Sunday, 15 August 2010

MMOs: reflections on the word "hype"

Hyperbole is the art of exaggeration for effect. As wikipedia has it:

Hyperbole (pronounced /haɪˈpɜrbəli/,[1] from ancient Greek ὑπερβολή 'exaggeration'), is a rhetorical device in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

Hyperboles are figures of speech that are exaggerated in order to create emphasis or effect. Hyperbole is a literary device often used in poetry, and is frequently encountered in casual speech. An example of hyperbole is: "The bag weighed a ton".[2] Hyperbole helps to make the point that the bag was very heavy although it is not probable that it would actually weigh a ton. On occasion, newspapers and other media use hyperbole when speaking of an accident, to increase the impact of the story. This is more often found in tabloid newspapers, which often exaggerate accounts of events to appeal to a wider audience.

In geometry a hyperbola is a curve. Viewed with the edges down it starts low, rises to a peak, then goes low again.

In MMO hype is also a curve. There are rumours that a secret MMO project is planned, vague speculation on whether it will be a wow clone or a shooter, then excitement rises to a peak as awesome trailers are released and old game functionality is re-explained as if it were something new and special. Then the game comes out, you crash 4 times a night and people who can bunny hop well own you.

Don't believe the hype is simply wisdom. Hype is not there to be believed. It's a rhetorical effect, a trigonometric pattern that ends with anti-climax.


  1. I agree. I've been biting my tongue this week because of all the "if you don't like hype you're a sad sorry sack of shite!" posts that have been going on, but maybe they've been prompted by some equally snarky anti-hype posts that I just haven't seen.

    I'm *wary* of hype when it's beyond the bounds of logic, captain, because at that point it just becomes blatant bullshit, which in turn means only disappointment when people realise that while they haven't necessarily been lied to, they've been allowed to let their expectations run wild.

    I really don't see what's so awful about a tiny dose of level-headedness.

    And oops, what happened to posting as name/URL? Bloody blogspot. I guess I'll have to be Stylishcorpse -- which is a title and not a name. :P

  2. I actually rather like hype but I don't consider it a reflection of the game any more but a distinct artform in its own right.

    I had to tighten up people's ability to comment after an earlier post got people rather heated. Things will probably relax again in time.

  3. The way I see it, for MMOs hype largely drives box sales. Because of clever hype we see MMOs like Age of Conan selling a million boxes and then quickly crashing to 100K or so steady subs once everyone figure out the launch game is nearly broken. A hype/ bust cycle can garner you very bad word of mouth. But it can also do a lot to recoup your development costs. The few months after launch are the only time you can hope to sell a client for $60.

  4. Very wise words, Stabs! I don't think anyone should really believe the hype although it can be fun to get sucked into.

    I suppose an interesting question though is how truthful and accurate should trailers and advertising be? Do companies owe it to the players to only state facts that they can deliver? Or is it OK for us all to have a bit of fun and try to exagerate things?

  5. I like the comparison to a hyperbola, something that may get closer and closer to the asymptote (reality?), but can never reach it.

  6. Wow, did I miss a bitch-slapping in the comments? I thought I'd been a faithful follower too. Now I have to trawl backwards and find the goods. :D

  7. A bunch of Eve can flippers got very emo that CCP gave me a ship back couple of posts ago.