Monkey Island Creator Ron Gilbert Lost The Joy Of The Sequel To Horrible People


During Tuesday’s Nintendo Direct Mini, Back to Monkey Island was finally seen in motion. The return of Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman to the series, after more than 30 years away, has generated a lot of interest among fans of classic point-and-click adventures. And unfortunately, where go fans go assholes, people leave shitty and insulting comments on his personal site, so much so that Gilbert has announced that he will no longer discuss the game online.

Among the fans, a word that should probably be remembered 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 coming back, and that Gilbert and Grossman were running the project, was exciting and nerve-wracking news. A favorite show from the 90s returns, made by the people who made it great, so let’s look forward to it, but also… what if it wasn’t so great? This is the standard response, followed by a wait to find out.

Unfortunately, there is still a large contingent of others who feel a religious zeal to annihilate absolutely everything and anyone they perceive to have committed even the slightest acts of blasphemy, and in the case of Back to Monkey Island, it is his work of art. Art, in this case, I replied with a title saying “It looks so damn pretty”.

Art appreciation is, of course, subjective, and there were quite a few people in the comments sharing their dislike of the style. And just because it didn’t work for them. Guess those people didn’t leave then screeds of abuse on Gilbert’s personal site (offline at the time of writing), but unfortunately that’s what so many others have done. Enough that Gilbert announced (as reported by VGC) that such “personal attacks” means he closes the comments and that “I will not post about the game again. The joy of sharing has been driven away from me.

What a miserable situation, given that all somebody seen from the game, it’s a few seconds of in-game sequences, detached from the narration, dialogues or even sound effects.

To be absolutely clear, this isn’t about “criticism,” or Gilbert’s failure to accept it. These are ‘personal attacks’ as a man who has been a bold voice in the gaming industry for over 30 years and faced much criticism has been driven down by misery from 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 repeat 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, don’t make this a leftist multicult sex, i saw this bad graphic style.

it can no longer be saved.

definitely won’t buy it

Or genius insight like,

it’s the product of someone who hates what he created and proves to all the A$$ lickers that he never meant to make another one.

And these are the sorts on the left after personally insulting ones were pruned.

Of course, this is triply stupid given that each monkey island the game has seen a drastic change in art style, since the first sequel in 1991, LeChuck’s Revenge. As Gilbert pointed out a few weeks ago,

Monkey Island 1 and 2 were not pixel art games. They were games using cutting-edge technology and art. Monkey Island 1 was a 16 color EGA and we jumped at the chance to upgrade it to 256 colors. Monkey Island 2 featured the magical magic of digitized art by Peter Chan and Steve Purcell and we wanted to keep pushing everything forward.

The third game, Curse, was very different from the first two, and is still rightly revered today. I remember hate the style change when I was 19, and an idiot, enough that it took me decades to realize what a great game it was. Then the fourth, Escape, had Steve Purcell’s wonderful cartoon, 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 take on Telltale. Tales from Monkey Island. You get the point. It is tradition. A new style for a new game. The idea that it’s a betrayal of any the previous entry is bananas.

Not liking the new style is everyone’s prerogative. People think it looks terrible. They are really disappointed that it does not correspond to an expectation that they imagined for themselves. But to make someone’s life so miserable that they don’t even want to talk about the game they’re making, and stay here with me, maybe fucking stupid?

“It’s an incredible match and everyone in the team is very proud of it,” Gilbert said on his blog. “Play it or don’t play it, but don’t spoil it for everyone.”

I’ll give Gilbert’s blog post the final word in May (and of course we reached out to him to ask if he wanted to comment further.)

I wanted the art for Return to Monkey Island to be provocative, shocking, and not what everyone expected. Rex [Crowle] is an amazing creative force and we have an amazing team of artists, animators, sound designers, programmers and testers who all give their soul to this game and it’s beautiful to see, play and listen to.


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