Today I read a disheartening IGN article — it’s all over the Internet on other sites, too — that got me thinking. It talks about former BioWare developer Trent Oster stating that one likely reason behind Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka leaving BioWare and the video game industry may well have been the negative fan reactions over Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic. (Is “negative fan” an oxymoron?)
In my post a few weeks ago about game companies dialoguing with fans, I was on the fence about whether it was a helpful thing or not, and personally I’m not a huge fan of the ME3 ending — though I absolutely love the game and the entire Mass Effect series. But I do believe it is vitally important that we video game fans truly support the companies that put out fantastic content — and that also means respecting their creative visions.
It’s sad to consider that exhaustion and negativity could drive any developer from a company as incredible as BioWare. And it definitely makes me think that fans have been way too hard on game companies. I’m glad that Oster stepped forward with this insight, because it’s time for the gaming community to see that our negativity can have a very big impact on the industry. And that impact is often far from helpful.
I hope that in the future, even when we have complaints, we also take time out to show our support. A lot of us already do that, of course. But it’s easy for the support to get lost in the chaos of complaints, and there’s always the problem of a compliment being quick, while a self-important rant that’s full of negativity can take up pages. (At least my rants do!)
Unfortunately, my beloved laptop died on me earlier this week, so I can only snatch a few moments to consider this here. But I wanted to share this article and my thoughts, as it is something I’ve been thinking about for weeks. My opinion on all of this has evolved and become much clearer to me since my post about game companies dialoguing with fans, thanks largely to all the thoughtful feedback I received from some of you. And my opinion now is that I want to be much more supportive of the game companies that I like and admire in the future, because I do trust that developers put their hearts into these games for us so much of the time.
10 thoughts on “Bringing Positivity Back Into the Gaming Community”
Excellent post. I do hope the vision of BioWare stays the same… *Casey Hudson leaves* AAAAAARGH!
Thanks. I hope so too. Definitely some big changes but BioWare’s success is largely due to the fact that their games are very different than what’s already out there, in terms of story and character development and just packing emotion into the games. I hope that continues to be a big part of what the company is known for!
The fan reaction to the ending for Mass Effect 3 could have been handled better. Rather than flame them for such a poor ending, fans should have given respectful and constructive criticism about it. The fan rage was way out of hand. I was disappointed by the ending for sure, but not enough to tell all the developers at Bioware to go to hell either. It’s a shame when negativity like this ends up pressuring people to give up on what they loved doing in the first place or just makes it not as enjoyable as it used to be.
I agree with you, I think the fan reaction to ME3 just got blown out of proportion. It’s one thing to dislike something about a video game, but I don’t think fans are entitled to actually demand changes. When we have complaints or opinions, I think we should present them with grace, as you said. Because if we love video games, we should respect the people who put so much passion and creativity into them.
I read that article you linked to a little differently. I would say that the emphasis is more on the internal corporate culture – that can wear a person down faster than just about anything. When there is a success everyone is clambering to be seen as part of it, when it goes pear shaped – rats and sinking ships. Anybody involved in creative work needs to develop an incredibly thick skin, especially if its something people pay money for. For corporations, the bottom line is always the bottom line. Nobody cares what consumers bitch and moan about so long as they keep handing over the cash, when that stops … whole other story. It is disheartening to put your blood, sweat and tears into something that doesn’t pan out, especially when it is misunderstood creatively. Audiences, player-bases, readers though generally do feel entitled about the works they pay for. I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing. Creative people are usually stuck somewhere in the middle between pressure from management, clients, audiences and their own beliefs about what will make the work good. Game developers like most other creative people working in a corporate environment, rarely get to make decisions based on their ‘vision’, so who really knows what went on.
Yeah, things definitely get sticky when considering that video games are commodities and game companies need to make sales to stay afloat and continue putting out great content. When I think of games more like books — as creative works, with artistic vision — then the idea that fans should have input starts making much less sense. I’m sure it’s similar with films — you have an artistic statement, but you also want to make money. And personally, I think BioWare has more of a tightrope walk there than many other game companies, because their games are very story-based. Obviously BioWare’s games inspire a lot of emotion in their players, which explains the fan outrage over the ending.
But yeah, I see what you mean about it perhaps being more about internal corporate culture after a “flop” (not that ME3 for one was really a flop, at least as far as I know). That’s a really good point. I got that from the EA bit too.
I like to blame the internet. It has given anyone and everyone a voice, and sadly some people choose to use their voice for more negative than positive. Being a creator and video game designer myself, I think I can safely say any and all feedback is welcome, but in my mind and my creations, my word is law. Above and beyond all else, these are my visions and dreams, and I will make them as I see fit. Not everyone will agree, and I’m okay with that. I’m as prepared as I can be for the negative feedback to follow. Such is life. But I can guarantee they will never force me to give in or give up.
Look at Picasso or several of the other artists and composers of the years before us, unappreciated in their time and often publicly criticized. Had they given in to this “peer pressure” they likely wouldn’t be as revered as they are now. But they didn’t. They sucked it up and created what felt right to them, and that’s what it’s all about. As the old cliché goes, you can’t please all of the people all the time, and that’s more true today than ever.
For today, almost everyone has their opinion to share, and it’s easier to hate than to love. Those of us that choose to rise above the hate are the ones that’ll shine and be remembered for standing up for ourselves and being true to our visions.
That’s a really good point — the Internet is certainly making it much easier for people to leave negative feedback. And that feedback tends to come across as a sense of entitlement or ownership over a game which, let’s face it, the fans did not create.
As a creative writer, I’m like you: I understand not everyone will like my stories or ideas, but hey, they’re mine, and they’re out there for whoever does like them. And I agree that some of the best work in history was very different and often derided. But as you said, “Above and beyond all else, these are my visions and dreams, and I will make them as I see fit.” That’s how I view things too, so I respect BioWare for staying true to their vision enough not to change the ME3 ending, for instance.
I imagine it’s disheartening for game developers not only to receive criticism — which is pretty common — but also perhaps to feel like their fans are turning on them.
I would say that the direction of the video game industry overall – including its domination by a few massive companies, like EA – played a pretty significant part in it, too. I’ve been exposed to a few of the older Bioware RPGs lately (like Neverwinter Nights) and you can see the continuity between them and Dragon Age, but you can also so the pressure to cut them down, create them faster, fill them with stuff that sells, and move on to the next one ASAP. I get the sense that the Bioware old guard would rather not be making games like that – but this is all speculation.
As for the ME3 ending, I think it’s important to understand that the backlash was only as nasty as it was because the previous games were so very good. Heck, even the middle of ME3 was AMAZING storytelling of the highest order. That meant that players got invested, and then reacted very emotionally to the lack of closure. For me, it’s “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.” I know they can tell game stories incredibly well, so I don’t understand how the start and end of ME3 got signed off on when I feel they’re comparatively very sloppy.
That’s a good point about EA and the direction of the industry, etc. I’m sure pressure came from within as well as from without, though it still saddens me to hear the attitude behind the negativity from the gaming community. As consumers, we have a right to say that a product is bad, but like you said, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing “product” and tells a really epic story that we all got very invested in during the ME series. I’m interested to track down BioWare’s older RPGs too, but I haven’t been able to yet. It would be interesting to see the progression (and maybe the commercialization?) from the older games to the new ones, as you said!