How can you be 18 years old and long for the old days of gaming? You can't be nostalgic unless you are old enough to remember the feeling when the games were originally released. Learn the subtle meaning of words. What a jackass.
-- Randy Sluganski, in a letter to Evan Dickens.
I speak for every staff member here at Adventure Gamer when I say this: our love lies with the classics, not the hideous Myst clones that Randy has repeatedly given A+ scores to in hopes that his comments will show up on the game box.
-- Evan Dickens, in response to Randy.
This story involves two adventure web sites, Adventure Gamer [now Adventure Gamers] and Just Adventure. In June of 2000, Evan Dickens, one of the writers at Adventure Gamer, began a new column called "The Clearance Corner" for discussing older adventures. His first column covered The Legend of Kyrandia.
The next month, along with a second column, Evan posted a letter from Randy Sluganski, the editor/owner of Just Adventure. The letter, quoted above, spoke harshly of Evan; Evan's response to Randy's letter was equally harsh.
The two sites have had a history of friction. Randy has taken swipes at Adventure Gamer (along with this site) before; Adventure Gamer has threatened to sue Just Adventure + over their republishing some of Ray Ivey's reviews which originally appeared on Adventure Gamer. Evan Dickens's position on this latest tiff has been spelled out. Randy's response has been "no comment."
We tend to react to events like these in one of three possible ways. One, we may form an opinion and choose sides. Two, we may shrug our shoulders and go on about our business. Three, we may be distressed that such strife exists.
This column is for the people who fall into the last category. I know this kind of situation can be troubling, but arguments like these are to be expected.
What? you ask. Aren't we ruining the unity of adventure gamers everywhere? Won't we hurt the genre?
First of all, there's no real unity of adventure gamers, no matter how much we might wish there were. We're all individuals; while we may all love adventure games, we won't agree on everything having to do with adventures. Can you be an adventure game fan if you only love text adventures, or graphic ones? If you don't like Myst-clones, should we kick you out of the club? I liked Outcast, and it's an action/adventure. Have I sullied my standing as an adventure game fan because of that?
Second, will we really hurt the genre with a lack of solidarity? Before I can answer that question, define "the genre" for me. You'll run into all of the questions I asked above. There are no cut-and-dried answers for those questions because we aren't a homogeneous group of fans.
Since we're not homogeneous, we're going to have arguments. We'll debate the merits of Grim Fandango or whether the latest interactive fiction competition games are weaker than those from previous years.
Those of us who run web sites aren't above this, of course. We have our own strong opinions. In addition, we have another source of contention, one which is outside the realm of adventure games: our sites themselves.
Why run a site like this? It all comes down to people and getting them to visit. I'll be honest with you: I want as many people as possible to read what I write. I enjoy writing for an audience, and I especially enjoy the e-mails I get in response to these columns. Other webmasters are the same way, whether they want more ad impressions in order to make more money or they want more people to see what they're writing. We all want to be number one.
Given that, is it any surprise that there's tension among us? There is pressure to have THE FIRST or THE EXCLUSIVE, to be the site out in front. And sometimes that tempts us to climb over fellow sites on our way to the top.
This, more than any other reason, is why I think incidences like these shouldn't be swept under the rug. If I know all of you are watching me, I'm less likely to give in to temptation. If you think Randy or Evan stepped over the line, you need to let them know--politely--in the hopes of defusing the situation. If I go too far in one of my columns, I hope you would do the same for me.
But what about the genre? How can we save commercial adventure games if we don't act together?
By acting separately to the best of our ability. You can do a lot if you're willing to make the effort. When's the last time you wrote a reviewer to congratulate him or her on a good review? Have you ever e-mailed a large corporate gaming site like GameSpot or HappyPuppy and asked them to review more adventure games? Written a large magazine like PC Gamer and asked where their adventure game coverage went? What about voting with your wallet and buying some of the newest games?
The nice thing about this approach is that we don't have to agree on all the fine points. Love action/adventures? Tell the companies that make them. Don't like Myst clones? Don't deal with them.
So don't fret too much if we get into the occasional dust-up. It isn't the end of the world.