Worry Not The Artist, But The Author - Part III
Posted by wastelander75 , 10 July 2012 · 13431 views
journalism journalistic integrity lies redemption trust experience
Watching the Watchers
Subtly is not my strong point. If I need to express my opinion on anything, be it video game news, reviews, excitement, I'm not going to sit there and bulls*it people about it. I simply take the information that's been given me thus far, cobble it all together, and try to make sense of it for better or worse. I might cut certain developers out there a break from time to time. But that's only because they've lived up to certain expectations in the past. Meaning they don't try to over-hype their own hype. Sure it's still hype, but at least it's accurate hype. And it makes me wonder why it's so hard for some developers and publishers out there to embrace this concept of the word "sorry" when it fails. It's not like it's a forbidden taboo to do in video game marketing and development. Hell if that wasn't the case, I don't think Fable would've done as well as it did without Peter Molyneux stepping up to the batter's box and taking the hits that he has. Tim Schafer for that matter, especially after the quirky but ultimately less than stellar Brutal Legend.
Valve has taken a few gut punches itself. Hell for 3 years it was in a legal wango tango with its own publisher Vivendi. Then came the legal disputes with Activision/Blizzard. Then there was the Left 4 Dead tussle with more than a few fans that threatened to boycott Left 4 Dead 2 when it hit. And let's not forget "Valve Time" which basically means "We'll release it when it's ready." But through it all, through the legal battles and the fan displeasure, they did the one thing that made them loveable; they treated the fans, the customers, with respect. And they did everything they could do to build bridges to those fans that were mad at them. Hell a lot of them were even invited into the actual development studio to watch the game being made.
So what's the difference between them and, say Electronic Arts? Activision? Or even.......you know those are the only two places I can think of that are, shall we say, less than forthright with their own player base. Where honesty seems to be a thing that gets tossed out the door on its ass for even attempting to come in to have a look around. Hell Activision alone isn't even honest with its own employees. Otherwise we wouldn't even be hearing anything about the whole Infinity Ward firings, or how months before they fired the two main heads of IW (Jason West and Vince Zampella), they tried to "find some dirt" on the two.
You see, based on court papers prior to Activision settling out of court with West and Zampella, the company's "Project Icebreaker" attempt was to build a case for firing West and Zampella in a way that Activision could release them without paying them their royalties. Thomas Fenady, Activision's former senior director of information technology, was told (and yes these statements are all on file) "Don't worry about the repercussions," if he got caught. Which, yes you guessed it, the big man himself knew all about it. And yes, I'm talking about Satan himself, Bobby Kotick.
Anyway, Fenady tried to use an outside company, InGuardians, to accomplish the deed, but after expressing concerns over the "legal hurdles" they would be facing, they declined. Undaunted, Fenady testified that he tried to approach the company's facilities department to try and stage a "fake fumigation" and a "mock fire drill" to get West and Zampella away from their computers long enough to copy files on their computers. However those plans failed for basically the same reasons.
Hell of a company to work for huh?
Liar, Liar, Blog on Fire
So how does this affect the lower levels of video game journalism? Simple enough, when you get the wrong publisher with the most morally questionable writer out there, you can quite literally have them spinning bullsh*t into gold. Of course, I'm taking about certain reviews and reviewers. Or even the practices some developers and publishers out there go through to ensure that certain things are said the way they want it to be said.
I can't, for a fact, give an example of proof that this has happened, but there are rumors that certain developers will invite certain publishing sites to come in, play a certain game, then sit there and dictate how that publishing agent will rate and review the game in question. And they won't let them place that review up until it satisfies that developer's wishes. Now if it's true, that might explain a lot about how certain reviewers seem to gloss over certain glaring elements in certain games. And how those disparities stand in stark contrast to player experiences and reviews. I mean, yeah fine, a game might get 100 perfect score reviews, but if 99.99% of the player reviews and comments are saying "this game sucks," then guess what?
The game probably sucks. Just throwing that out there.
What really gets me though, what really makes me sigh, scratch my head and wonder out loud, "WTF?!" are places that seem to be trying to justify the crap some of these publishers/developers are putting out there while belittling the fans that called said publisher/developer out in the first place. It's no secret the "Big Two" most hated publishers out there are currently Electronic Arts and Activision. Recent questionable marketing strategies (and in the case of Activision, recent legal woes) just scream "dubious business practices" to me. So why do they need places like IGN and Gamespot (the big two places that scream "dubious journalistic integrity" to me) to try and justify their legitimacy to the player base?
Money. Plain and simple. They want YOUR money. And coming off as being this Shangri-la where all your wildest dreams come true, this "Craptastic Island," where all is perfect and pure, ensures that at least some of the people out there will go,"You know what? I'll give them my money. They don't seem half bad." But the problem is they ARE half bad. Hell, most of them are ALL bad. And why do certain review sites overlook their bad traits? Simple again. They give those places exclusives. Days ahead of the competition. And in an industry where things can change in hours, that's significant. Bad mouthing them, no matter how much they've earned it, seems to be something that certain video game sites out there seem to refuse to do. Because if you bad mouth their business practices, or their less than truthful approach to certain games, then you're blacklisted. Other places get those exclusives, other sites get splash pages placed on their sites with glowing, near blinding reviews and scores. Because refusing to corrupt yourself to their level is "wrong."
It's how it seems to work in this industry in this day and age.
The World We Know
Yeah I know. It seems out of place given the content that I'm writing. I mean, it's a music video for crying out loud. But watch until the end, when everything seems lost. There's a small ray of hope. Watch dog groups seem to be taking root, player industry is slowly expanding, shedding light in an otherwise bleak landscape. Despite how much the old guard wants the status quo to remain the same, people are tired of being disenfranchised, lied to, duped in other words, from the places that are using "professional opinion" to try and pass their words off as "infallible truth." Mass Effect 3's outrage, to me, is the industry's first "Arab Spring" moment. Now places like Hold the Line, Retake ME3, these are the places that are your springboard movements that redefine how the hype, how the less than genuine moments in the video game industry, and how less than honest writers and journalists, out there, regardless of how "senior" or "professional" they are, are now being watched.
You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.
And the minute you erroneously state that your unresearched and biased opinion is fact.
They'll be there to tell you it's not.
And that is a deeply powerful thing.