During Tuesday’s Nintendo Direct Mini, Return To Monkey Island was finally seen in motion. Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman’s return to the series, after over 30 years away, has given a lot of cause for interest among classic point-and-click adventure fans. And unfortunately, where go fans go arseholes, people leaving shitty, insulting comments on his personal site, so much so that Gilbert has announced he’ll no longer be discussing the game online.
Among fans, a word we should probably remember is an abbreviation of “fanatics,” there are always those who have a habit of ruining everything they touch. For most normal people, the announcement that Monkey Island was returning, and that Gilbert and Grossman were running the project, was exciting and nerve-wracking news. A favourite ‘90s series is coming back, made by the people who made it great, so let’s look forward to it, but also…what if it’s less great? That’s the standard response, followed up by waiting to find out.
Unfortunately, there’s always a large contingent of others who feel a religious zeal to obliterate absolutely anything and anyone who they perceive to have committed even the most mild acts of blasphemy, and in the case of Return To Monkey Island, that’s its artwork. Art, as it happens, I responded to with a headline saying it “Looks Damned Pretty.”
Art appreciation is, of course, subjective, and there were a fair number of people in the comments sharing their dislike of the style. And fair-does, because it didn’t work for them. I’m assuming that these people didn’t then go off to leave screeds of abuse on Gilbert’s personal site (offline at the time of writing), but sadly that’s what so many others did. Enough that Gilbert has announced (as reported by VGC) that such “personal attacks” mean he’s shutting down comments and that “I won’t be posting anymore about the game. The joy of sharing has been driven from me.”
What a miserable state of affairs, given that all anyone has seen of the game is a few seconds of in-game footage, detached from narrative, dialogue or even sound effects.
To be abundantly clear, this isn’t about “criticism,” nor Gilbert’s failure to accept it. This is about “personal attacks,” to the degree where a man who’s been a bold voice in the games industry for over 30 years, and has dealt with plenty of criticism, has been driven away by the misery of the response of people who claim to be fans of his creation.
The red flag phrase this time is “Corporate Memphis,” a term they all heard for the first time this week and are repeating with a confidence belied only by its irrelevance. Or, you know, comments like this:
waited 30 years for this.
just when i wanted to say, whatever you do dont make it a leftist multiculti gender bs, i saw this ill graphic style.
this cant be saved anymore.
will definately not buy it
Or genius insight such as,
this is the product of a person who hates what he created and is proving to all you A$$ lickers that he never wanted to make another.
And these are the sorts left after the personally insulting ones were pruned.
Of course, this is triply stupid given that every Monkey Island game has seen a dramatic change in art style, since 1991’s first sequel, LeChuck’s Revenge. As Gilbert pointed out a few weeks back,
Monkey Island 1 and 2 weren’t pixel art games. They were games using state-of-the-art tech and art. Monkey Island 1 was 16 colour EGA and we jumped at the chance to upgrade it to 256 colours. Monkey Island 2 featured the magical wizardry of scanned art by Peter Chan and Steve Purcell and we lusted to keep pushing everything forward.
The third game, Curse, was wildly different from the first two, and is still rightly revered today. I remember hating the change in style when I was 19, and an idiot, enough that it took me decades to properly realise how great a game it was. Then the fourth, Escape, had the wonderful cartoon art of Steve Purcell, yet again unlike any previous entry. The two decades since have given us the wonderful remakes of the first two, with modern interpretations of the original pixel graphics, and yet another approach by Telltale’s Tales Of Monkey Island. You get the point. This is the tradition. A new style for a new game. The idea that it’s a betrayal of any previous entry is bananas.
Bang up job, everybody.— Dominic Armato (@SkilletDoux) June 30, 2022
(I've seen a lot of passionate but polite/polite-adjacent discussion going on, but the comments on Ron's blog were a total shitshow.) pic.twitter.com/BUBoPdU1fS
Not liking the new style is absolutely anyone’s prerogative. People get to think it looks awful. They get to be really disappointed it doesn’t match an expectation they imagined for themselves. But making someone’s life so miserable they don’t want to even talk about the game they’re making any more is, and stick with me here, maybe fucking stupid?
“It’s an amazing game and everyone on the team is very proud of it,” said Gilbert on his blog. “Play it or don’t play it but don’t ruin it for everyone else.”
I’ll give the final word to Gilbert’s May blog post (and we have of course reached out to him to ask if he’d like to comment further.)
I wanted the art in Return to Monkey Island to be provocative, shocking, and not what everyone was expecting. Rex [Crowle] is an amazing creative force and we have a team of incredible artists, animators, sound designers, programmers, and testers all pouring their souls into this game and it’s beautiful to see, play, and listen to.