Game Front 1-on-1: Bob Case Of Tasteful, Understated Nerd Rage
Game Front 1-on-1 is a continuing series featuring interviews with and personality profiles on a variety of people in the vast and diverse community of gaming, including creative fans, passionate players, amateur developers and everyone in between.
WARNING: There are probably spoilers from Mass Effect 3 herein, as well as the “Marauder Shields” web comic. Read at your own risk.
While the endings of Mass Effect 3 left thousands — possibly a majority, though we’ll never know for certain — of players deeply disappointed, BioWare’s legendary misstep had a surprisingly wonderful side-effect: the proliferation of some of the most intense fan-based commentary to emerge in any medium in recent memory. But while an intemperate few made fools of themselves with their reactions to the controversy (mainly expressing outrage at the fans for complaining), the truly remarkable thing about the discussion has been the creativity and thoughtfulness displayed by the gaming community at large.
This has ranged from touching, like Retake Mass Effect’s charity drive, to artistic, like the excellent Marauder Shields comic series. Fans have also produced intellectual output on the matter that puts those of us who do so professionally to shame, and in the weeks following the release of Mass Effect 3, perhaps the best example of this was a video produced in late March by San Diego-based Bob Case, called “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage”:
What set it apart from other, similar examinations is how dense it managed to be. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage” expertly dismissed various defenses of the Mass Effect 3 ending and examined, from a business, literary and artistic perspective, what went wrong. (We highly recommend taking some time to watch.) It also ended up becoming a minor hit, garnering more than 300,000 hits as of this writing. Not bad for an aspiring accountant doing this in his free time.
“Wait,” you’re asking, “an accountant?” Yes. Case has a background in both literature and math.
“One of my majors in college was in English literature,” Case told Game Front. “At one point I was planning to go to graduate school for it, but some combination of not getting accepted and reaizing that it wasn’t a good idea led me to change my plans.” He’s since received another degree in accounting and is currently preparing to take the CPA exam. In the meantime, he works for an undisclosed San Diego nonprofit and has expanded “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage” into a series.
Case came to create “Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage” thanks to a tendency to obsess over his interests, and a need to channel his frustration with the endings.
“Basically, the role playing game is probably my favorite genre,” he said. “[W]henever a new one comes out, it occupies my thoughts for several months after release.” Like a lot of fans, his original plan was to play through Mass Effect 3 and then replay the entire series from start to finish in order to generate new outcomes. After experiencing the endings BioWare came up with, “I just wasn’t interested in playing the series anymore,” he said.
“But I was still in Mass Effect 3 mode,” Case added, “[and] I had to have some kind of outlet for all the time I was wasting thinking about it. That’s where the video came from.” Case’s analysis came out just in time to tap into the larger outpouring from the fans at a moment when it still wasn’t apparent BioWare planned to respond to it substantially. “One thing that’s happened since I made it is that I get a lot of messages from people who’ve watched it. They’ve done something very similar to what I did; one guy has a 40-page google document with all sorts of diagrams.”
Why did so many people take to the web as he did? Case believes it’s because the endings failed in a way that fans consistently noticed. “I personally suspect that the ending did not provide the catharsis an ending is supposed to provide,” he said. “So people who were invested in the game, in an attempt to find that catharsis, through a process similar to what I did, they tried to just think through what was unsatisfying about it, and channel it toward something. I think the process I went through is similar to what a lot of people did, I just happened to put mine on YouTube.”