Over the weekend, while you were probably busy relaxing and sinking some quality hours into various gaming pursuits, you were also busy being responsible for the fact that there are more and more cookie-cutter games released each year. At least, that’s what indie developer Chris Hecker claims.
To be fair, Hecker has shown in the past that he’s got no issues with speaking his mind at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) - you may recall him calling the Wii a “piece of shit” - and this was during the so-called Game Developers’ Rant session. According to Kotaku, he didn’t simply target gamers; to Hecker, the problem is the result of “the dysfunctional three-way” comprised of developers, gamers and the press.
If you follow Hecker’s line of thinking, the problem with the general public is that the same type of games are being perpetually bought, played and discussed. Press is responsible for overlooking significant game detractors in reviews and generally needing to be more diligent in our role as “the conscience of the industry.” Developers copped flak for a link to Hecker’s criticism about gamers: namely, believing that they should create games they want to play and those games being samey in nature.
In a completely separate tirade, Shacknews is reporting that ex-BioWare developer Christina Norman minced (or didn't) a similar amount of words when responding to vocal public concerns about day-one downloadable content for Mass Effect 3. Controversy over whether the day-one content was on the disc notwithstanding, here’s what Norman had to say about the matter during a recent GDC panel.
“There’s no point in releasing DLC a year after your game has come out. That means getting it out early; that means even day-one DLC. That is a terrible thing to some players. Players rant — they know nothing about this DLC that’s coming out except its name. But then it’s, ‘Oh, this game must be incomplete, the game must be ruined.’ Game developers are not evil. (Some are evil.) But most are not evil. We just want to release awesome stuff. Players please, give us a chance. Judge our games based on what they are. Judge the DLC based on what it is. Stop thinking you’re a producer and telling us when and where we should be building our content.”
It’s still controversial that DLC has been built into the post-release plans of any particular title - even if we have become a whole lot more accustomed to it - so it seems odd for Norman to essentially tell gamers to not provide feedback a certain type of feedback in regards to the DLC of a game players are clearly interested in. Of course, it’s hard to deny the underlying truth of her stance on DLC… if we, as consumers, refused to pay for the type of DLC that we felt was unjustified or should have been included in a core experience, developers and publishers would be forced to look at it in a different light.
Pulling Hecker’s thoughts back into the equation, it seems as though he and Norman would be at ends: Hecker claiming that gamers should demand different things, Norman stating that gamers should know their place.
But despite the potential harshness of their phrasing, they’re both right, to a point. Gamers are not producers, and the general public’s venomous anti-day-one-DLC stance that's been adopted to date clearly isn’t working. In the same breath, gamers ultimately hold all the power; and it’s not just in their wallets, either.
The internet is filled with trolls and ill-informed people who believe that poor grammar and capital letters are a strong substitute for rational argument. Unfortunately, because of this worldwide web of understanding, righteous gamer anger can get lost in the ocular ‘troll filter’, inspiring sharp-edged retorts such as Christina Norman’s. What was said before about developers/publishers and how to force a DLC reform is true of how commenters, forumites and gamers should approach online criticism: if the united voice of gamers is rational in its criticisms and trolling types are ignored, it will be easier for game makers to hear what players really want.
Hecker is certainly right about one key thing, though. We all have respective roles that we need to fulfil to enact change. But, in this instance, it doesn’t start at the top with publishers/developers or even in the middle with us, the press; it starts with gamers refusing to buy, hell, refusing to acknowledge iterative titles. What better global gaming cause than constructively demanding that developers and publishers forge titles that advance our beloved entertainment medium?