Tuesday, September 9

It's hurricane season!

Storms are funny things, they build momentum out at sea normally, brewing, percolating as they drift across the waves, typically they just water the garden and wash the car, but sometimes they lay waste to entire cities.

Michael Abbott's post on Spore triggered a thought process in my teeny tiny mind that reveals a growing trend of militant behaviour in gamers and developers. Maybe it was always part of the gaming scene and I haven't noticed until now. Mr Abbott's post is as genteel as always remarking on the divide between games reviews and actual play. On its own the post is largely unremarkable, but given discussions here and all over the internet many gamers and former games journalists (such as Dan "Shoe" Hsu at Sore Thumbs) are very disgruntled with the current systems in place. Games journalism is not particularly helpful and many are dissatisfied with its apparent pandering to publishers. I am one of those many.

Several posts of my own have expressed my desire to see developers and publishers push the envelope with their games. Too many are making bland decisions that fail to ignite a community that is becoming jaded and wary of the tricks of the trade. N'gai Croal, the videogame writer for Newsweek and all round cool dude wonders at what is fun and realises that the big blockbusters no longer hold that allure for him. His reasons are personal but his sentiments are echoed all throughout the interwebs. The first signs of the coming storm, perhaps?

Then a company called Stardock goes and releases a gamer's bill of rights. The cynic in me suggests that this is a clever marketing ploy designed to cash in on current moods among gamers. Core gamers feel that Nintendo have deserted them, regardless of the truth it's interesting to see the shift in perception toward Nintendo's extremely effective strategy. The other cynic in me sees it as an attempt to cash in on the hostilities that have erupted over DRM and the EA published game Spore. Shamus Young is one somebody who feels very strongly about DRM, from personal experience, to a reinterpretation of the gamer's bill of rights EA style. Whatever it was that Stardock was trying to achieve they've succeeded in generating a lot of hype and the cynic in me suspects that they are rubbing their hands with glee.

Spore - published by EA - uses this DRM stuff. The same stuff that is generating negativity. The same stuff that prompted Stardock to shoot for a little publicity regardless of their intentions. The same stuff that has some claim "problems" although as far as I can see it the problems were created by EA not really anticipating that an over-hyped game monstrosity like Spore would break street date somewhere and did not have the infrastructure ready for such an event. That sort of thing has never happened before! Like this time, or this time or even this time or the countless other times I haven't referenced. Makes me wonder whether EA personnel are näive, stupid or arrogant. I'm sure the reputation that EA has isn't warranted and I hope that one day they prove it.

The storm lingers by the shore undecided whether to rage or just rain. Many gamers, 1,210 of them in fact (as of my writing / researching this), have decided to "attack" EA directly via the only direct means at their disposal Amazon. Is it DRM, the dissonance from game press, gamers disillusionment with games or something else that's generating all this hostility? If it's enough to get a charming, easy-going, considerate guy like Michael Abbott on the defensive then something's brewing.

I believe that DRM could well be a Trojan horse of hurt for EA but have little grief with it on a personal level. Are you feeling dissatisfaction at the moment? Is that bubble of prosperity that the video games industry is currently experiencing about to burst? Or is it just a sign of the times in America where the sub-prime mortgage crisis has left the economy in shreds and everyone feeling a little glum?

EDIT: Last paragraph, third sentence, phrasing.

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