing beast races in games.
And what developers are beginning to realise is that if they reach out to these people who’re sick of more generic stuff, they’re going to create themselves a nice new fanbase and selection of loyal customers. But they’re not going to really lose anyone, either, because the fact of the matter is is that people come around. A lot of people might have complained about the steampunk in Guild Wars 2, but how many won’t play it because of that? 10 people? Maybe 20. Heh.
So I think we’re going to see even more and more of this as time goes on. This is why there’s a game that has dragons with jetpacks in it, and I think it’s going to do pretty damned well for itself. And I think we’re going to see more and more of this as time goes on. And I’m glad.
For the genre purists, they’ll always have their games. There’s Darkfall Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Mortal Online, and plenty of others out there if you really want a medieval high-fantasy thing and nothing else.
But some of us are tired of that.
Some of us want a bit more.
Man, this has me thinking about how much I’d love to see a new Shining Force (strategy style) game, or a sequel to Grandia or Skies of Arcadia.
But yeah, not everyone wants grit, not everyone wants ‘epic reality’ fantasy, not everyone wants genre purism. It’s all about demographics. And the fact is is that the whole genre purism has been overserved for years now, with Dragon Age: Origins being one of the biggest offenders, and even stuff like Skyrim not really doing enough to break out of the rut.
What the people who whine about fantasy purism don’t realise is that they’re likely a minority, a very loud one, but a minority. And if the videogame industry keeps listening to them and ignoring other demographics, then eventually they’re just going to decide that fantasy itself just isn’t a popular genre, so we’ll end up with no fantasy games at all. Then it’ll just be World War II games, zombie games, modern combat games, and Sci-Fi.
So, to those who don’t like the clockpunk in Guild Wars 2? I ask you to put up with it. Because in being so demanding you might ruin fantasy for the rest of us.
I mean, I know this might seem like I’m being a bit on the harsh side, but frankly I really do think that it hurts a genre when we have a situation like this where it’s forced to stagnate. What’s better for a genre, really? Is it better for it to stagnate so much that it eventually dies out, due to the lack of imagination, creativity, and new ideas? Or is it better to broaden up what fantasy can be (which really should be whatever we can imagine) and let it thrive?
Well, that’s my ramblyrant done, now onto the lore side of things.