As I’ve grown older, I like to think I have matured, at least somewhat. Learned to think less binary, to see nuances. To not give in to knee-jerk reactions. Writing an article called “Not MY Monkey Island” in 2023 after seeing the Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island (Footnote: Commonly abbreviated SeMI.) announcement? I’m way too sophisticated for that.
Having gone through the trailer multiple times, I can safely say I don’t get it. It doesn’t enrage me, nor do I wish any ill-will toward Rare who I truly believe loves Monkey Island. I just don’t get exactly what I’m watching.
Maybe I take issue with
Deep in the Sea of Thieves, but I shouldn’t—SeMI is a Sea of Thieves expansion, so, of course, the main title should be worked in right up front. Maybe it’s the return of the much-maligned 2009 Monkey Island logo. Or maybe… This might be a distillation of my wariness:
Reference mania, ahoy.
Let’s take a step back to the grave-robbing scene in LeChuck’s Revenge. Most of us have seen it so many times that it’s easy to forget how dark it really is. Lightning strikes as Guybrush digs up the bones of Marco LaGrande with the intention of making a voodoo doll of his grandson. And as he raises the bone triumphantly, his pants fall down. It’s a great joke, not because of the pants, but because it’s an unexpected moment that stands in direct contrast to the actual scene you just witnessed.
Meanwhile, over in SeMI, Guybrush proclaims himself the Legend of Monkey Island, and as he pulls out his sword, his pants fall down. It’s a scene reminiscent of a dozen pieces of fanfic written during the aughts.
That’s what it comes down to for me. From the admittedly little we’ve seen from SeMI, it seems like giddy fanfic, where everything is thrown on the wall: The SCUMM Bar! Murray! Stan! The Monkey head! LeChuck! The whole gang is back, don’t worry. Rare wholeheartedly wants to assure you they love Monkey Island.
And here’s the thing: That is for many a good thing. And that is what Rare should do. Me being a grumpy old man about it is a
me problem. Setting aside the fact that I haven’t even played Sea of Thieves, the thing to remember is that SeMI ostensibly is fan fiction. As creative director Mike Chapman puts it:
It’s a really interesting entry point for our story – what if Guybrush and Elaine had their honeymoon in the Sea of Thieves? What if they had been invited to the Sea of Thieves to have this ultimate pirate honeymoon? And that’s where our story picks up.
For many, that’s good enough. And I get it. A side trip to Monkey Island in a pirate game you already play? That’s probably fun, and a fanfare of fan-pandering actually makes sense within the context. It’s just not my thing. And with that, SeMI really is not MY Monkey Island. But it might just be YOUR Monkey Island. And that’s great. Maybe in the year of the lord 2023, I can accept that my opinion isn’t the be-all and end-all. And I truly hope those of you who play this will say,
this is MY Monkey Island.