I’m not sure how other people feel about buzzwords, but I find them to be vapid, usually with the intent of distraction. This is one of the reasons I stopped paying attention to the large gaming expos like PAX and E3. Game reveals that could be described in mere minutes are drawn out for ten or fifteen minutes as we are told how “exciting” the levels are or how “unique” the gameplay is. Due to this I find it to be quite upsetting that crowdfunded campaigns have adopted this rhetoric, as if the developers have started paying expensive PR firms to handle their campaign.
Buzzwords are those adjectives that don’t really say anything and instead rely on the word itself to sound interesting. A great example of this was Battlefield 4 being presented at E3 in 2013. The presenter used the kenning “next-gen” several times to describe the gameplay, despite “next-gen” not really meaning anything in that context. However they can also be found in practically any form of promotion for a game. I can’t count the number of times I have seen X number of “action-packed levels,” “interesting choices,” or “immersive gameplay.” These adjectives are empty, describing nothing specific about the game, systems, or level design. They exist only as sentence padding and are used because the average human responds favorably to them.
They exist only as sentence padding
Typically they are used to describe games that favor bombast over substance, games that aren’t mechanically interesting. This is why it is more difficult to describe Call of Duty than Vanquish without using adjectives. Both are shooters that use regenerating health and cover mechanics, but Vanquish has depth in its core systems and feedback loop that is missing from Call of Duty. Not that simpler games are bad, they are just more difficult to sound entertaining with words alone.
It is this reason that upsets me the most regarding the surge of campaigns using superfluous vocabulary to sell their game. As a potential backer there is nothing that turns me off of a game more than empty adjectives. It tells me that the game isn’t even interesting enough to the developer to find words to describe the actual experience. However, I do understand that I am most likely in the minority regarding buzzwords. I have seen enough people shake with anticipation while listening to the most empty game announcements. I have seen kickstarter campaigns gain massive funding despite their campaign describing very little. Look no further than the entire Shenmue 3 debacle to see both of these occurrences.
Unfortunately, I see AAA games being funded through Kickstarter as the catalyst to this trend. A couple of weeks ago our staff gave their opinions regarding larger developers using crowdfunding and I mentioned that the campaigns of larger games raised the bar for smaller games. Buzzwords are one of the ways that smaller developers have made their campaigns more appealing to backers who are accustomed to the glamour of expensive press releases. I understand that developers need to do what it takes to get their projects funded so they can pursue their goal of making a video game. I just hope that one day we can sell games without empty rhetoric, with a little more transparency. Many people stopped trusting certain AAA developers because their games never delivered what they promised. What happens when people become just as cynical regarding crowdfunded campaigns that use similar verbiage? With any luck we won’t have to find out, though I fear we are currently on a path to that future.