The Blame Game
July 31, 2009 2 Comments
The title of this post will probably be deceptive. I’m not going to be laying blame at anyone’s feet for anything. Or at least, I’m going to try. Nay, instead, I’d like to talk about the way people lay blame at other’s feet, and how this pertains to our collective hobby; video-gaming.
It’s a commonly accepted fact that we all love to play video games. We become passionate about them, and spend lots of time involved in them. This becomes even more true when you look at the genre of MMOs. In regular console games, most have an end-point, a finale where the player can watch the credits and the exult in the glorious completion of whatever story they were taking part in. That’s not to say that console games don’t try to have re-playability in other ways. They use a lot of tools to give the player post-completion gameplay alternatives. Whether these choices are multiplayer co-op/competition (FPS and such), unlocks, harder difficulties, or a change in story based on choices made in-game varies from title to title, but most games launch with this already implemented. Companies realize that they need to keep the gamer happy, talking about, and playing their game. This level of euphemism helps carry them onto the inevitable sequel if they did their job right.
So, with all this passion and time we spend on the games, scrutiny increases, and technical analysis happens. The same happens in any hobby I can think of. My father, brother, and I all have an appreciation for cars. We can sit around and chew the cud over the latest Lexus SUV, and how the headlights on it look amazing, or the 2010 Mazda 3s and their new body style. I don’t care for them, my brother loves them. Conversations will spiral and carry on into everything from aesthetics to performance. ArgumentsHeated discussions can arrise over which of the new pony cars will reign supreme, and if you could get one why, I contend the new Chargers are obviously the top contender, no matter what my sill Dad things by backing the Mustang.
The point, is that we can think that car companies have made ridiculous design decisions or skimped on quality, and we won’t hesitate to talk about it, or get frustrated by it. Cars are not something that my family in general spends as much time dealing with as you and I spend on gaming. The result will be a much deeper, comprehensive look at all of the different aspects involved, and the people who make them are a relatively small group. We know who is making what, we know the history of these companies for the most part, and what to expect from them. The industry is becoming established with respected leaders, mega-corps, and smaller indie companies. So, as the industry matures, the followers will with it, and will have a better grasp of how things operate inside.
However, these companies work to sell a product and/or service. Part of selling weebles is making sure people know about it. That is the job of marketing, Evil Marketing (to steal a line from PB). People hate marketing in general because of it’s tenuous connection to the reality of the product delivered. Marketing and production have very little connection in my experience. This is no fault of any person, other than maybe us consumers who demand more information at increasingly speedy intervals. Our never-ending hunger for the latest tidbit of data for us to examine, inspect, and dissect into it’s various pieces and disseminate to the internet masses leaves us ever starved and hungry for more. The masses working together toward a singular goal accomplish tasks insanely quick.
Getting back to the marketing thing, take the Shadow Warrior for a prime example. I recently listened to an interview with PB at No Prisoners, No mercy (thanks to Firsttofor directing me there), and in it Paul talks about the podcast he did for the class, and how all of those things first came together. It was an organic development of his own neurotic need to catalog his life, and his bizarre fascination of us yanks. Evil Marketing jumped in, and said “This is great, do some more!”, so more he did, and gave out info with it. Sometimes he had something to base this on, other times he had nothing but vague concepts and ideas, so what he delivered was nothing more than the roughest of outlines. Given this knowledge, none of us should be surprised that the message delivered doesn’t match well with the reality of the product received.
In this instance, there really isn’t a fault to assign here. Is it Paul’s fault that he was doing his job? He was just making the best of what he could with what he had at hand. Is it marketing’s fault for trying to do their job and promote the game? They are tasked with getting the hype up, and the idea out there to buy the game, and play it. Perhaps it’s the players fault for taking the information to heart? After all, it’s information from the source as far as we were concerned it was solid.
Perhaps, instead of laying blame, or pointing an accusing finger when expectations don’t match what is put in front of us, we (gamers and companies) should look to ideas on how to not let misinformation be released as a solid representation of a product. A mere disclaimer on a retail box isn’t sufficient when the dynamic has changed as drastically as it has. The note that “Gaming experience may change” isn’t enough anymore when these things are planned and produced over a span of years. Hopefully in the years to come, as the foundation for the industry settles, there will arise a greater level of accepted practices and methods of dealing with expansive products like WAR, SW:TOR, the newest Halo, or whatever game may be coming that will better prepare both sides for what the actual game is like, and we can all better determine what to expect. No blame, only acceptance and understanding.