Fanatical Rant | Brainwashing or How Destiny Became Popular

If nothing else, 2014 should be remembered as the year of undue hype. Destiny, Watch_Dogs, and to a lesser extent Titanfall were all massively hyped games that all got a resounding “Meh” in terms of reception. Quite frankly these titles are bland and middle of the road compared to the expectations they built for themselves and other entries in their genre. Many people will defend them to the bitter end though, in spite of not liking similar games, or even better games of the same vein.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that I’m not being hypocritical here. I’m well aware that these games have gotten good ratings, even by The Game Fanatics. There are going to be disagreements on anything, but that’s especially so in the realm of criticism. Battle lines have been drawn on Destiny everywhere I’ve been, and this it’s no different for us here. I just fall on the side that’s disappointed with these titles.

Since Destiny is undeniably the biggest new release in a long time, and by extension the biggest “Meh” title of all, it will be the focus of this article going forward. I had a fairly long list of complaints and a long harangue all planned out. Then the guys at Smosh absolutely nailed it with their “Honest Trailer” for Destiny. Anything I write here will not compare, so I’ve now made it assigned watching for everyone that’s going to read this as it lists the flaws perfectly and in an entertaining fashion.


Even though it’s an obvious mess, there are many people willing to defend Destiny to the death as if they have some stake in the game’s success. People will still play Destiny even while they complain about how bad it is. Why do they do that? It’s really a two fold issue. One answer is that most people want to get their money’s worth out of a gaming purchase, even if the product is bad. Kind of like a miniature Stockholm Syndrome. That doesn’t really explain it all though, or how Destiny become so big in the first place. The more insidious answer is that they were brainwashed.

Dave Anthony thinks the gaming industry could teach the US government how to sell bad ideas.
Dave Anthony thinks the gaming industry could teach the US government how to sell bad ideas.

I assure you this isn’t a conspiracy theory. Former Call of Duty director Dave Anthony recently had an interview in BusinessWeek where he comes out and puts it as such:

“When we have a new product that has elements that we’re not sure how people will respond to, what do we do as a corporation?” he asked, referring to his time as writer and game director on Call of Duty: Black Ops and Black Ops 2.

We market it, and we market it as much as we can – so that whether people like it or not, we do all the things we can to essentially brainwash people into liking it before it actually comes out.”

Hype, brainwashing, call it whatever you want. It’s not a conspiracy theory. The whole idea of marketing is to sell you their product and make you think it’s the greatest thing in the entire world. The sad part is, it works to a frightening degree. Why focus on making a game people will like when you could just use marketing to influence a young demographic with malleable brains. Tell them that Destiny is cool enough times and they just have to have it.

Destiny takes from a lot of different games, just like Shovel Knight did. The only problem is Destiny didn’t incorporate all those borrowed elements nearly as well as it should have. At least it nailed the shooting things aspect, as expected of Bungie.

Simply put, Destiny is a mediocre game that was marketed well. So well that they were able to sell millions of people around the world a gutted video game experience. They can then “fix” a problem, that they may have created on purpose, through patches and DLC. This generates more buzz for them after release as word of mouth spreads about how many improvements the game has undergone. It’s a tactic that gives them millions of unpaid advertisers. It rewards developers and publishers for intentionally putting out a subpar game then pretending to fix it instead of releasing the game properly.

Many may think I’m being cynical, but I ask you: Have you ever taken a college level course on Marketing? It’s almost literally a course on how to be an abysmal human being and to manipulate people with the intent of exploiting them. Go to a nearby university and sit in as human beings are denigrated to a herd that does nothing but consume and exists for no other reason than to provide money. If you can cut any corner and still get away with it, do it. Better yet, if you have a fully polished game, break it a little bit and then fix it promptly afterwards to generate more buzz than getting it right in the first place. That way you get praise for the release and praise for the fix.

Fans will say “Destiny isn’t an MMO!” because it doesn’t have the good features you’d find in one. It just has all the lackluster elements of an MMO. They can just patch in the good, common sense features later, to universal acclaim.

As gamers, we shouldn’t have to put up with this nonsense. It will only get worse unless we stop buying into it. The slippery slope fallacy is only a fallacy when you aren’t actually on the slippery slope: Companies will continue to invest more and more on marketing rather than making a product worth owning, until something eventually gives. It’s not their fault. The purpose of a large corporation is to generate money, not to make people happy or produce good games. If a company can release the 8th console generation equivalent of E.T. and get away with it, it’ll happen.

Like hypnosis, marketing only works on those that don’t know that people are doing it to them, or those that are open to suggestion. Perhaps by reading this your ability to see through the malarkey has been bolstered a little. Maybe if enough of us wise up, things won’t get worse. Companies only care about the bottom line and if enough people stop riding the hype train pre-release, and let them know that gutting a game to cash in on DLC isn’t going to fly, then they will focus on other methods to increase profit. Like releasing a complete gaming experience.

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