First off, I should admit that I missed the boat on the Devil May Cry series when it was first released. I wasn’t much of a gamer during the PS2 era, so I didn’t pick up the original trilogy until I rented the HD compilation a few months ago. I didn’t play them for too long, but my impression was that they hadn’t aged well. The controls were old-fashioned and the dialogue was cringeworthy. Accordingly, I don’t really have any built-in expectations when it comes to DmC, the franchise reboot released last week.
However, the game is definitely provoking some strong reactions online. The reviews have been largely positive, but there is a faction of Devil May Cry fans who are outraged over the reboot’s changes to Dante’s look and backstory. Over at VG247, Brenna Hillier calls those angry fans to task in a strongly-worded post that seems designed to provoke a backlash. Erik Kain at Forbes obliges her by arguing that Hillier’s categorization of gamers as “entitled” is lazy and dismissive. Both posts have their problems – Hillier’s tone is extreme and Kain’s argument against accusations of entitlement is pretty limp – but I do think the overall discussion brings up some interesting topics.
On the subject of entitlement, I don’t think it’s a problem unique to gamers or the gaming community. Issues of entitlement are common throughout the internet in situations where fans and/or consumers have a direct line to content creators but misunderstand the level of control granted in that relationship. It even crops up in the comment sections of popular blogs; how many times have you read an argument that moderators who delete personal attacks or trolling are engaging in censorship? Some trolls are really just another kind of entitled consumer.
I do think Hillier has a valid point that the fans loudly decrying DmC’s changes are being ridiculous, but her argument is reductive. She portrays the issue as though fans are only upset about Dante’s hair color, when from what I can tell DmC is a pretty extensive reboot. Getting upset about those kinds of changes does make slightly more sense even if the extent of the reaction isn’t reasonable. Kain tries to make the point that fans should be allowed to criticize things they don’t like, but constantly undercuts his argument by admitting that yes, some fans have sent death threats, and sure, creating a whitehouse.gov petition is probably silly. Criticism that ain’t.
However, I think the most interesting discussion comes from their competing stances on whether or a franchise can be “ruined”. Hillier argues that DmC can’t ruin the earlier games because they don’t stop existing, which is a common argument when books are adapted into movies. Kain lists various examples of franchises that he feels were tarnished by later installments, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.
I can sort of see where Kain is coming from on this one. At one point in my life, I felt like Weezer’s later albums had ruined my enjoyment of The Blue Album and Pinkerton, but I eventually realized that my personal taste has just changed over time. His argument makes a bit more sense when it comes to series that are meant to be a cohesive whole; if the story you’re telling doesn’t stick the landing, that definitely takes away some of the overall impact. However, I don’t think that argument applies to Devil May Cry. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t get the impression that the series was telling any kind of cohesive story arc, so it’s not like DmC could ruin the original ending.
Also, just to play devil’s advocate here, I actually think that reboots are a really exciting storytelling opportunity. I know that they’re largely used as a way for multinational corporations to sell us hip new versions of comfortable old stories, but that doesn’t change the fact that every new production of a Shakespeare play is a miniature reboot, and comic books have been rebooting themselves for decades. Why can’t other forms of media take advantage of the same opportunities to reinterpret existing stories?
What do you think? Are gamers more entitled than the internet at large? Is it possible for a reboot or a bad sequel to ruin your enjoyment of earlier installments? Are reboots exciting opportunities or cynical cash-grabs? Let us know in the comments!