I’ll no longer be blogging at this URL. From now on any blog posts and regular updates will be made at my portfolio site, pdstafford.com
Look, there are way too many of these posts. But it doesn’t seem to be helping much, so what the hell, right? Read the rest of this entry »
5.15am. The thin beam of sunlight stretching across my face wakes me before my alarm does – I switch off the piercing shriek just as quickly as it came. Twitter. Email. News. Can’t miss a thing. Read the rest of this entry »
Next week is a big week for nostalgia.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the reimagining of a game first released in 1994, will hit on Thursday. The same day that Bethesda’s Dishonored, in many ways an homage to stealth and immersive sims of old, will be released. Read the rest of this entry »
Of all the different discussions born out of Spec Ops’ release and critical success, the most interesting was the notion the game isn’t a commentary on war, so much as it is a comment on war games and the people who play them. Read the rest of this entry »
I want to talk about Tomb Raider. Read the rest of this entry »
There isn’t much to say about E3 that hasn’t already been said. The debate over whether the conference itself is relevant or not is not one I really have a huge stake in. Read the rest of this entry »
Update: I was going to make a new post about Mass Effect and why BioWare’s decision to possibly change the ending is horrendous. I may still do that. But for now, this sums up my thoughts about that subject too.
When I was a child and wronged someone, either one of my parents would shake a finger at me and demand the same thing every time.
And it was always such a weak effort. I was rarely ever sorry and of course, an apology isn’t real if it’s forced. It’s just a parroted phrase that you use to get out of trouble. I didn’t actually realise what being “sorry” meant until much later in life, when I discovered what real guilt was.
Let’s switch over to GDC. This week, Deus Ex: Human Revolution creative director Frank Lapikas told players he was “truly sorry” for the game’s terrible boss fights. And let’s face it, they were terrible. Handed off to another company, not properly integrated, they ruined the entire feel and look of the game – not to mention the whole Deus Ex franchise.
It was a disappointing slip in an otherwise impressive game, but of course the nature of the franchise amplified the criticism. So much was riding on this game, the hopes and dreams of old-school gamers and developers alike, so a stumble felt like a fall of a cliff.
“Play tests did flag the boss fights as a problem, but they didn’t flag the severity of it,” he said, according to Edge. “They were a big part of the game, and we should have put more effort into them.
“I’m truly sorry about that. Next time we’re gonna think about it more.”
It seems an innocent enough comment. But he never should have given that apology, and we certainly don’t deserve one.
Being sorry can mean a few different things. Australian prime minister John Howard found himself in a whole heap of hot water when he said that while he was sorry for atrocities that occurred in Australia’s past towards indigenous peoples, he couldn’t actually say “sorry” on behalf of the government because his belief was they hadn’t personally committed those acts.
(A quick note, I don’t agree with that position). The subsequent apology given by Kevin Rudd then attempted to take on responsibility for actions that had occurred in the past. Same word, two very different meanings.
On the other hand, being sorry can mean that you’ve:
A) Legitimately wronged someone and seen the error of your ways.
B) You’ve taken active steps to fix that behaviour, and
C) You want to repair the damage you’ve caused
The fact Lapikas has said he’s sorry means two things. The first is that he feels the company somehow “wronged” the gamer, and in order to do that, there must have been a personal relationship there. Something much stronger than any normal title would have warranted.
There’s a great line in the sitcom Community about all this. Alison Brie’s character Annie has deliberately sabotaged the group’s efforts to graduate, so they all have to be held back and complete a Spanish class together – she’s afraid they’ll lose touch otherwise.
Jeff Winger berates her after she says she’s “sorry”.
“Be sorry about this stuff before you do it,” he says. “And then, don’t do it.”
And I suspect that’s the mentality a lot of gamers had for the Deus Ex franchise. “Don’t screw this up,” the collective mind says. “This is our franchise and if you ruin it, we’re going to kill you.”
So basically, they expect everything to be perfect. They’ve projected their own memories from the original Deus Ex onto this new game, saying that if it doesn’t stack up it’ll be a total disaster.
But Eidos didn’t ask for that. Yes, it may have subjected itself to the fanbase by taking on the Deus Ex name, and they may have closely associated the game itself with the previous title by constantly giving updates on how it was attempting to be faithful to the ideas of the original. Of course, it made it clear that it was taking on a massive project.
But that doesn’t mean they’ve established a personal relationship with the player that warrants an apology.
The second meaning behind the apology is that not only does he feel that he wronged this audience, but that he feels accountable to them. That he actually owes them something in return for having made a mistake.
This is a dangerous mentality. This is not a politician apologising for misusing taxpayers’ money, or a child apologising for stealing a toy. This is a grown man in charge of a piece of art – consumer art, but art nonetheless – suggesting that he is accountable to the fanbase.
This sets a dangerous precedent. When you buy a game, you’re taking a risk. Your money is buying you an experience and like it or not, that experience could be bad.
The fact Eidos took on the Deus Ex franchise and closely communicated with the fanbase for the entirety of this game’s development may have created a relationship between them, but that communication was given through grace, not through a mandate, and thus any expectation of accountability is completely nullified.
This is the same mentality behind the fans of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series who suggest that he owes it to the fanbase to deliver the next book as quickly as possible.
Eidos owes you nothing. It created a piece of art, sold it, and made some missteps along the way. But just because they took the effort to create a relationship with the fanbase does not mean everything the company does is subject to player democracy.
I understand the mentality behind the apology. And it’s a great thing that Lapikas listens to feedback and is willing to incorporate that – more developers should. But the use of the word “sorry” implies this dangerous relationship where players dictate what should happen and should be catered to whenever a game maker makes a misstep.
And there is a legitimate argument here that Eidos hasn’t given the player enough respect. And that’s a legitimate complaint, and I would agree. But it’s interesting that complaint then leads to the conclusion we deserve to be apologised to, as if not showing us respect was something akin to a friend backstabbing us. Disappointing, yes, but if someone feels as if they are disrespected in a fundamental way similar to how they would feel if they were portrayed by a best friend, then that’s a much bigger problem than a bad boss fight.
Deus Ex is a product. You took a risk buying it, and for some, it didn’t pay off. But you aren’t owed a refund, and you definitely aren’t owed an apology.
We have not been wronged. We are not a parent, sister, friend or colleague. We are consumers of entertainment, critics and analysts. We may be invested emotionally, we may have given our lives to talking, writing and developing, and we may feel as though we have a connection with the Deus Ex franchise that has been soiled by silly mistakes.
But we are not entitled to an apology.
This is to the journalists among us. Read the rest of this entry »
In the past 48 hours I’ve received a fair bit of criticism over a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, titled “RPGs and the fundamental problem of sympathetic characters“. I was linked to, kindly, I might add, by Rock Paper Shotgun’s Sunday Papers article, which wraps up a few links from the previous week in a number of different gaming blogs. I was pretty surprised to wake up on a Monday morning and find my traffic had skyrocketed to about 5,000 views in 24 hours. Read the rest of this entry »