A rather long and uncannily accurate article has popped up giving voice and perspective on the rampant Diablo 3 nerdrage seen in recent weeks. The author nails the heart of it, starting with the definition of the term and how it relates to each individual gripe. The tone is possibly the most objective I’ve read as of late, so if you’re looking for a piece of relatively unbiased material on the matter of D3 nerdrage, this piece is the one for you.
The following is a small excerpt:
nerd: someone who cares deeply and irrationally about something in a way that is very hard for someone who doesn’t care about that thing to understand.
nerdrage: the overwhelming feeling of anger engendered when a nerd is disappointed by that thing he or she cares so deeply and irrationally about—an anger that non-nerds, or different species of nerd, find very hard to take seriously or not scoff at, because of that whole opaque-to-outsiders thing.
The Diablo 3 nerdrage started pretty much immediately with the game’s release, as Blizzard’s servers, crushed by the onslaught of nerds hoping for their first taste of sweet sweet demon blood, instead served up an error message. Once fans got in and had some time to poke around, a lot of them quickly began to feel that Blizzard had not delivered on its decade-plus promise (for one thing, Diablo 3 has many streamlined, console-like elements to it—the ultimate insult as far as PC gamers are concerned—sanding down the nerdiest strategic edges of its predecessors).
Now, it’s difficult to take a strict measure of how this instance of gaming nerdrage compares to prior manifestations, except to observe that Diablo is at least no Daikatana. It’s not as though the game was poorly reviewed or is being abandoned en masse. But still, this is certainly one of the most notable outbreaks of nerdrage in recent history.
Agree or disagree with the core of his perspective, the author does well in capturing the the community’s pulse as he delves deeper into the specific issues and the origin for their complaints.
You can go to the original article, or read some of the choice quotes past the fold.
So there’s a lot of anger, most of it orbiting around a few standard gripes:
• The Inferno difficulty mode (which Blizzard promised would be really, really hard) is really, really hard.
• Cool, powerful items don’t pop out of the bad guys with nearly enough frequency—conspiracy theorists see this as a ploy on Blizzard’s part to push people into using the Real Money Auction House, which lets people buy or sell in-game items for real-world cash. If players can’t find great items, some detractors insist insist, they’ll be forced to buy them in the auction house, from which Blizzard takes a cut of each purchase. (There is also an auction house using gold, the in-game money.) (Also, yes: Real-life human beings spend real-life money on not-real-life swords and armor and stuff.)
• The story and voice acting are unspeakable horrors, much like the game’s final boss, the Lord of Terror himself.
• There is far less customizability than in previous games—every new skill you acquire is acquired at a preset point, and unlike the previous two games in the series, you’re not forced to make any big, permanent choices about your character and where his or her strengths and weaknesses will lie.
I think we can all point to the myriad posts that fall into these four main categories on the official and incgamer’s forums alike.
But I contend that gamer nerdrage is a bit more focused and intense. It’s a speculative argument, of course, until scientists come up with a way to reduce subjective emotional states down to cold objective numbers (and seriously, scientists—get on that!). But if it’s true, it’s true for three main reasons:
1. The long development cycle. Now that gaming is on equal footing with Hollywood in terms of funding and fandom and news coverage, there’s arguably no form of entertainment that gets as heavily draped in hype and anticipation and controversy as the development of a new video game. A space of almost twelve years separated the release of Diablo 2 and that of the frequently delayed Diablo 3. That’s a lot of screenshots, developer interviews, and hyperbolic presentations at gaming conventions in the meanwhile, and a lot of time for fans to develop sky-high expectations, to internalize every rumor and scrap of journalism that gets squeezed out of the protracted development cycle, to come up with things to be disappointed about once reality arrives and can’t live up to a million nerdy fever-dreams.
Diablo 3 (and every major release) elicited significant nerdrage because a perfect version of it already existed in the heads of gamers years before it was released. Then the actual game had to come along and ruin everything.
2. The unparalleled intimacy between gamer and game. There are only so many hours of sports on a week, and most people don’t follow more than two or three teams closely anyway. Loveless is a discrete, bounded thing. You can play it over and over but it’s still just 48 minutes and 36 seconds long.
Games like Diablo 3, where so many of the levels and items and encounters are randomized, are different. You can play Diablo 3 forever, basically. This leads people to become very, very attached to it. They play it constantly, and when they’re not playing it they’re reading about it or complaining about it or, in the direst cases, writing torrid fan-fiction about it. The stakes seem higher, the slights more visceral, when you’re so tightly entwined with the object of your nerdlove—and it’s a thin line between nerdlove and nerdrage.
3. The endlessly seductive hope that Maybe Things Will Get Better. Most forms of nerdrage are starved of the oxygen they would need to burn for very long because what’s done is done. Wes Welker dropped that ball so he dropped that ball so he dropped that ball. That’s it and there’s no way to reverse it. George Lucas isn’t going to unmake the crappy new “Star Wars” trilogy he made; that trilogy is a thing that, barring a heroic time-traveler, exists now and will exist forever.
And my personal favorite:
[…] Blizzard obviously has their reasons for making this or that design decision, and because, given the nastiness of the nerdrage that has been unleashed so far, to fix the game to the nerds’ liking at this point would entail its developers saying, “You know, I think the 15-year old who just sent me a photoshopped picture of my head on Hitler’s body makes some really good points. And boy, do I admire him for not being shy with those punctuation marks! I’m going to give him what he asks for.”
Whether you’re a “fanboy” or “hater,” how does this article relate to your position on the current state of Diablo III? Is this somewhat of a breath of fresh air, giving a relatively unbiased account of the current mood, or is it a bad reflection of what issues are truly at hand and the source of nerdrage?