A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Stop digging up the grave

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|04.10.13

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Sometimes you just have to pull off the bandage.
My original plan for this week's column was to discuss themes and tone in superheroic games, but that got pushed to the side when Jack Emmert's comments about City of Heroes lit up the imagination of pretty much everyone still pining for Paragon City. For those who haven't already seen it, here's a helpful link to the video of the PAX East panel wherein Emmert makes a brief statement that the shutdown was not a good thing and that NCsoft should call him.

Friends of mine from the City of Heroes community let me know about this. People I don't know from the City of Heroes community let me know about this. Random strangers let the entire Massively team know about this. Never mind that I was at the PAX East panel where it happened and thereby already knew about this beforehand, that's not really important right now.

You are probably expecting me to join the crowd of the hopefuls, but no. We're long past that point, and even if we weren't, this is not a chance to start hoping that the game will return from the grave. Fact is, it's past time to stop hoping.

Yes, I would like to have more time with this, but I accept that I can't.Not a promise

Let's just belabor the point for a moment. All of this hope is based off of a brief comment by someone who worked on City of Heroes back at launch and was at PAX East promoting the new game that he's working on. I'll be the first to admit that this is a very strange industry, but that's still not how any company in the world does business. If Cryptic as a whole was interested in seeking out CoH, the time to do so was several months ago. We don't know if that happened, but if it did, Cryptic was not willing to pay what NCsoft is asking.

NCsoft shut the game down. This is not the first game that has been shut down by the company, nor will it be the last, and believing that something is suddenly going to change because of an off-the-cuff comment is kind of ridiculous. It says something about CoH that they entertained the idea of selling it off at all, but that came and went. Why the company would have any motivation to dust the game off and sell it to a buyer now is unclear to me; perhaps someone can speculate about that in the comments.

But let's pretend that NCsoft would sell to Cryptic -- the question then becomes why in the world Cryptic Studios, or more accurately Perfect World Entertainment, would want to buy it in the first place. This is a company that already has a superhero game currently running, using the same business model that CoH did, and if you've missed the memo, that game is not doing super great at the moment. Why in the world would you buy an older game to compete with your newer game, a game that would require new staff when you don't want to sink more resources into Champions Online in the first place?

Sure, Emmert has sentimental attachment to CoH. But I highly doubt he would want to go from directing a new title that's coming out amidst a lot of buzz to a project he worked on many moons ago. Going back to an old job that you left does not usually indicate ascension. Reading his words as anything but a remark made out of empathy and sentimentality is ultimately too hopeful.

And yes, I would have liked this in large amounts, but again.Hope springs not quite eternal, but far too long

What surprised me was the number of community members who came out at this statement with a zealous and unwavering hope. This is not true of everyone; I had friends who pointed me to it just curious if I'd seen it, and I'll agree it was noteworthy. But there was a sudden rush of people who took this as the first step along a road that ends with CoH starting up again.

During most of that, I was facepalming. I'd really expected better from the community.

I'll be first to the party to point out that CoH is still worth discussing in hindsight, but that is hindsight. It's gone. I don't want it to be gone, I wish it wasn't gone, but it still is. And we as a community do not want to be the guys endlessly ranting about the fact that a game you liked shut down.

Those people are not fun to be around. They are the children who sit and endlessly pick at a scab, opening the wound over and over until they're left with a nasty scar stretching across most of their bodies. I already see people in comment threads railing about other superhero games failing to measure up, the same sort of endless grousing about a moment that's passed that you see in any thread about Star Wars: The Old Republic from old Star Wars Galaxies players.

We don't want to be those people. We need to let it go.

Accepting and forgetting

There is a world of difference between the two terms in the subheader there. Accepting a loss means coming to terms with the fact that it happened and it isn't going to be reversed. Forgetting means pretending it never existed and never being sad about it.

I had to accept when my father died because the alternative was really dumb. I could not spend the rest of my life getting mad at people for having fathers that weren't dead or hoping that my father might actually be a secret agent and I'd find out he wasn't dead in a few years. But that didn't mean forgetting who he had been in life or the impacts he had upon me as a person.

Should we forget CoH? Of course not. But we should accept that it is, in fact, gone. Jack Emmert's comments don't undo that, nor will future mentions of the game. It's gone and we miss it, but we have to learn to live without it.

City of Heroes was a magnificent game, worthy of recollection, worthy of tribute, and worthy of contemplation. It's a game I miss. But it is gone, and we collectively need to accept that the time to hope for a reprieve has passed. There's discussing a departing friend and then there's comparing everything to that departed friend in unflattering terms.

And we -- as a community united by a game that is gone -- are better than that.

You probably know where to flame me already, but if you've forgotten, the comments are down below, or you can send a flame off to eliot@massively.com. Next week, we'll have that theme discussion.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre spent years in City of Heroes before the world-shattering event that destroyed his home world. But he remains as intrepid as ever, traveling to other superheroic games and dispensing his unique brand of justice... or lack thereof.
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