When it comes to cliques, communities and a sense of belonging, gamers are almost as rabid as football fans. This isn’t to say that you’re likely to get opposing Tekken and Street Fighter firms squaring off against each other on a deserted piece of urban real estate any time soon. It does mean, however, that gamers by and large hold strong opinions about the games they love and woe betide anyone fool enough to provoke them. Don’t believe me? Pick a gaming forum at random and post a missive about how much you thought the last Final Fantasy game sucked. See what happens.
Gamers form loyal attachments to franchises, publisher, developers, hardware and software. We queue up in the middle of the night for midnight games launches while the rest of the world looks on and shakes their collective head. We hurry to conventions dressed up as our gaming avatars or our favourite characters. We feel extra special jealous that gamers across the world from us got to participate in a fancy dress launch party (and if you’re listening, 2K, I’d highly appreciate it if you could hold the next BioShock launch event in London – here!)
We can also become divided over the titles we love and the developers and publishers we revere. There is, however, one exception to this rule. There is one publisher that’s hardly ever the subject matter in a flame-fest. A developer who, while not universally loved, is certainly respected. And that video games maker is Blizzard Entertainment. At least, it is in the circles I run in.
The realisation I have come to is that I love Blizzard. This is bizarre when you consider that I’ve only ever played four of their games over a period of about twenty years. I’ve also never really been able to get into their greatest creation – the multi-million unit-selling, world conquering MMO – World Of Warcraft, and this isn’t from lack of trying. It’s even more strange, when you consider that the lion’s share of the titles I play and review are made for consoles and Blizzard create games exclusively for the PC. I’ve not owned a decent PC gaming rig for about four years now. I’m expecting delivery of a new gaming PC in the not-too-distant future, but right now, my 2006 AlienWare laptop just isn’t capable of playing Blizzard’s latest release, Starcraft II.
That didn’t stop me buying it, though. Yes, buying it. Even though I review games for a living – and that did get me the deluxe edition of Starcraft II complete with art book, comic book, soundtrack and DVD (eat it, fanboys!!!) – I still bought a copy online. Why? Well, first my brother’s birthday is coming up and he’s not getting mine. Second, it’s the first Starcraft game Blizzard have released in nearly 13 years, and it feels like a bit of an event and I’d like to take part.
The thing is, you can’t really go wrong with Blizzard. Not only is the company run by some of the original Silicon Valley crew – who know the hardware and software they’re using to build these games inside out – it staffs some of the biggest sword and sorcery/sci-fi nerds in existence. When it comes to making games, you couldn’t want a better bunch of people in charge of the tiller. The attention to detail in the lore and look of the worlds they create is incredible, and is also the biggest signal that these are people who clearly love what they do with a passion that’s almost unmatched in the industry. The fact that their games take so long to see the light of day speaks to the obssessive nature of their creative process – this is a company that doesn’t let anything out the gate that isn’t perfect.
All things considered, it’s easy to love Blizzard, and even gamers who have never been turned on by their products can recognise this. I think my colleague Tom put it best when I described the fun at the Starcraft II launch and then began reminiscing about the joy of attending BlizzCon last year.
He let out a heartfelt sigh and said, “I wish Blizzard would make a game I liked.”