The Doc Speaks: Hype Machine, Hate Machine

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Oh boy, MORE Drizz’t!

Hype.  There’s a word with a lot of connotations and consequences, right there.  To an extent, everything receives it.  It’s all a part of spreading ideas and communicating.  We share what we enjoy, it’s what we as people have done for ages.  To borrow from Dawkins’ theory on the ‘meme’, popular ideas spread almost like a virus and eventually evolve too.  And while it’s great to see something you’re passionate about spread all over the world, a saturation point is inevitably reached.  At a certain point, the joy and fun of whatever is popular becomes robbed for many… and this assumes they were invested in the idea to begin with!  For those who never cared, it can range from a minor groan and eye roll to agonizing frustration at almost every turn.  For this reason, we have a page on TVTropes called “Hype Backlash.”  While you could say that everything will always receive “THE HATERS”, things go a little bit deeper than that.  Let’s dive into it, shall we?

Of course, I could talk about countless examples throughout pop culture and the media.  Whether it be how people were sick of hearing “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen, the (often futile) hopes of the Sonic fanbase over a “good” Sonic game, or the relentless FromSoft fanbase on how TRVEKVLT the Souls games are (and yes, I am guilty of this); there’s only so much buzz people can take before they go nuts.  To start things off, I’m going to jump to the near and dear subject of tabletop gaming.  One subject in particular remains a controversial subject within the realms of the D&D game.  I’m talking about R.A. Salvatore’s Legend of Drizz’t Series.  For those who aren’t in the know, Drizz’t Do’Urden is a drow that fled his underdark home to make a name for himself and dispense proper justice as he sees fit.  He’s more or less the antithesis of underdark drow lifestyle.  He’s had countless adventures with companions (trusted and not so trusted) across a vast chunk of Abeir-Toril; the home world of the Forgotten Realms.

When the first couple of Realms books were coming out, the notion of a dark elf hero was strange.  Sure, there were ways to craft monstrous heroes (in part thanks to Unearthed Arcana, one of the last books made by Gygax before his removal from TSR), but it was the early adventures of this hero that helped to bring them into the spotlight.  When this character first appeared, fans viewed him as both an oddity to be observed and a new brand of hero.  However, this fandom lead to all sorts of emulation… and most of that emulation was terrible.  Not to mention, plot-armor lead to high powered NPCs appearing in game books that didn’t really translate or do novel characters proper justice.  Many modules based off the novels were equally bad, feeling like railroady cinematic set pieces instead of adventures.  Despite this, the fanbase will just as powerful, exclaiming how cool this dark elf ranger was.  For many other fans, these cheers of joy bordered on sickening.

And as years went on, anything that seemed special or unique about Drizz’t was watered down thanks to copycat players not capturing what made Drizz’t unique, game books also failing what made the stories great, and other factors.  While fans were thrilled to see the dark elf hero make cameos in the Baldur’s Gate video games, others took sadistic glee in using exploits to kill the character (and possibly his companions) within the games themselves.  As the 3rd edition winded down into the 4th, the rage only worsened.  While the Spellplague was a controversial decision that effectively rebooted the setting, people were disappointed that power players like Drizz’t were still around and romping around this “Brave New Realms”.  After a couple of years, we get a new announcement that reignited old fires.  When the player’s handbook for 5th was released, the same grumbly grognards noted that dark elf was put as an option “because Drizz’t.”  And to be fair, the PHB pretty much admitted to such.  And as many are also aware, D&D 5th Edition’s release schedules for the unforeseeable future focus on adventure themes.  The advertising for their Underdark themed game tells players they can “team up with Drizz’t to stop an abyssal threat in the Underdark.”  The niche fans cheered as even larger waves of complaints and asked cluttered forums and facebook groups alike.

So, that rambling story and example aside, I wonder if there are “stages of hype backlash”.  Just like the stages of grief, I’m convinced this form of nerd-rage comes in cycles of sorts.  The first being a moderate interest or general disinterest, then comes befuddlement over something still continuing after the ship has supposedly sailed, then comes irritation when its relentless popularity won’t let go, then comes some SERIOUS NERD RAGE whenever the goddamn thing peeps its accursed head in your presence, and finally a return to apathy… because screw it, worrying about something you didn’t care about wasn’t worth your time.  At least, this has been the case with me.

I won’t deny it, I nearly lapsed back into nerd rage when the announcement first came out.  I almost jumped to stupid assumptions and kinda made an idiot of myself as a result.  Now, I used to enjoy the books a ways back, but got bored of them.  I stopped being part of this pointless anger somewhere before D&D 5E came out…  or before the playtesting for it even begun.  It could be said this is another example about how we all love to be outraged by things.  The cool and unique thing we might have liked has ballooned into something we don’t understand anymore.  It’s terrifying, out of control, and all we can do is yell about it.  Or maybe the idea was alien to begin with.  One can’t help but vocalize that confusion and disgust, even if verbal diarrhea is the typical result.  All in all, it’s an emotional reaction to something we’ve even become alienated from or were alienated from the start.  As long as we realize that we’re just spouting opinions without mentioning anything objective (save for the rare occurrence), then there’s nothing wrong with getting worn out from the next big thing.  And even then, there’s nothing wrong with being a part of what’s popular either!  Like what you like, don’t be a crazy jerkface about it.  The Doc has spoken!

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