Thursday, 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.


  1. Anonymous9:38 AM

    I don't understand how he (brent) can rip WAR for being nothing new (except PQ's) but then go on to praise AoC in the same post.

  2. I don't think it is really praise. Brent simply has more fun playing AoC than WAR. He most likely approaches both games the same and is unable or unwilling to adjust his style of play to have fun in WAR. He doesn't want to have fun in WAR. It is pretty easy to find another game at that point to have fun in.

  3. Heartless you are correct sir. His version of jumping the shark is wrong. Another great use of jumping the shark is for example this website:


    Did WAR ADD a little Cousin Oliver like the Brady Bunch, I think not.

  4. Anonymous10:15 AM


    You're scope of vision is too narrow. Look at the larger picture and apply the "Jump the Shark".

    Apply it to game mechanics and the MMO industry as a whole...not just to WAR itself and you'll understand the point. Draw a diagram, that might help ;)

    Ask yourself this:
    - has WAR already pasted it's peak in terms of gamplay mechanics?
    - has WAR "out of place" in the MMO given the time and development that Mythic spent on it.

    ...think some more on it.

  5. WAR is not out of place on the time line. It is beating WotLK, its main competition, to the market.

    Out of place would be Vanguard, which launched "the true Everquest 2" within a couple weeks of The Burning Crusade and failed miserably.

    You draw a diagram, display it. Prove your points. Stop asking the questions. You are getting nowhere continually deflecting criticism.

  6. Anonymous10:27 AM

    'Jumping the shark' applies to individual products (i.e. Shows and now MMO's).

    The original title was that WAR jumped the shark. Which is, as others have mentioned, a silly argument.

    darren, are you now saying the arguement is that the whole MMO genre has jumped the shark?

  7. How can WAR be past *its* peak when it hasn't launched yet? Now, in terms of mechanics, etc. perhaps it's past the *genre's* (current) peak (which is WoW) but not its own.

    WAR didn't jump the shark, but it was the straw that broke Brent's camel's back. It's just more of the same with a few little twists on existing systems. Just like everything else has been, just like WoW was. I will, however, place the blame squarely on the Mythic guys' shoulders for over-hyping it as something revolutionary and encouraging those prone to fanboism to enter a state of frothy, rabid frenzy.

    Brent is not a PvP guy. So, despite all the pre-launch hype of AoC being *the* PvP game, the reality is that currently the little PvP in the game doesn't even work right. So Brent can happily PvE with blood, boobs and DDR combat.

  8. > The motorcycle is completely out of place, even in the pop-culture-phenomenon that is WoW

    When the above was posted, I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Engineers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced...


  9. I think they both do. Contextually, Brent was implying that MMOs in general have jumped the shark and that people will eventually point at WAR as the moment when they realized that MMOs have peaked. If you buy into that idea (which I don’t), then you believe that the players will have some magical dawning moment of realization that MMOs are on verge of decline. Presumably, this realization will occur when their dreams are dashed because they find nothing new in WAR. It’s WAR as the instrument of that realization that makes the “jump the shark” usage appropriate.

    However, that doesn’t make Brent right. It doesn’t mean that MMOs have jumped the shark, only that HE thinks they have jumped it. Ironically, I would say that most people that hold this opinion already thought the shark was jumped. And if they have already come to that realization prior to WAR, then it kinda makes that whole argument that WAR is somehow the harbringer of MMO doom that much more ludicrous.

    I think the reality is that 80% of MMO players have only played WoW. Anything significantly different than WoW (like RvR and PQs) is going to be seen as something radically new and innovative.

  10. sig67, that is not jumping the shark. I'm not sure why people keep using jumping the shark to show something is passed its prime.

    If he wants to say the MMO market is passed its prime, then he should have said that and accept the criticism about his SOE comments.

    He didn't. He stated that WAR is the MMO that jumped the shark, without an actual shark jumping moment to illustrate WAR is not a quality product.

    He actually says the opposite by stating Public Quests are a great feature and that WAR is poised to be the #2 MMO.

    Either he made a bad argument and is stubbornly not defending it, or he really didn't/doesn't get jumping the shark.

    I'm guessing the latter, but I appreciate your input.

  11. without an actual shark jumping moment to illustrate WAR is not a quality product

    That “moment” in Brent’s example is the realization that that WAR is not any different than any other MMORPG. In Brent’s context, he’s making the argument that anyone expecting something exciting will have a “Cousin Oliver” moment when they realize it’s not new. Supposedly, this will lead to some major epiphany that all Diku-based MMOs have (omfg!) similarities!! It’s the letdown of false expectations that make WAR the scapegoat in his “Jump the Shark” analogy.

    However, it’s a false analogy because it all presumes that people won’t find WAR new or interesting. That’s really just Brent’s own personal experience and is not reflective of the greater MMO market. In fact, it’s not even a “Jump the Shark” moment for Brent because he already feels that way. He is just making the supposition that other people will feel that way because people are desperate for radical changes in MMO design.

    The faulty logic in Brent’s reasoning is not that he uses the analogy badly, but that he presumes that all MMO players are exactly like him and will come to the same conclusion. However, the vast majority of MMO players are NOT just like Brent and most of their experience is only in WoW. And as you’ve pointed out a number of times on this blog, an RvR based game is pretty significantly different than WoW. Darren, Brent, and Cameron all fall into this same trap of thinking that everyone shares their opinion about the general state of MMOs.

  12. Anonymous2:15 PM

    See Tobold's post today for what I think is the explanation. I tried to say the same thing, but I think he did it better than I.

    Now, if Brent didn't have fun playing WAR, that's completely cool, but I am inclined to think he may have missed something, in that I am inclined to believe that if one approaches it the same way one would approach WoW, that it's going to seem flat and imitative, whereas if one is able to embrace the WAR approach to common features one is liable to get a better better experience as an output.

    Then again, sometimes a given thing just doesn't click with a particular person: I thought EQ2 was made of hot buttered ass the first two times I tried to play it, and now I think it's one of the better MMOs on the market.

    I'll also add that using "jumped the shark" seemed inappropriate, but that's not really germane to the point.

  13. sid67, it still doesn't make any sense. If Brent had pointed to something in WAR that is just completely mind-boggling as to why its there that made him come to this magical realization that he doesn't like Diku-inspired games anymore, I would have bit the shark jumping.

    He didn't.

    Along with the bad analogy, which I firmly believe was for the headline grab, he makes the mistakes you point out.

    I'm just here to police the playground.

  14. Anonymous3:21 PM

    In no way shape or form does the term apply to Brent's opinion on WAR. At least not in any way I have ever, ever, ever, used the term and understood it.

    That said, Heartless_, you have clearly jumped the shark. ;-)

  15. Anonymous3:53 PM

    I'm going to say that I don't believe for a minute that the post that sparked all this controversy was an attempt to use controversy to boost hit count - I can't think that Brent needs that kind of help. (I, on the other hand, use provocative headlines all the time.)

    I do think the tone of Brent's post carried an emotional reaction to the most knee-jerk WAR defenders. This I can understand, since I got the same thing any time I even implied that WAR might not be anything less than a revolutionary and flawless title, even tangentally by saying that, for example, up to a point Age of Conan is actually fairly decent.

    Also, did he actually SAY that WAR was going to be DOA? I didn't catch that.

  16. Brent's "nda breaking" post:

  17. Anonymous5:49 PM

    WAR does not fit the colloquialism of jumping the shark in any way. You can argue that its not that innovative, stagnant, or anything else along those lines (I'd disagree, but you CAN argue it). You cannot argue that it's jumped the shark because it simply doesn't meet the criteria for that colloquialism to apply. It can't have deviated from its established premise and/or added idiotic new characters in an attempt to recover its waning audience BEFORE it even releases.

    WoW, on the other hand, by adding retarded things that don't make sense (like motorcyles) can be claimed to have jumped the shark. Even the Death Knight reeks of Cousin Oliver. I don't think too many people would argue that WoW's star is rising in western markets. WoW has peaked and is now starting to slip. Time to let loose the motorcyle and zevra mounts!

  18. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Don't forget about Dance Studios and Barber shops!


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