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In the early 2010s, I found myself in a weird and bitter place: I’d spent years trying to learn about and enjoy roguelikes, and suddenly everyone was playing them. I bit my tongue mostly, but deep down I was boiling.
When you’ve been a fan of something—a band, a director, a video game genre—that was once obscure, it can be easy to become bitter when that thing finds crossover success. Maybe you see unique qualities that drew you in sanded down in favor of a more widely agreeable shape, or are frustrated with new fans who aren’t interested in history or context. Maybe it’s a very real case of a big company trying to cash in on something a broke, independent creator poured themselves into. Or maybe it’s just pettiness.
I think with me, it was mostly that last one. I didn’t see what others did in games like Rogue Legacy or Binding of Isaac, why couldn’t they get this excited for Shiren the Wanderer or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup? And while I loved FTL, I did so by claiming it: I rolled my eyes at every attempt to say it wasn’t a roguelike, and insisted that actually, it was an obvious evolution of the genre I always knew was great.
Watch Austin play Slay the Spire, a roguelike card game! Article continues below.
It wasn’t only roguelikes, either. In the lead up to Hearthstone’s release, I became the insufferable card game fan. I had all sorts of armchair designer questions: Why was the mana curve this weird? How could you ever build reliable combos with only two copies of any given card in your deck? Doesn’t Hearthstone’s increased reliance on randomness make it a worse competitive game?
Somewhere along the way—probably around watching Patrick wrap his head around Spelunky, or seeing friends who’d never bought a Magic the Gathering pack in their lives exchange Hearthstone strategies—I thankfully mellowed out. These genres weren’t mine, and more importantly, they weren’t worse off for their shifts towards approachability. The fact that many more people could now enjoy the sorts of games that I’d loved for a long time was a plus, not a minus.
And it wasn’t the only net positive.
I think about so many of the great Roguelikes and -lites of the 2010s, and wonder if they would’ve been made without the genre’s expansion. Invisible, Inc. is one of my favorite games ever, but it wouldn’t even make sense for Klei to release that game in a world that hadn’t shown there was an appetite for run based games that utilized procedural generation and were focused on risk and resource management.
My life is now filled with games like this, and many blur genre even further. Crypt of the Necrodancer added rhythm. Out There added alien linguistics. Dead Cells added, well, Castlevania. Early access game Slay the Spire (which I wrote about last week), literally blends roguelikes and card games together, a conceptual middle finger to the petty Austin of the past, and a gift for the me of now, who is desperate to play through the game again.
There is a reason to be protective of stuff sometimes. Big corporations do water down unique and challenging art to be more consumable. It is frustrating to see an artist, musician, or gamemaker you love trim away their most interesting qualities to appeal to a wider audience. But in the case of the roguelike and the card game, I was just being a petty asshole.
Is there something you’ve been a petty and defensive fan for, only to one day overcome your own attitudes? Are you carrying a grudge about something even today? Either way, let me know over on the forums!