Rundown (1/19-1/25) Deserve

  • Post category:Rundowns
  • Reading time:6 mins read
  • Post comments:7 Comments

Wherein I discuss contemporary language, a ninja’s mental terror, and an intriguing independent impersonation.

A word that has been rustling my jimmies for a while now has been “deserve.” A term that, objectively, means: to do something or show qualities that warrant a reward or punishment of sorts. However, I regularly see it being applied in ways that, when trying to apply this dictionary definition, do not make sense. Phrases like “We don’t deserve Sonic Mania” “Pokémon fans deserve better than Sword and Shield” or the spicier “Star Wars 9 is the film fans deserve.” When applied like this, it implies the fans, the audience, and those passionate about something, anything really, either deserve or do not deserve something as compensation for their devotion.

All of which is antithetical to the very concept behind the word deserve, which implies that there exists a degree of fairness, standards, expectations, and active engagement, which fans of media don’t really do. All they do is buy stuff. And when you buy something you do not ‘deserve’ quality, you are not entitled to excellence. You only deserve a functional product that is accurate to its description.

You deserve a raise when you go above and beyond the expectations imparted on you at your job. A mass murderer deserves to be imprisoned. An adulterer deserves to be viewed with scorn by somebody who they promised to be faithful to, as they broke an explicit or implicit agreement. But some schmoe who buys a $60 AAA video game does not deserve a ‘premium quality $60 AAA experience’. They do not deserve an experience they enjoy. They do not deserve any quality above baseline functionality. That’s how commerce works. That’s how media works. You consume, you criticize, and you inform, but nowhere along the line do you ‘deserve’ something good or bad.

Stepping off my soapbox and into the wild green yonder of this week in the games industry, things were fairly quiet. Which, incidentally, are my least favorite weeks to make Rundowns, as I feel the need to bloat them with rambling diatribes, rather than relaxed sophomoric insights into the game industry.

Ninja Theory is using their Microsoft funding to pursue an experimental psychological thriller by the tentative name of Project Mara, a grounded title that focuses on mental terror based on real-world experiences and detailed research. All of which is unsurprising considering how much mental terror and psychosis played a role in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and how the studio assuredly developed a taste for the subject matter in doing their research. But rather than offering a proper reveal trailer, the studio instead fed the modern news cycle by putting out a small teaser in what is likely meant to be a string of gradual reveals that cause more buzz and media to be generated about your piece of media. What did this teaser show? An office building and some woman freaking out in a dark room. Riveting stuff, lads.

Seeing as how Zero Escape and Danganronpa did great things for visual novels in the west, and appear to be dormant franchises at the moment, it is no surprise to see western independent developers try their hand at something similar. This has been going on for a while, with games like Remember, Remember and Quantum Suicide (which is currently crawling its way out of development hell), but I also recently became aware of Thief’s Roulette. A dreary futuristic adventure game set in traversable 3D puzzle-laden environments that has the player pair up with four of fourteen other characters to solve puzzles and a greater mystery that is gradually unfolded by pursuing alternative paths.

While the presentation in earlier footage could use some work, Thief’s Roulette has been undergoing a visual overhaul based on Kickstarter updates and has managed to stay relatively afloat unlike many other small upstart projects of a similar caliber, with the title having recently garnered the support of a publisher with a varied catalog. The title is currently aiming for a September 2020 release on PC, PS4, Switch, and also the Vita, surprisingly.

Okay, what else? Um… Game Freak is bringing their, from what I heard, half-baked and unrefined RPG Little Town Hero to PS4, which seems weird, until you remember that they are not actually owned by Nintendo. …Yeah, I’ve got nothing. Here’s hoping next week brings something worth discussing in rigorous detail. Until then, see ya.

Header image is from Student Transfer.

I originally wanted to use something from my expansive image library as a header image, but I struggled to find something quick and wound up going down a rabbit hole of searching for bulk OCR converters that can turn PNG and JPG files into TXT documents. A search that wound up fruitless, so in lieu of any better ideas, I decided to manually search through an old development build of Student Transfer for the word “deserve.” I then modified the in-game text a bit to be less situational, loaded that ish up in Ren’py, skipped forward from a new game, and took a screenshot. …I hate hunting for header images sometimes.

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  1. qwerty

    I think the use of the word deserve is a little give or take cuz for one thing context matter and for another we use terms less than literally all the time in everyday conversations.

    That aside what I can say is that while I do think it’s up to the consumer to an extent to do some research into what they’re putting their money on and that you can’t enforce that everyone have a good experience with something, I do think it’s fair to say that someone who puts down money into a product deserve to get what the product advertises and should have a reasonable expectation that it will carry enough content within it to justify its price tag.

    If I put down $60 on a AAA game from a genre I enjoy, I expect to gain at least some eight to ten odd hours of fleshed out and mostly bug-free gameplay of a variety that should appeal to me. I think I deserve that because that to me is what I’m being sold when I am asked to put down money to get the product, and rather than it being a question of whether or not I deserve to have my expectations at least partially met for doing so, I think it should be a question of does the product deserve the money it asks from me and other potential customers within the audience it tries to appeal to.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      I can be a bit of a stickler with terminology as, unless people know what the words you are using mean, and everybody has a uniform understanding, then things will eventually devolve into a debate about language.

      When discussing the quality of a product, I prefer to use terms like ‘worth,’ words that relate directly to the perceived value of something and whether or not it warrants one’s time and money.

      Products ‘should’ be of a set quality and it would be ‘nice’ if you could purchase something that fully meets your expectations. However, I do not believe that one truly ‘deserves’ something of anything more than a functional product when making a purchase.

      If one feels like a product does not ‘deserve’ their money, then I would rather they claim that said product is not ‘worth’ their money/time, or ‘worth’ the asking price. Which itself is a subjective measure that will vary from person to person, as everybody has a different way of measuring quality.

      1. qwerty

        That’s fair on the terminology bit, I can sympathize with that.

        On the quality of products though I think what we’re ultimately arguing is where the line is drawn. Functionality is of course the bare(-BARE) minimum, but I would also argue completion of the game’s features (including storyline) and an estimated playtime roughly worth the price tag (for example more than 4 hours for $60 games) is something one deserves for purchasing a product not otherwise advertised as incomplete(/early access) and that a game that suddenly cuts short or turns out to not contain something it has advertised as containing has not lived up to its promises and thus not fulfilled its duties to the consumer.

        What I don’t think the customer deserves is extras beyond what was promised. For example, a customer who buys a fighting game that only advertises an arcade mode deserves to get a functional fighting game with competent fighting mechanics and an arcade mode. What they don’t necessarily deserve in this example is a full-fledged story line for each character, ending cinematics, a tower of trials like Mortal Kombat has, customization, the in/exclusion of character(s) of choice and such that the game didn’t advertise to them when asking for money. And I don’t think the customer deserves a guarantee that the game will be for them based on the promises given.

        In other words, I don’t think the customer deserves to be individually catered to with certain desires that go beyond the call of duty, but I do think the audience deserve to collectively have their baseline expectations met of a functional product with promised features included in the game at a price tag that represents the estimated value in the product.

        If that is granted, that’s when I think the question of worth, rather than deserve, comes in and where extra content that goes beyond the call of duty of baseline functionality and promises made shine; to turn to worth before that point feels like flipping the burden of expectation onto the consumer as if to say “it’s up to you to like what we make at the price we set, quality be damned” instead of “it’s up to the developers to make something worthy of the money they ask us for.”

        Am I wrong or missing anything in where you’re coming from? Maybe a bullet point of what you think a customer is(n’t) entitled to when making a purchase and what the obligations of the producers to the customers are in your view could give a quick and easy-to-read idea of where you stand and what you advocate?

        1. Natalie Neumann

          I believe that you are reading a bit too much into my stance on the issue. I am simply advocating for the word ‘deserve’ to represent a bare minimum with regards to what one should expect from a product. As I do not believe that an audience deserves something for loyalty or simply wanting it a lot, nor do I think their standards deserve to be mandated upon creators.

          If producers of content want their content to sell, however, they should heed the market’s demands, and deliver something of a universally accepted quality. The producer’s job is to appease the customer, but at the same time, they do not need to do that job well. They just need to do the bare minimum. They should do more than the bare minimum, but that is not always possible.

          Also, I only went on this brief tangent because I needed something to fill the introduction of this Rundown, and this was on my mind at the time. I am all for consumer rights, and if something is a legal right, or is listed as a right per your purchase agreement, then you are both entitled to it and deserve it. If something is not a legal right however, you probably don’t deserve it.

          1. qwerty

            Fair enough, though if there isn’t a broader point to the statement then it seem to me to fall under a similar category of “you could stab yourself in the hand with a knife if you wanted to.” Which I mean.. -yes- but it’s such an obviously dumb thing to do that in my mind the only reason to bring up the point would be to make a larger case for something. Or to set up a punchline. Either or. In the end it’s a balancing act to ensure we neither get too spoiled consumers or too complacent developers.

            On a side note, if you’ve got time to kill, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Ross Scott’s (aka Accursed Farms) video titled “Games as a service is fraud” that’s on youtube sometime.

            1. Natalie Neumann

              Broadly speaking, the key takeaway from my opening segment of this post is that I don’t like it when people use the word ‘deserve’ in that way, and I generally don’t like eye-catching bouts of consumer entitlement.

              I love Ross’s stuff, but it has been a while since I saw his video on the subject, and am a bit busy at the moment with CPA stuff. However, I do agree with him that publishers should not be killing games, and believe that there should be some action made to better preserve the products that people buy.

              It breaks my heart that so much art, dedication, and effort is thrown away in the games industry, and I am all for rights being introduced that change or reinforce what a consumer is entitled to or ‘deserves’ when purchasing a product.

              1. qwerty

                Gotcha, I am content.