Your Rage-Bait is So Painfully Obvious (A response to VG24/7)

I’ve talked at length about the fact that journalism at this point is a tired old whore who will tell you whatever she thinks you need to hear in order to pay her for services.  In the online sphere, that means whatever gets peoples click fingers going.  And games journalism is basically the king of whoring out whatever for those clicks.  All the clicks are needed.  Sure, it means their integrity basically doesn’t exist, but it functions, so there’s that.  Now it seems that they’re stepping up their game in order to get the clicks coming even faster.  After all, article after article has come out demonizing gamers and those who are critical of gaming and they get attention.  Which means more clicks.

Which brings us to an article saying that game developers need to stop listening to fans.  An article whose goal is so clear – rage-baiting.  They want to get people’s rage going, which will get responses, which in turn will get clicks.  It’s not even subtle what they’re doing.  But, this topic is stupid enough for me to take the time to really go into it.  Here’s a link to the article, now let’s talk about it.

Don’t get mad, there’s a bit of hyperbole in that headline

Pathetic attempt to take shots at themselves for their deliberate choice make a title that is rage-bait.  Please.  You knew what you were doing, and it worked.  People are talking about it.  I’m talking about it.  But I’m not gonna take the bait.  I’m actually gonna respond to the stupidity on display in a constructive way.

BioWare has a lot to answer for, basically. Mass Effect 3 feels like ground zero for toxic fan entitlement. I’m sure the developer was just trying to do the right thing, but it changed the ending of its game due to negative feedback, bending its creative vision to pander to the baying masses.

You know, this point might have SOME level of a decent argument if it weren’t for the fact that stuff came out about the ending to Mass Effect 3.  See, EA was pressuring Bioware HARD to get the game out in 2012.  A console generation was coming to an end and they didn’t want to have to compete.  Not to mention that the time frame they were aiming for put them ahead of the competition.  As such, Bioware had the ending written by one guy and they accepted the first draft as the final one.  For a studio who had had teams of writers working on all the parts of the game to mesh everything with player choice, it strikes me as a little odd that you’re defending a game that had a bad ending that Bioware knew was bad.

This wasn’t people making them compromise their vision that they thought out and truly believed was the best.  It was EA doing what EA does and forcing Bioware to compromise their vision, which in turn had them redo the ending to try and save face.  Granted, I hate the revision, but at the very lease I see where it’s coming from.  Your point would be better if Neil Druckmann took out India lesbian from the sequel to The Last of Us: Part II because of all the conservatives railing about it.  And this isn’t even the end of the false-equivalence.

Things are often cut or changed. Some things don’t work. Some things work better than expected and are expanded upon. Nobody wants to release a bad game. Nobody wants the ending of their critically-acclaimed sci-fi trilogy to be ill-received.

Well, Bioware made a really bad decision in letting themselves get bought out by EA.  Game companies make bad decisions all the time.  But EA put their boot down and Bioware was stuck.  I have some level of sympathy for what happened to Mass Effect 3.  Since every other part was so carefully crated to accommodate all the decisions the player made, can you not see why people would be so upset that the ending totally throws everything in the trash?  I can’t be the only one who notices this.

Part of the issue here is how our industry feeds into this entitlement. Whether it’s PlayStation saying it’s “for the players” or it’s Xbox head Phil Spencer saying stuff like, “Games and gamers together now have the sheer magnitude to be a significant unifying force for the world,” whatever that means, our industry goes out of its way to say the customer is always right.

Um…are the basics of supply and demand just an illusion to you?  The customer is always right.  If you want to have an industry thrive where the goal is entertainment, then you have to entertain.  It’s pretty simple.  You entertain the masses and they buy your product.  If you start giving them sub-standard products, they won’t buy them anymore.  One of the products that gaming sells is narratives.  So if you have a product built on narrative quality with understandable narrative rules that the universe you created follows, and you finish the series by basically shitting on the rules and making it so that the cornerstone of your franchise – player choice – is thrown out the airlock, what makes you think that critical feedback will be positive?

This wasn’t a case of fans not getting some deeper meaning.  We know now that Bioware was in a corner so they just threw something together at the last minute.  Makes me wonder what could have happened if Bioware had been given the time and the game would have come out in 2013.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – the worst game in the series – was a game for the fans. People hated Metal Gear Solid 2 at launch because it forced you to play as floppy-haired newcomer, Raiden, instead of Solid Snake. Metal Gear Solid 4 put players back in Snake’s sneaking boots, but the game was basically an extended bit of fan service.

Dude, that wasn’t the fans’ fault.  It was Konami’s.  Are you just completely unaware of the ugly relationship between Kojima and Konami?  It destroyed his last project.  Konami wanted MGS4.  Kojima never wanted to make a sequel after 1.  His being forced to do so was consistently the studio he was tied with forcing his hand.  It’s why he’s cut loose so hard for his next project, to make it something so radically different.  That game was Kojima just putting something out there to please his benefactors, they wanted it to just be fan service, the video game.

Elsewhere in the Bad Place, some gamers actually petitioned Obama to get DmC pulled from shelves because they wanted a traditional Capcom sequel and not the Ninja Theory reimagining: “Dear Mr. Obama: As a consumer to the Video Game Industry there is one Video Game that has caused a lot of controversy over the past few month’s,” the petition said, grammatical errors and all. “The name of the game is DmC: Devil May Cry made by Ninja Theory and Capcom.

Yeah, there is the cringe-y shit like that.  But there are also petitions to get rid of Rotten Tomatoes for shitting on DC movies.  You know, because they have almost-universally sucked.  Two good movies in an ocean of shit.  That’s impressively bad.  This shit is everywhere.  You notice, it didn’t work.  The game was still published like always.  It’s just that a sequel was never made because the company who owned the IP decided to take it back and Ninja Theory has gone indie because they didn’t want to deal with publishers.  What’s your point?

Then there’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game taken down by gifs. Development focus was on creating worlds and learning how to use an entirely new engine that isn’t well-suited to RPG development. As such, the facial animations suffered and people took the piss in gifs. Back in the day, it was a given that RPGs didn’t look as nice as other games because of the scope. Nowadays, everything looks nice because developers want their games to look good in screens, rather than communicate what makes the games special. BioWare’s next game, Anthem, looked incredible, at the expense of everything else. It appeared to be a direct reaction to that negative feedback – those viral gifs of goofy character expressions.

There is a LOT to unpack here.  Mass Effect: Andromeda was not destroyed because of the bad facial animations and the gliches.  It was destroyed partially by that, but more because the story was poorly written.  The characters were terrible.  The voice acting was bad.  There were political messages blatantly shoved in there just for fan outrage because Bioware does that now.  It’s weird.  It was a bad game.  There were stories about that too that you could easily have found if you knew what research is.  But you don’t.  You just find the biggest click-bait articles and parrot their talking points.

The development team behind that game couldn’t make the engine work for what they wanted to do.  There was no set path for the game months before it came out!  Months of work and people didn’t know what the fuck they were making.  A problem which, by the way, Anthem suffered from.  That game had no clear vision for what it was trying to be.  That big, beautiful demo released at E3 a couple years ago was made from whole-cloth and reflected NOTHING of the final product.  The game was a victim of false-advertising and EA’s bullshit.

Why is this guy so incapable of knowing the context of ANYTHING?  It’s bizarre.  Oh right, this is all click-bait.  It’s rage-bait.  It’s meant to get people riled up.  I forgot for a bit there.

Look at any online game community and there’s always someone complaining about how their character isn’t strong enough, or how the character who can counter their hero is too strong. There will be dozens of posts about how their favourite weapon doesn’t do enough damage, or how another weapon is OP. There will also be another player somewhere typing out the exact opposite.

Wait, what?  How is people bitching about a narrative in a game equivalent to a game having balancing issues?  That isn’t a creative freedom issue.  It’s a gameplay one.  And if your goal is to have a game be marketable online to masses, you have to balance it.  Otherwise, it isn’t fair to other players.  How does this tie in at ALL to your points made above?  Narrative creative freedom is one thing, but this is basic game design stuff.  Companies need feedback fro stuff like this.  Otherwise the game will suffer for it.

There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Henry Ford around the dawn of commercial motor vehicles: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” People are generally afraid of change. New ideas always get a bit of pushback – it makes me worry whether this environment of fan feedback development is holding back triple-A game development from reaching its true potential.

What true potential?  You haven’t defined anything.  You’ve just taken talking points that other articles have had and put them in your article, and act like your point has been made for you.  Generally, gamers like change.  We want games to be new and unique.  New IPs instead of the same old games made over and over again.  It’s why Indie titles get lots of attention now.  It’s why you have AAA developers working for Sony pushing narrative boundaries.  Because people are saying we want something good.  And generally they are.  Sony especially has a pedigree of quality to their work in the last few years that is really refreshing.  Games that push narrative boundaries, but never to the point where you break them.  Push as far as you can, then let the dust settle from the outrage communities and see what happens.

See, plenty of people were noisy about the lesbian relationship in Neil Druckmann’s latest project.  Hell, the social justice crowd came out against it because it’s almost a guarantee that India lesbian is dead by the time we get to where the gameplay portion of the demo at last year’s E3 picks up.  But they will still play this game because the first entry was amazing and the gameplay in this one looks slick as fuck.

Making a product for the masses means you have to take a measured approach if you’re gonna push boundaries.  Push them too far, and you drive people away.  That’s how it is with ALL entertainment.  Movies, TV shows, anime, whatever.  It all has the same rule – do new things, but don’t make new things a total aside.  You expand things over time.  Fan feedback isn’t killing that.  But since the writer of this article was just trolling for clicks anyway, it isn’t like he cares.

Until next time, a quote,

“People tend to blame the news for spreading all this fear.  As if there’s no market for it.” – Doug Stanhope

Peace out,

Maverick