August 21, 2008

Jumping Sharks, a Colloquialism Examination

It often amazes me how things come in pairs on the Internet. Today is no exception.

Shark, Jumped, a post from Grouchy Gamer, is a great example of properly using the colloquialism, jumping the shark.

Warhammer Online: The MMO that jumps the shark, from Brent of Virgin Worlds, would be the opposite; a how-not-to-use the jumping the shark colloquialism.

First, let’s examine the full meaning of jumping the shark:
Jumping the shark is a colloquialism used by U.S. TV critics and fans to denote that point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into ridiculous story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations, undergoing too many changes to retain the original appeal of the series. Shows that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak as after this point critical fans can point to a noticeable decline in the show's overall quality.
As mentioned, Grouchy Gamer (aka Genda), hits the nail on the head. Blizzard’s recent addition of a motorcycle as a mount in the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft is a fine example of jumping the shark. The motorcycle is completely out of place, even in the pop-culture-phenomenon that is WoW.

Fans critical of WoW will be able to look back and point to this very item as the possible downturn of quality in WoW, just as Genda has. Especially in the soon-to-launch-face of WoW's potentially stiffest competition yet, WAR. History will be the ultimate judge, but the concept of Blizzard jumping the shark is at least there.

The concept is not there with Brent’s ramblings on Virgin Worlds. Brent spends the better part of two pages explaining how Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) is one giant plateau of MMO game play. According to Brent, WAR brings nothing new, other than Public Quests. In his eyes that means Mythic jumped the shark with WAR.

When confronted on the idea that he may be missing the point of jumping the shark, Brent offers no defense. Darren of Common Sense Gamer gets involved, but fails as epically as Brent in understanding the colloquialism. Neither can point to any change that WAR is bringing that is equivalent to “The Hog” of WotLK. Actually, both seem to agree that WAR will succeed and in the process of succeeding will bring a great new feature to the MMO genre with Public Quests.

Brent is just tired of the current MMOs and he is waiting for something fresh and new, different from the games that have come before. His burn out does not mean WAR jumped the shark and it is obvious to me he wanted nothing more than a flashy headline.

There is a war of words in the comments where I try to get Brent and Darren to understand jumping the shark, or to at least get Brent to inform us what he defines as jumping the shark. Brent and Darren offer nothing more than attacks. According to them, I just don’t understand.

Maybe I don’t understand. I’ll let everyone that wants to comment here tell me which of the above articles properly uses jumping the shark.