Erasmus Rampant!

Here’s another mind-rattling quote from that champion of chat, that rajah of repartee, Desiderius ("call me Desi, call me Rasi, just don’t call me Friday") Erasmus:

"...verum si fieri non potest ut omnibus probemur, hoc interim me consolator quod ubique ferbe probamur a probatissimus. Et spero futuram, ut quod nunc placet optimus mox placaet plurimus.

For those uneducated cretins who’ve allowed their Latin to grow rusty, this translates to:

"...if it is not my destiny to find favor with everyone, I am consoled for the present by the reflection that almost universally I am well regarded by those who themselves are best regarded; and I hope that at some not distant time that which now pleases the best of men will come to please the majority of men."

Now, the significance of this to game design (yes, I was going to get around to that) involves the matter of elitism. Erasmus here contrasts the tastes of "the best of men" (optimus) with those of "the majority of men" (plurimus). He expresses his hope that someday the majority will come around to the tastes of the better kind.

In many ways, Erasmus proved to be farsighted. His courageous defense of religious toleration didn’t go far in the 16th century, but within a couple of hundred years, the majority of men recognized its merit. Similarly, Erasmus’ astoundingly modern notions of women’s liberation (no kidding!) weren’t very popular in the 1520s but they did -- eventually -- catch on.

Erasmus was right: the majority of people do eventually catch up with the tastes of the best of people. In marketing terms, this translates into a simple dictum: if you want to know what will sell today, get a focus group of average people. If you want to know what will sell tomorrow, get a focus group of "the best people". Of course, your "best people may give you an idea of what will sell a few hundred years down the road. But tastes do grow more refined each year. Remember, the Romans thought that the sight of people being torn apart was entertainment. Nowadays, nobody thinks that way -- except for maybe Acclaim...[Note: this reference is dated. It refers to Mortal Kombat, in which each round culminated in the ripping out of the spine of the loser. CC 2003]

The sad thing is, Erasmus himself didn’t come out too well. Here we are nearly 500 years later, and Erasmus is a subject for study by only the "eccentrissimus". It would seem that the plurimus have overwhelmed the optimus.

But wait! Let’s at least use our imaginations here! Let’s conjure up a big-budget Hollywood treatment of the life of Erasmus. Yes, a $100 million film loaded with special effects like exploding manuscripts and writing quills that turn into serpents and... well, you get the idea. I think we can get Sylvester Stallone for the title role, with Dani Glover playing the part of Thomas More, and Pee Wee Herman playing Martin Luther. Mariel Hemingway could play the part of Lady Anna of Veere to spice up the historical reality with a little sex appeal.

Yes! Yes! It really could work!

Sheesh, and some people say I have no feel for the marketplace...