Thursday, September 17, 2009
Taking the fun out of making video games
Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick likes to see his name and his words reported all over the internet. To achieve that he uses the same old tactics as every other internet troll, making deliberately outrageous statements designed to make everybody angry enough to comment. Works like a charm, after every interview he gives his words are quoted on every major gaming site, many blogs, he even quite often gets a dedicated Penny Arcade cartoon, the works. The problem with that is again one common to every other internet troll: Everybody reports the outrageous statements, but nobody actually discusses them. They are outrageous! We all agree that there isn't a bit of truth in them! Or don't we?
Look at his latest comments about creating a "culture of thrift" and his goal "to take all the fun out of making video games", talking of "skepticism, pessimism, and fear" obviously sounds just like the place nobody would want to work at, and so a lot of game developers are bringing out the torches and pitchforks. But as a player I have to ask myself: Is the ultimate goal of a video game company that the DEVELOPERS are having fun making video games?
How often you as a player ended up angry with a video game, because the developers had too much fun making that game, and forgot the decidedly unfun activities of quality control and bug fixing? How many players complain about MMORPGs because some developer was allowed too much freedom, and favored his preferred class or mode of gameplay, making the game unbalanced for everyone else?
If Robert Kotick had a better sense of public relations, he might have expressed the same sentiments in far better words, which probably wouldn't have been reported that much, but would have found more people agreeing with them. Instead of "taking the fun out of making video games" he could have talked about the importance of being professional when making video games, having a good overall project management, business process, and quality control. Instead of saying "We are very good at keeping people focused on the deep depression", he could have explained how important it is for a video game company to still be around tomorrow, which only works if money isn't wasted, and quality games are produced.
In the end the video game industry isn't any different than any other industry. Companies need to make a profit, and for that they need to produce quality goods which people are willing to buy. If the *customers* are having fun *playing* video games, the video game company will be a success, and will be able to offer stable and well-paid job to game developers. That way everybody wins, players, developers, CEOs, and shareholders.