Bollocks to April Fool’s Day

Hello everyone. Just a quickie from me to reassure you that we won’t be playing any April Fool’s pranks on you today. Because, to be perfectly honest, the joke has worn pretty thin over the years for everyone working in games and media journalism — plus over the course of the last decade or so in particular, misinformation has really thrived online, with some surprisingly severe repercussions at times.

Many of you reading this are doubtless on Twitter. And, if you’ve been on Twitter as long as I have, you’ve almost certainly noticed the site’s decline from “cool place to hang out and chat with friends, maybe share what you’ve been working on” to “algorithm-driven nightmare that is all about pointless engagement at all costs”.

April Fool's Day: Misinformation online
Don’t be this bellend.

Frustratingly, people were pretty quick to cotton on to the fact that one of the best ways to generate “engagement” is… to lie. In just the past week I’ve seen two separate bait threads — one about the sequel to Breath of the Wild and one about Elden Ring — that spent multiple tweets ranting and raving like an entitled idiot about the subject matter in question, before burying a “just kidding!” tweet at the end that very few people would have actually seen.

Because the first tweets in these respective threads were so deliberately provocative and combative, they attracted considerably more in the way of “engagement” — particularly the accursed Quote Tweets — than the rest of the threads. And they were just lies. They weren’t even how the author genuinely felt — they were, supposedly, “a joke”. But the damage had been done; people had been riled up, the idiocy had been broadly shared across all manner of timelines that didn’t ask for it thanks to Quote Tweets, and generally speaking everyone’s mood had been made just a little bit worse, rather than better.

April Fool's Day: Neptunia Shooter

Now, gaming April Fool’s jokes tend to be a little more positive in nature at first glance, but there’s still a certain bit of mean-spiritedness about them — as well as a clear desire to get attention by any means possible.

Rather than attracting controversy by saying something obviously stupid and negative, they attract attention by appearing to provide something that the audience would actually very much like to see — only to pull the rug out from under them at the last minute and go “haha, just kidding, we know you want this, but you can’t have it really”.

That said, a few companies have actually found a positive way to make use of April Fool’s gags in the last few years — because while it’s a bit mean to tease people with something that doesn’t exist, it’s also a great way to gauge whether or not the audience would actually be up for something.

And successful instances of April Fool’s gags becoming real have ended up being very positively received, with some of the best examples being Compile Heart’s excellent scrolling blaster Neptunia Shooter (which proved so popular it got a Space Harrier-style follow-up a while back) and, of course, Nekopara: Catboys’ Paradise, which ended up being much better than I think anyone expected, particularly given that it was a freebie.

So it’s not all bad. Indeed, Neko Works teasing InuPara for April Fool’s this year makes me feel like they’re genuinely testing the waters for such a project, particularly given that they’ve fleshed out the supposed joke to a considerable degree with a full trailer and voice actor announcements — just like they did with Catboys’ Paradise.

But yeah. For the most part, bollocks to April Fool’s Day. I don’t care if that makes me a miserable old bastard (even if I am) and I don’t give a toss if, to some, it’s a beloved part of today’s Internet culture. Today’s Internet culture sucks, anyway, so you can count on everything you see on Rice today being, to the best of our knowledge, completely real.

Just like my feelings for you. Kiss me, onii-chan.

Header art by Suga Leon, clumsily edited by yours truly with the greatest apologies to the original artist. Original source here.

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Pete Davison
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