Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Different World

This Raid Boss doesn't look at all scary.

This is Arsene Wenger. He's managed Arsenal Football [*] Club since 1996 and is considered by many as a revolutionary not simply on the pitch, but in the fields of sports science and player management too. However, he has come under mounting criticism in recent years as his team seem to have become increasingly adept at not simply getting injured with worrying frequency, but throwing away potentially winning situations. As the world has changed, as other managers have been hired and fired, Wenger remains one of the longest serving managers at a single club of all time. However, he has failed to win a major trophy since 2005.

You're already wondering where I'm going with this, aren't you?

Wenger is an innovator, a trailblazer, whose effect on English Football is universally accepted. However, as time has moved on, many would argue his outlook has remained worryingly static, refusing to grasp that the world around his team is a considerably more complicated place than it was the last time he won a trophy. In fact, one might argue that he has failed to cope with key changes not simply in how the game of football is played, but in the world around his team. This is where I come into this story, on Thursday night, sitting at my PC making Mogs for various characters. As I watch Twitter on my second screen, I have a WTF moment the like of which I think I've never really experienced before.

Yeah, so...

I think this WoW Insider article sums up my feelings pretty well. This is about as relevant to my interests as a poster where Pamela Anderson cosplays Sylvanas being offered to me as a free gift for subbing to the game. In the two hours that followed the announcement I watched pretty much every reaction imaginable to this news: shock, amazement, disbelief, anger... they were all there. Then there were the inevitable comments from those who didn't really see what the fuss was about to begin with, who just carried on with their evening and (presumably) chalked this whole PR exercise down to 'just another thing Blizzard do.' It's like the occasional picture sequence I'll see appear on Twitter that shows lines and lines of Champagne bottles lined up for Blizzard employees to 'celebrate' some notable anniversary, where the whole point appears to be to waste a load of alcohol by spraying it over each other in what I assume is the same celebration that Racing Drivers and other 'sports' participants love so much.

I've never been a great fan of waste, but I digress.

It occurs to me that although clearly much has changed in gaming over the nine or so years since Arsenal won a trophy, certain parts of Blizzard's mindset remain entrenched in an age where the 'guys on choppers' lifestyle would not simply be appropriate, it would be far more universally embraced. However, that's not the case in this part of the demographic, and for the first time in some years I know I'm not alone if the reaction of the last few days in my social 'network' has been any accurate indicator. More importantly, where this kind of outlook might simply be ignored or dismissed as not relevant, and more and more people are making their unhappiness felt with the situation as it stands. Blizzard have a track record of inappropriate behaviour in certain sectors of the community. This latest adventure is not likely to do them any favours in those places as a result.

Horde Corgi, Alliance Corgi, EVERYBODY WINS.

As someone pointed out to me in the midst of the lolwuts on Thursday, it's not like Blizzard aren't short a few pence, so indulging an 'Easy Rider' interlude is perfectly understandable. Let's face it, if I could do a job where I could make cool stuff and then make it in turn into virtual cool stuff and still remain relevant for the majority of my player base, I'd probably take that as a good deal. The thing is, as Mr Wenger is now discovering to his cost, there comes a point where doing the same things over and over again and not embracing the changes to science, society and culture around you has potentially dangerous consequences. As I don't own a billion-dollar gaming empire I'm clearly in no position to give advice, but as a mother of two with kids (boy and girl) who both think Blizzard isn't really catering to them or their mum, but has their dad covered with the bikes, there's a sage lesson in base level observation for starters. When my daughter asks unprompted for more female characters that do cool stuff and my son thinks armour should actually look like it works and not be an excuse to expose some pixel skin, there's possible benefit in listening to your minorities, whoever they might be.

The thing is, there's not always an Agenda (Capital A) behind people's actions, or some shouty person in what seems to you like a minority who wants to upset everyone to make a point. Sometimes it's normal, decent people who are just fed up with the fact that when the rest of the world changes, other bits seem to like to pretend they're stuck in nearly ten years ago. This isn't 2005 any more, and if enough time elapses before things do start to change...

The future's supposed to be for everyone, after all, not just those in the demographic of the people who manage the company. It might finally be time to more publicly embrace the diversity, rather than what seems to be the case currently.

We're still here, after all.


[*] That's soccer for those of you who insist on playing Football in armour and with a rugby ball :P


Ronebean said...

In Arsene (and Blizz) we trust.

Scott Leyes said...

The simple (and unfortunate) fact is this: The games "industry" is populated and run by "man-children" who never (had to) grow up. They learned to hack at an early age, built things in their garages, and became multi-millionaires without the benefits of actually having to mature. And the "culture" of the industry has stuck in that Peter Pan/Neverland of Boys playing pirates and not having responsibilities and "icky girls not allowed."

We are only just now starting to recognize the "Mad Men" are wearing very little, and are being exposed for the children that they are. The Penny Arcade "Dickwolves" insanity still persists, even if it has been covered up and hidden away. PAX having a "Diversity Lounge" is a token effort at best, and a tweet i read related that the room was sparsly populated with young white men... hardly diverse.

dobablo said...

I think advertising is a very hard thing to do correctly. The line between acceptable and not is fine and varies between different people. Part of me says that if Blizzard want to market their game to a group of bike lovers then they are right to focus of the bike mount aspects and people outside that demographic should accept that. I don't PvP but if Blizzard wants to advertise to an reports audience and focuses on the arenas and new PvP sandpark island then I'm not going to complain (unless it costs me a raid tier).
From the other side I do think adverts targeted at one group need to be careful not to offend a non-target group but in this case I can't see what the offence is. Blizzard have said "grrr bikes" to a group a "grr bikes" people. As long as that is not the key focus of their advertising effort I see no issues with it.
WoW is a big game that's been around for a decade. Everyone knows what it is so it can't get new players from just saying "This is WoW." It needs to focus on its individual features and sell those to the groups that have good cross-over. Pushing one feature to one group is not disrespecting any other group (unless they are being purposefully ignored).

Take Ford as an example. They have an add budget for general Ford awareness and other puts for each model. Just because they are pushing their "Grr car" Mustang at the Champions League final doesn't mean they don't care about their non-football fan audience or that they will tailor different models to different customer groups.

TL:DR Wow is to old and big to get by just on generic all encompassing adverts for everyone. Successful marketing will include focused presentation of different features to different demographics.

Alternative Chat said...

I think advertising is really easy when you actually understand the diversity of your market.

dobablo said...

You could either destructively moan that Blizzard are always ignoring your demographic or make progressive suggestions about the targeted adverts you would like to see.
That sounds like a good suggestion for a community blog project.

Evan Losee said...

Personally I haven't given the whole chppoer thing more than two blinks. Despite being supposedly a member of the target demographic, I still happen to be someone with very little interest in cars/bikes. Another facet of diversity ;) It does seem that we've finally reached a tipping point where the long-standing presumptions on who "gamers" are just seem silly.

Alternative Chat said...

@Dob: This is a destructive moan? *really*?

/walks away

marathal said...

Having years ago watched the series American Chopper and some of the corporate bikes they have built, I partially suspect that it may not have been entirely Blizzards initiative. There was also another show spotlighting a custom company in Florida that made a vehicle for the movie Battleship. Now I do not think for a second that Blizzard would hesitate to jump on some potential free publicity, and to be able to end up with two real life motor cycles to display at corporate.

It is an interesting idea, one that will appeal to many, I will sertainly watch the webisodes because I think it is interesting and being able to see how a person that has never played but has a lot of creativity will envision a Horde or Alliance vehicle. Either way though, one faction will not win and that will certainly ruffle some feathers. I personally feel that the winner should get theirs maybe a week earlier but both should benefit from the campaign.