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The Think Tank: Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game?

Shawn Schuster

Drama is a human condition that plagues some more than others, but it's generally unavoidable. When drama comes from a game developer, we, as players, usually respond with our own drama in the form of forum posts containing lots of all-caps.

Whether it's an out-of-context interview faux pas or whatever the War Z devs are up to this week, studio drama makes the news. Some of us love it; some of us hate it. But our reaction to developers behaving badly is what we're most interested in exploring today.

I asked the Massively crewmembers how they react to drama from their favorite developers. Does it affect their purchase of the game? How far is too far? Or do we need to keep studio views and the game itself separate?

The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
Yes and no. If a developer says something silly and something that really harms only him or her (like "I am the best designer ever in the world"), then I don't care. But if he or she says something homophobic, racist, or sexist, or has anything to do with almost any ism, I'll never even glance at that title. That's all I can do in protest besides write about it. For the record, I also boycott low-quality movies and music. Avatar 2? Psssh... no thanks.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
I think it depends on whether the statements (and what's behind them) have the potential to affect my personal enjoyment of the game. If the developer is insulting his players or ridiculing playstyles or key game mechanics that I adore, that'd be an indication that I won't have fun on that ride anyway. If he's just spouting off for dramatic effect, then like Beau, I wouldn't be put off by that necessarily. It's all part of the spectacle. For me, the hard part is not holding it against a game when a PR firm or studio pulls a stunt on us. I always feel dirty buying a fun game when I know the dev doesn't play nice behind the scenes.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
It depends on what was said, I guess. I've shoveled through quite a lot of dishonest games industry PR at this point, so I tend to afford more respect to devs who break out of their cages and say incendiary stuff even if I personally disagree with it.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
Generally I take the approach of separating the product from its makers because down that path lies madness. You don't have to agree with a creator's politics or philosophy or what have you to enjoy what he or she makes. So generally, when it comes to games, I don't much care who's at the top or what he or she is saying.

But the "generally" can have exceptions because sometimes people hit a sore spot in our conscience or have an attitude that obviously underlies everything the studio and game stands for, and that may prove to be repellent. Often times it's the accumulating factor of bad statements, decisions, and attitudes that creates a breaking point between enjoyment and disgust.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
I really hate studios that can't conduct themselves properly regarding their players. The War Z fiascos are probably the best example of developers I wouldn't give money or time to just by the way they treat their players alone (before considering other shady business practices). I have boycotted other studios and franchises simply because they didn't respect the people who played their game, so that's a big deal to me.

Although this topic is definitely inspired by Richard Garriott and his statement that most game designers are bad at their jobs, I don't hold that particular statement against him. I don't think I'll play any more of his games, but that has more to do with his outdated view of games than anything he said about other designers. He's probably right -- that most game designers are bad -- because most people that work in any trade are bad. Most writers are bad, most artists are bad, and most programmers are bad as well. That's really not holding anything against the ones who are great, of which there are many.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
I can't recall a situation when studio drama impacted a game that I was already playing and interested in. I have, however, steered away from even trying games when there is negative buzz surrounding it. I have a soft spot for games filled with brain-craving undead, but I was turned off by all of the drama surrounding the War Z and never played it.
The Think Tank Does studio drama affect your opinion of a game
For me, I've learned to just accept the fact that these people making these games are not going to view life the same way I do, but that has nothing to do with their games. I've seen plenty of developers and even community managers with extreme political views that don't coincide with my own, but I still play their games. When the drama is more about the game's quality (or lack thereof) or the way they treat their community, that gives me reason to give the purchase a second thought, but ultimately the game will speak for itself. If a lead developer went on Twitter to tell everyone how he hates freedom and rainbows, I'll just chalk that up to his opinion and move on. Social media has made many people believe that the rest of the world cares what they think, so it's much easier to upset people these days. I probably don't care enough to be upset.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.

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