anexanhume at the BioWare Social Network started a discussion thread to discuss comments made by two game developers at last week’s “GameFest” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Here’s the entire article written by Brian Crecente at Vox Games.
Game makers, not game players, should retain control over the games they make and how they end, a panel of developers said during a weekend talk at the Smithsonian to celebrate the new exhibit, “The Art of Video Games.”
“If computer games are art than I fully endorse the author of the artwork to have a statement about what they believe should happen,” said Paul Barnett, senior creative director at BioWare-Mythic. “Just as J.K. Rowling can end her books and say that is the end of Harry Potter. I don’t think she should be forced to make another one.
The comment came at the end of a nearly hour-long discussion about the future of video games which took place in front of a live audience at the Smithsonian American Art Museum last week.
Following the discussion, audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions. A man named Sam asked:
“What do you think of the whole idea where community has influence on making game story like for Paul with BioWare …,” he asked, referring to the “current fiasco going on right now with the Mass Effect ending.”
Some gamers are upset over what they believe was an unsatisfying ending to the Mass Effect trilogy, a series that promised gamers an ending that was in part shaped by the choices they made over the course of playing the three titles.
Barnett’s response was met with loud applause that overwhelmed Sam’s response.
When the applause died down Ken Levine, founder of Irrational Games, added that he wanted to address the question as well because, Levine said, “I think this is an important moment.”
“I think if those people got what they wanted and (BioWare) wrote their ending they would be very disappointed in the emotional feeling they got because … they didn’t really create it,” he said. “I think this whole thing is making me a little bit sad because I don’t think anyone would get what they wanted if that happened.”
Just let these comments sink in a bit. Also, for the sake of this post, do your best to ignore the ignorant reference to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Paul Barret obviously didn’t know that the author herself admitted that she not only wanted to kill off Ron Weasley, but Harry Potter as well. I would imagine public pressure, as well as the fear of a negative backlash from Harry Potter fans kept her from doing it. So much for her freedom to do as she pleases eh?
Aside from all this nonsense, there is something obvious to anyone who isn’t going to let themselves get distracted by this idiotic idea that “games are art.” StarcloudSWG, one of those commenting on the discussion thread summed it up perfectly.
Translation: “I’m ignoring the fact that if games are art, the players are both the patrons, who have a right to ask for changes, and cooperating artists who help the work evolve. I’m also ignoring the fact that even passive viewers of art can and should express dissatisfaction with the art produced if it is crap or otherwise unfinished. I’m ignoring all that, because I just want to make money and not be criticized if I put out crap.”
I would go a step further and point out that the responses given by Paul Barret and Kevin Levine demonstrate just how entitled game developers are. What’s really insulting about this is that this is how many, if not most of these people truly feel. Never mind public statements given to the gaming media about listening to how they listen to their fans. That’s obviously not the truth considering Barret and Levine’s statements. It’s only when these game developers are asked these questions in front of a crowd of sycophants who have a cult-like devotion to them, that they’re honest and I think that’s disgusting.
Now I want you to think about this discussion and where it’s being held. These developers are using this belief that “games are art” to justify their position of entitlment and this idea that gamers don’t have the right to criticize them or their creations. What worse is that these beliefs are given undeserved credibility because the video game exhibit is being held at the Smithsonian (I guess when you accept Andy Warhol’s work as art, anything could be). I have already written a post which discusses at length how faulty this idea of “games are art” is, but I think it’s important to at least summarize it here.
Even if one accepts the idea that “games are art,” the defense they give for game developer entitlement falls apart as it is the patron, not the artist, who has the supreme authority over the artwork. This idea of absolute artistic freedom which somehow supports their nonsensical argument is a fantasy. The truth is that history’s greatest artists were constrained by the desires of their patrons. Those who didn’t produce art that patrons wanted, lived miserable lives. For example, Vincent van Gogh wasn’t recognized as the great artist we now know him to be during his lifetime. It was only after his death, when artistic tastes changed, that he was given the recognition he deserved. Knowing this, why should consumers just hand over money if they’re not satisfied with the final product? It doesn’t make sense. If these narcissists didn’t spend so much time basking in their own perceived greatness, they might realize this.
Kevin Levine, however, is right about one thing, this debacle with Mass Effect 3′s endings is an important moment, at least for BioWare. This entitlement we’re seeing from both game developers and the gaming media is the result of the sudden rise of the gaming industry. This change has given them both fame and fortune, and now, after being praised for their “genius” for over a decade, they are being challenged by unhappy consumers, who, using the undeniable power of social media, present a clear threat to their authority in the gaming world. This also why those in the gaming media are “circling the wagons” to defend BioWare as their authority is linked to that of game developers.
If BioWare wants to survive this debacle, I suggest they ignore the words of Paul Barrett and Kevin Levine. This isn’t about “artistic integrity,” it’s about keeping customers happy. With Amazon now providing refunds for those unhappy with Mass Effect 3, it’s clear that the “games are art” argument isn’t working.
HOLD THE LINE!
For those who still haven’t already liked ‘Demand a better ending to Mass Effect 3′ on Facebook, if you feel as myself and thousands of other Mass Effect fans do about Mass Effect 3′s endings, go and do it. I would also recommend those who do go to ‘Retake Mass Effect’ and make a donation to Child’s Play. It’s for a very good cause.