Everybody has a natural desire to meet their pop-culture idols. Whether they are actors, musicians, wrestlers, athletes, or even video game developers, their impressive resume makes them appear larger than life compared to your average Joe. But at the end of the day, they are people just like you and me, and more often than not when you finally do get to meet your hero or idol, they don’t quite live up to the image in your mind construed by pop-culture.
Don’t get me wrong; meeting them is great — but only if it’s at a press conference, convention, or something where you get to interact with them while they are in “work” mode. In such a context, meeting industry legends is a great experience. In my many years writing about video games, I’ve had the honor to meet and interview many such individuals and it was always great to interact with them in that professional manner. It becomes problematic, however, when you meet in a more “personal” setting. Something that rarely happens in the real world, but happens on the internet with great ease.
Social media is something I have nothing to do with right now; I’m still old fashioned with my carefully monitored instant messenger approach. I delved into social networking and stuck with it for a while when it was still a new thing, but it just wasn’t for me in the end. It was during my foray into Twitter that I first got drawn into the notion of meeting my heroes, and relatively speaking, people involved in the video game industry tend to be more savvy with these things than most. The whole idea of the gaming “audience” being able to interact with those who actually made games, despite some apparent benefits, never really sat right with me.
After seeing Hideo Kojima tweet a photo of his lunch for the umpteenth time (and this was many years ago before things really took off like they have today), I had a conversation with a friend where I said that all this interaction is a really bad idea, that the people who make video games need to remain elusive and hidden and let their work be their only really interaction. Well not surprisingly my friend proclaimed I was objectively wrong. I’m sure many, if not most, would say the exact same about my point of view. I still stand by it, and I’ll give a really good example to show where I’m coming from: Hideki Kamiya.
Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry, Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and Bayonetta; a resume of near perfect hits over the last two decades or so is worthy of great respect and admiration. Kamiya is among the best of the best, I have a lot of respect for him and great admiration for all he’s contributed to the video game medium. Which is why seeing him turn into the butt of all jokes on Twitter is an unpleasant sight. His Twitter rants and tirades have become famous among the community now, and honestly that’s not how he should be recognized in gaming culture. Of course, Kamiya made that choice to get involved in social media and interact rather extensively, so I’m not using the old “fans ruin everything” blame naming here. But this is the man who gave us Okami and Resident Evil 2, leaving a mark on the memory of every gamer who grew up during that time — long before social media even allowed us to see what he looked like. That’s how it should always be, even now.
Of course that’s just one example out of many; every week there is a scene on any number of social media outlets where something they say gets taken out of context, where fans place every little thing said or posted under a microscope, and soon the whole thing just gets out of control and viral. I get that social media humanizes the once aloof and elusive figures who create the games we cherish, but when you’re in a position like that, you’re better off protecting your personal life and let your work speak on your behalf.
I have a friend who refuses to play Earthworm Jim anymore over something offensive its creator said on social media a long time ago. I won’t get into who and what, but that’s another example. So at the end of the day these are human beings with all pros and cons fully intact, and exposing them with such ease on social idea causes harm to their great creative works. Works that are entirely separate entities from their respective creators.
Going back to my example, I don’t want to remember Kamiya as the guy who told me to “ask my mom” about a Resident Evil 2 HD release on digital platforms, I want to remember him as the genius behind Devil May Cry, Okami, and Bayonetta, games that created some of the fondest memories of my life. Simply because that’s how much I respect him, like I respect all my other heroes, whose work and accomplishments were a source of great inspiration and created everlasting memories for me.
So that’s a rant from someone who still likes how simple things were in the old days. Out of touch? Wrong? Outdated? Perhaps so, but it feels right to me.