Robert Florence wrote a column over a week ago justifying games piracy (in short: “I want it, can take it for free, so that means doing so is okay”) which ended on one of the most hilarious concepts I’ve heard in a while – a new currency for gaming. Direct from the source:
“The past hundred years’ brutal commodification of stuff, this vile transformation of everything into a protected product of inflated value, has been steamrollered by the advance and democratisation of technology. Progress has led us to a place where the only meaningful currency left is goodwill.
Creators who want to survive better start earning it.”
Putting to one side that I’m not quite sure that EA was responsible for World War I, it should be news to game developers that they are not longer in the game development business but are instead in the making-people-like-them business.
Let’s think this through – if you don’t like what someone has created, or have a personal dislike of them, then you don’t have to pay them for it. How fantastic.
Which leads to a place where:
- It makes sense for someone who’s game-related writing is most likely paid for from ad revenue to think like this. They aren’t getting directly paid for their content by the consumer, but instead aim to get an increasing number of people to read their work (through goodwill and / or controversy). More eyeballs equals more clicks which equals more ad revenue. Protected products are vile, but pay well.
- Since I have disliked what Robert Florence has said here, I don’t have to pay for any of his stuff until I like him again, or even things he may only be vaguely associated with. You’ll need to work hard to get into my good books, Rob.
- Peter Molyneux not delivering on Black & White means he owes me big time. I mean, I never actually bought Black & White after reading the reviews, but I was a big fan of the game before it launched and he disappointed me. So now and forever, his titles are free to me.
- If a title ever offends my sensibilities, I can
pirateplay it free just on those grounds. Lollipop Chainsaw looks like a sexist title, so I will do my best not to pay for it (or any other Suda51 titles, because guilt by association) so that I can really polish up my outrage. (If it turns out that Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t as sexist as it appears, then it’s Suda51’s fault that other people read sexism into the game and I won’t be buying his future titles until he improves the minds of other people.)
- I can pirate pretty much every indie game developer, because with great indie power comes great wankerism. See: Phil Fish, Jonathan Blow.
- Because everyone knows that large development companies are evil, every product they touch is open for the taking. After all, if a studio didn’t want me to play their games for free, they wouldn’t have signed up with a publisher.
- Not knowing who the developer is behind a game means they’ve failed in their attempt to court me and build goodwill, leading to another free game for me. (As Florence points out, there are a dearth of recognisable game developers around at this point in time, which obviously means they aren’t doing enough to make me like them and thus want me to have their games for no money down.)
Which is great for me, the gamer. If developers want money for their games from me, they have to not only prove that their game is worth playing, but also that they are great people who I would enjoy having a drink down at the pub with. If all it takes is me having to find a fault somewhere to justify me getting games for free, then even in a title coded by Jesus Christ and Buddha, with sound engineering by Kali and graphics by Apollo, is going to be some reason for me not to pay for it (“Pfft, it’s going to be SUCH a preachy game, and I don’t think two pacifists are going to deliver a truly engaging FP shooter experience. Off to Pirate Bay.”).
And even if a dev manages to strike it big in this new currency of goodwill, it turns out that a supermarket will still only take cash for those groceries.
The games press as an industry is overdue for some self-examination. It’s become an industry where it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you get hits.
That creates a tragedy of the commons effect where it’s in the writer’s best interest to write sensationalist rubbish that will get him personally high volume but has the secondary effects of causing people to permanently stop reading their sites. I still don’t like to look at Eurogamer’s site because of Ed Zitron’s review of Darkfall when that game launched. In a wider sense people may stop reading the professionals at all and start relying mainly on bloggers like Tobold and Spinks.
Goodwill is not a valid currency for games developers. It is, however, very much a valid currency for games writers and the sites who hire them. Maybe they should stop being dicks.