If you frequent certain sites, you may have noticed that Aliens: Colonial Marines [A:CM] and Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford have caused a bit of a stir recently. It has been a roller coaster ride charting the course of the game’s coverage in the press. From euphoric hype, to hugely disappointed reviews and now a confused and angry aftermath, the whole debacle has been fascinating to watch.
If you have no idea about any of this, this should at least give you a taste.
In truth, it is a sad reality that in the end: an anticipated game turned out bad. Nobody likes reviewing bad games, nobody likes making them and nobody likes dealing with the anger afterwards. But the whole situation his really kicked up some issues about the industry as a whole and in reality, no one has come out unscathed. Journalists, game developers, PR companies, audiences, they are all licking their wounds.
As some one who has been kicking around as an online journalist across film and games, I think there is lots to take away from the whole mishap. So much so that I thought you might get value out of preparing them in list form.
5. We Should Hold Developers More Accountable For Their Products
Frankly, the phobia of corporations ends a lot of worthwhile arguments prematurely. I have heard the phrase, “EA/Activision/Ubisoft/Nintendo ruined [insert game title here]” so often that it has become totally meaningless. Publishers are so often blamed for a game falling short of expectations that we have forgotten to hold developers accountable for the content they create. The idea of shady figures sitting behind big desks smoking their cigars and thinking about ways to screw us out of money is a dated image.
Well, sort of. The games industry gets away with a lot of questionable business practice down to Season Passes, paid for DLC and microtransactions. But a game’s artistic content is far too often blamed on a major publisher rather than the people actually making the artistic choices. If I may present a case study, look at Dead Space 3. The game has actually been praised in most areas, with many citing a weak story as its downfall. Now sure, it is possible EA proposed the franchise become more action orientated, but there are certainly parts of that game’s story that aren’t down to EA’s sway over creative choices.
My point being that maybe, as consumers, we should step back and consider our brand and franchise loyalty. It is easier to blame the ‘suits’ than the artists of a game but sometimes we should be asking the hard questions of the creators. Not out of malice, but out of love of video gaming. Gearbox’s handling of A:CM looks more and more questionable by the day. This was a publisher that has had similar experiences with Duke Nukem Forever in the past, but is generally loved for its Borderlands games. However, it looks as if A:CM is the their fault more than Sega’s at this point.
I think this all goes hand and hand with understanding the value of bad art. Bad art is important to progress the whole form further, and challenging bad art is important for creators to build upon their previous efforts. Loyalty to Bioware, Double Fine, Lionhead Studios, Blizzard and indeed Gearbox doesn’t help anybody. Least of all your developer of choice.
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This article was first posted on February 21, 2013