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Daily Reaction: Are You Hurting the Games Industry?

August 17, 2012 Written by Sebastian Moss

Daily Reaction is a PSLS exclusive feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

With the news that IO Interactive have tweaked levels in Hitman Absolution due to the huge backlash the infamous “Attack of The Saints”/Sexy Nuns trailer caused, Daily Reaction takes a look at other examples of where developers have caved under public pressure, and whether it is a beneficial thing for the industry, or one that ruins creativity or controversial games.

Seb: As a games critic there are plenty of times when I look at a game and think “this is wrong”, “this could be better”, “this should be changed”, but that doesn’t mean it should be changed. What it does mean, however, is that developers should either agree and fix the issue or instead they should stick with their vision, but explain why they chose the character, the design, the ending or whatever

A lot of people thought that the Hitman trailer was oversexualizing both women and violence, with the big-bosomed women dressed in totally inefficient garb for Hitwomen clearly trying to gain the 13-year old gamer’s vote, some found the use of nuns + tits as insensitive, while others saw no problems with it at all. Me? I found it embarrassing, yet another reminder that this isn’t a very mature industry as a whole. On top of that, it was totally out of character for the series, which was galling when we have more than enough action focused titles. Hearing that IO has taken the criticism on board, albeit slightly, is a step in the right direction. Games are never going to be taken seriously when they have more boobs than dialogue.

Equally, with Mass Effect 3 having an unsatisfactory ending in the eyes of many, gamers had the right to protest. But the over top and childish behavior of some of the complainers didn’t help matters, if people want their voice listened to, and not just heard, they need to keep things in proportion and be mindful of what they demand. BioWare and EA didn’t have to release a new ending – for free – it must have hurt their bottom dollar and delayed further projects, and they should be commended for reacting to the problem.

But demanding change on the issue, or any other, is a slippery slope. It starts with removing something like this, and goes on to having people complain about smaller and smaller issues. Worst of all, it gives people a sense of entitlement: “I bought/am planning to buy this game, therefore I should have full control over the entire development project.” This leads to unreasonable demands and devalues the whole process of consumer-developer interaction.

Dan: My stance on this subject differs in that I firmly believe a developer needs to maintain a vision of its project from beginning to end. Having worked within a team to create a visual product, I have experienced first hand the number of hands that can totally tank someone’s original vision. Having some semblance of artistic value in a project is exactly what gives a product heart, games like CoD become so mass market that audiences treat it as nothing but gaming’s version of a potato chip [Seb: crisps] – a product that contains little value other than its initial flavor. When approaching topics that walks a line of taste, such as Six Days in Fallujah there can be a some people who will be put off on the topic. Yet, this does not mean your sensibilities should stop someone from making the point they feel should be made. People need to realize their beliefs are no more important than someone else’s. It’s something that annoys me to no end, as gamers complain politicians are speaking about something they have zero idea about – there are gamers out there up in arms over products and stories they have yet to experience. Do not complain about something you know nothing about, it is simple as that. You are more than welcome to speak your mind on not having interest in purchasing a product for what ever reason, but to believe your opinion is the final stance is immature and ignorant. So developers should stand by their product, especially if they are creating something they truly believe in.

Prime examples of this are the issues of Mass Effect 3’s ending and the changing of Cole McGrath’s character in inFamous 2. As, in these cases, the ending of ME3 was an experience that gamers had earned, and they were more than welcome to state their dissatisfaction, but was BioWare and EA mandated to alter the ending? No, but they did because they realized on a financial level it would have made bad business sense to leave so many customers dissatisfied. As well as the case of Cole’s character model, it was a new artistic approach to show the physical changes that Cole had been experiencing. Yet, that was alters as well to appease the uproar caused by unsettled fans. On a financial level these changes are understandable, yet ultimately cost any product it soul as its vision becomes little more than a vehicle for financial gain.

Seb: Sure, I totally understand artistic vision, and I can understand differing opinions or criticism – I’m sure this post will get negative comments, and it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong, or they’re wrong, they’re opinions. But discussions about it need to be held, especially in cases like the Nun section. If a game is trying to make a political or moral statement or do something different, unique and artistic, then yeah, ignore complaints as that’s a vision. Dominatrix nuns? They can’t pretend that was trying to be artistic, that was there purely to sell the product to randy teens incapable of finding more realistic images of women. It was a business move. So complaining about it and showing how it would put a lot of people off the product makes sense. Their business move was flawed, so they have a legitimate reason to fix it. Art doesn’t come into the equation.

Of course with more unique things, or stuff that might break down taboos, I respect developers who have the balls to ignore people who complain (even when I’m included). The new Dante looks like an idiot, completely annoying me and 99% of all DMC fans, but I have to hand it to Ninja Theory for sticking to their guns – they actually think it’s a cool look because that’s how Tameem Antoniades, their chief designer styles and dresses. They are trying to bring their artistic vision of “cool” to gamers, failing, sure, but they are trying.

There needs to be a distinction drawn between whether the problem with a game is due to intentionally/misguided business decisions or artistic vision. Complain about both, sure, as shown with Sucker Punch, it can be good for the developer to hear your feedback, but if they keep to their vision over an artistic decision, then understand that’s their right. Just don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

Dan: I am in agreement that people should be able to speak their minds about issues, and give their opinion on upcoming products – it would be hypocritical for me to say anything else, given what we do. Yet, to stamp your feet and act like a 10 year old because something is not to your liking, does nothing but scare investors into believing products must adhere to this incredibly immature audience. It is in this fact alone that I absolutely adore developers like Tameem Antoniades, and David Cage, as they are capable of developing a thought from beginning to end, and not be dragged down by appeasing the stereotypical masses. Much like we see in the movie industry where films like Quentin Tarantino’s Grind House are perceived as a product for a specific audience, and fans of Schindler’s List do not complain about the movie not being of their liking, they just do not invest in it. Gamers seem so entitled, that every product must be for them. Wonderbook, might not be for me, but that is simply because I am not the target audience. Once gamers realize that the industry is being flooded with genres beyond what we grew up with, they will eventually understand not all products are for them.

Where do you stand? Do you think that everyone has a right to complain? In which case let us know in the comments below. Or do you think the internet is full of a bunch of moaners? In which case it’ll be near impossible to complain about it below without joining them. While you’re at it, be sure to ruin your Twitter stream by following Seb and Dan.