Friday, December 14, 2012

Short People

Unsurprisingly, this song caused a bit of a fuss at the time.
This man now sings songs for Disney :p

You're going to have to go with me on this one.

Yesterday, Grandpappy Frostheim decided to sit down and tell everyone why The Burning Crusade sucked. Ironically he spends the last third of his tirade in a Disengage-worthy about-face and tells us about how awesome TBC was in relation to those who choose to diss Outland for their own nefarious ends. I don't blame him however, because 10 million players after eight years should be an indicator (if it was needed) that this game hasn't shot itself anywhere seriously since 2006, despite some pretty Darwin Award-esque moments of perceived stupidity. Frostheim's only doing what happens across the community with frightening regularity, especially when meeting new players in social situations for the first time. There's always going to be THAT discussion, between like-minded Warcraft players, normally accompanied by a good meal and some alcohol (with apologies to teetotaller players) Then the truths tend to surface: who's playing the best class, what's wrong with PvP, which Expansion was the best...

Except none of these expansions have been the best. There, I said it. How can I be so confident I'm correctly asserting myself? That's where the video comes in.

Back in 1977, Randy Newman wrote 'Short People'. He had firmly made a name for himself as a bit of a rebel but was still hugely regarded in the music industry, and this album was full of controversial story-telling, quite the departure from the normal musical fare of the time. I suspect he had absolutely no idea that he would go on to win two Oscars for his score to the film 'Ragtime' in 1981, or that he would then go on to become one of the most respected and successful film composers in history. His most famous work? It has to be a song from a cartoon about a toy cowboy and a toy spaceman. No, that's not it... his work on Pleasantville is nothing short of brilliant. Oh, and remember that this is the man who wrote 'Sail Away' and 'Louisiana 1927'... You see, the thing is with anyone who's continuing to work at their particular craft is simple. You can't judge their best work until they stop.

They've not done yet.

The same is true with Warcraft. The difference between the game and a composer, or an artist, or indeed anyone who becomes notorious for a particular body of work is that there is the chance that one day, it will be over. Either they stop doing it, or time is called and they're off to become one with the Universe. Everything has a logical end unless, of course, you work in Hollywood where you can expect your franchise to be rebooted more times than an Amiga crashed with a Guru Meditation error. For now Warcraft's not on the iPhone or available in an Emulator, and while that remains the case I think it's not the time to start trying to work out what's been the best or worst of anything. One day, I am sure, there will be the opportunity to sit back, light a roaring fire and stroke our collective superfluous body hair as we decide what the Glory Days of Warcraft really were. Right now, I think there are far better things to be doing with our time than comparing who's the Big Kahuna in Expansion terms.

This, of course, does not make for conflict, which undoubtedly is a bigger draw in the long run than 15 different reboots of Superman (no I don't know how many there have been but you can feel free to correct me here.) Having so many versions of the same basic story allows people to hold one up against the other, and comparison is a game the entire family can play. I know I frustrate people when asked to name my favourite X or the best Y but I know well enough in my own mind how things play out. Papa Frostheim says so himself in his opening monologue: TBC was great for some people because that's when their story began. The entry point to any particular shared experience has an enormous amount of significance. After all, if you came in at Episode Four of Star Wars and not at Episode One, your grasp of the experience will differ vastly, and is likely to make the concept of an Episode Seven... well, I think you get the point. Not only are things not done, everyone has a different place where they press 'Start.' It is very hard to truly be objective without a bigger picture.

What people fail to grasp, when this kind of comparison exercise takes place, is the significance of context. I've deliberately peppered this post with a large cross-section of references that work in my own particular context: you, of course, will have your own. Once you factor all that in and then you add Warcraft into the mix, I find it amazing that anyone can seriously pronounce with any measure of certainty that ANY expansion holds Dibs on being best. We can all agree on where Blizzard went wrong  because, as a rule, they admit that themselves. No-one has at any point been able to give a definitive reason why the game continues to be as hugely successful as it undoubtedly is, and that has to be tied up with the fact that it appeals to so many people in such vastly different ways. I think it might be an idea that those who feel they have The Answer remember that 6 x 9 = 42. Everyone can be both right and wrong, because it's their interpretation that counts.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have holes in my Randy Newman back catalogue to address...

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