By Kieron Gillen on February 16th, 2008 at 5:46 pm.
News broke last weekend that Upper Deck Entertainment would be making a licenced World of Warcraft miniatures game, imaginatively names “World of Warcraft Minis”. I meant to blog it at the time, but thinking about it got me thinking about the whole nature of these licenced games, who they’re for and so on. Mainly because there’s not much to say about it. The game seems to be a small party thing (rather than the army-sized Games Workshop Warhammer things), with pre-painted figures from international scultptors and paintjob-design from Ex-GW Mike McVey and the Studio McVey. Characters include “Warchief Thrall and fan-favorite Leeroy Jenkins”. The latter strikes me as perhaps pushing a running joke too far, but as devoted worshippers of Horace the Endless Bear, RPS are hardly in the position to judge at that. More news will surface before its release in Fall (Or “Autumn”).
But what it got me thinking – who actually buys this stuff?
By “this stuff” I mean licenced games products per se. Almost any successful game will have some manner of spin-off. You see novels. You see comics. You see collectible figures. You see T-shirts. You see board-games. You see role-playing games. If you can have a character from a game inserted into another medium, you’ll see it done. However, the one place you won’t see it is… well, anywhere in my house.
Thinking back, I realise this isn’t quite true. I’ve read some novels from gaming worlds before, but they weren’t videogames worlds – they’re from my dirty past in the world of pen and paper books. I’ve read some of the Warhammer fiction when I was, like all too many British kids, in thrall to Games Workshop. I read some of the Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms books – though that wasn’t anything to do with playing the games, as I hadn’t touched trad D&D at that point. It was just fantasy adventure to feed my thirst for sword slashing and similar.
But since those teenage years, I’ve got little or no interest in this stuff. I think this may be part of my brain which believes that fiction is created primarily for its format it was born in, and derivative works are fundamentally uninteresting. In other words, as much as I like Bioshock, I don’t need to read the book of it. I suspect thats’ actually just snobby bullshit. That said, nothing has challenged my snobby bullshit – whatever (say) comic fiction which spins off a game world which has landed in my hands has been drastically underwhelming. We talked about Marvel’s recent Halo comic before, which is a perfect example. Bendis and Maleev are highly talented creators who have both done brilliant work. This isn’t among them, and when I read it I tend to approach it with my second-career comic-writer head on rather than my reader head – that is, I’m thinking “How would I have done this, if I had to?”. Which isn’t much fun, and certainly isn’t healthy.
So this is more of an open question: Who out there buys licensed game stuff. If you do, why do you? Is there any good stuff which I’m missing out on? Is there some particularly horrific ones which are worth giggling at (Which is a queue for Richard Cobbett to drag out his anecdotes about the Planescape: Torment novel which gives the nameless one a name)? And if you’re like me, why don’t you buy them and what would make you do otherwise? Also, if there was a licenced RPS RPG, who would buy?
Tell me, people.