The Battle for Battlefront

It’s a watershed moment in the history of gaming. The night before a hotly anticipated launch, Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, takes a call from Bob Iger, head of Disney. The exact interchange is unclear but one can assume it was along the lines of this:

“Drew, what the fuck are you doing with my brand?”

The brand is the multi-billion dollar Star Wars universe and the fuck-up is Star Wars Battlefront II. The game is gorgeous, fun to play and a love letter to the most beloved cinematic universe in history. The problem? Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t fair.

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The game is structured so the more money you spend on in-app purchases, the easier it is to dominate other players in the brutally competitive multiplayer slaughter-fests that make up the core of the game.

Until that call from Bob Iger.

The Battlefront II launch is like being stuck on a Spirit airlines flight while adults in diapers scream about continuity errors in The Land Before Time series.

News of rampant Reddit rage had reached the head desk of the House of Mouse and Iger told Wilson to fix it. So hours before the launch, the in-app purchases were removed from the game indefinitely.

The battle over Battlefront is noisy clash of two toxic elements of our culture. Angry nerds and capitalist pigs. The Battlefront II launch is like being stuck on a Spirit airlines flight while adults in diapers scream about continuity errors in The Land Before Time series. It’s is ruining something that is supposed to be fun.

Andrew Wilson has learned his lesson. I only hope that Bob Iger learned his. This is what happens when you farm out your most important property to a company like EA.

It’s clear what a short-sighted blunder it was for Iger to shut down Disney’s in-house game development arm last year. It makes me pine for the days of LucasArts, who put out not only some of the best Star Wars games but some of the best games period.

Unsurprisingly Disney shut them down too.

The game’s gender diverse portrayal of the Star Wars universe means much of the game depicts our heroine slaughtering droves of fellow women.

Star Wars Battlefront II is in many ways the most reactionary game ever made. Most of the changes between I and II are reactions to fan outrage rather than creative ways to improve on the formula. Fans demanded a story campaign so EA crafted a single-player experience that throws every Star Wars cliché into Aunt Beru’s blender. The game’s gender diverse portrayal of the Star Wars universe means much of the game depicts our heroine slaughtering droves of fellow women. The whole experience unwittingly serves as a bizarre metaphor for the toxic masculinity of the crusty outer edges of nerdom.

As Leia leads her soldiers into battle, smoke and debris cast a cloud over the broad promenade that once served as the path of her mother’s funeral procession.

Ultimately a game should be fair and fun. Star Wars Battlefront II is fairly fun. The game requires you to charge boldly into battle, in more ways than one. I’m therefore surprised that my instinct while playing the game has been to hang back and just look around while my fellow players dash towards death. The portrayal of my favorite film universe is so accurate, so beautiful despite all of its brutality, that all I really want to do is wander and wonder in awe. I don’t really care about killing people, I just want to be in Star Wars for a little while.

So far my favorite part of the game is playing as Princess Leia on the planet of Naboo. Leia doesn’t mention it, but Naboo is the homeworld of her mother, a woman she never knew but whose legacy lives on in Leia’s own bravery. As Leia leads her soldiers into battle, smoke and debris cast a cloud over the broad promenade that once served as the path of her mother’s funeral procession. She gives the orders to fall back and I dash into Theed Palace as blaster fire echos through the halls that her mother once walked as the young queen of this world. As I wander through the halls, I find myself absorbed in this world that never was. I stop at a painting on the wall. It’s a painting of Leia’s mother. I stand and stare for a moment until an explosion jolts me from my reverie. I fire blindly into the fog of war and fight for my life. Despite all of the game’s flaw and the frustrations over the launch, everything suddenly seems worth the price of admission. I’m there, I’m in Star Wars. I only hope that next time I’m there, everyone is having as much fun as me.

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2 thoughts on “The Battle for Battlefront

  1. I don’t get much time to play video games anymore. I have such a backlog of games to play that i certainly don’t buy new releases. And i don’t really follow gaming news. But i’ve been following this debacle closely.

    Games have been getting away with adding these little gambling touches into their games. encouraging children and adult gamers to spin the wheel and pay real money for the chance to unlock items – cosmetic and ones that affect gameplay. Pay-to-win has been steadily creeping into AAA games more and more. And following this news on reddit, this does appear to be the straw that broke the camels back.

    You noted that they’ve removed the pay-to-win mechanics – for now. EA says they will be back in the game, who knows if they will be fairer. I somehow doubt it…

    It’s such a shame because all the footage of gameplay i’ve seen has looked great! And it sounds like you seem to be having a blast. It makes me angry that a game in the Star Wars universe should have people discussing the amazing gameplay and awesome graphics, but instead it’s about how they must play 40+ hours to unlock a hero, or pay money for one. (although they’ve nerfed that time it’s still a lot of hours i believe to unlock everything, which makes it difficult to enjoy when the only reason for that is to make ea extra money. I heard someone online talking about how their uncle payed $5,000 for cosmetic items in a game, and i kids racking up hundreds on in-app purchases, so it’s not going away.

    It should be a debate of ethics. These games are designed to prey on the weak. Those with lots of money are fine, but it’s those who can’t control their impulses who are affected worse. It’s just a game, so it’s up to the consumer to control their spending. But undoubtedly it’s those most vulnerable who are worst affected in the end.

    Anyway I didn’t mean to write so much, I just really enjoyed what you wrote and feel passionately about gaming, even if i don’t get the chance to play as often now.

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