GWJ Conference Call Episode 71

Conference Call

Sins of a Solar Empire, Devil May Cry 4, Poker Smash, Panzer Tactics, EA Admits They're ... Wrong?, The John Denver Of The Gaming Industry, Your Emails and more!

This week Shawn, Elysium and Julian ponder the gaming industry and whether or not the creators will ever stand up for their games in the media. We also talk a little about EA's John Riccitello and his tasty serving of humble pie.

This Saturday we're going to try doing a live recording through Ustream at 7PM CST. If you want a taste of a live recording, or a total train wreck, be sure to keep an eye on the front page this Friday for more info!

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree
Audioworks

"Impeller" Ian Dorsch - 0:59:50
Special thanks to Tannhauser for the audio to his TF2 Video!

Comments

nsmike wrote:

No intelligent, rational person should be able to look at some of these games and think, "Yep, that's for kids." Yet they do. Somehow the idea that video games are for kids has superseded the content of these games. In their minds, rationally, the idea that video games are for kids comes before a look at the content. This is ass-backwards. There isn't any other form of entertainment that I can think of that is perceived this way. Logic would dictate that you look at the content of the game first, and the rating, before determining that a game is or is not for children.

I think a lot of it has to do with the way they're marketed. The content is comparable to movies, but they're not advertised or marketed like movies.

Look at your typical movie retailer. Movies are organized by genre and sometimes age-appropriateness. You get your "action" section, your "horror" section, your "kids" section (and usually right next to the kids section is the "anime" section. As if Pokemon and Akira belong next to each other on any shelf. But that's another rant).

Games are not displayed or advertised the same way. In every store I've ever seen, they're organized by platform, then alphabetically by title. To me this makes as much sense as a video store putting "Babe" on a shelf next to "Blair Witch Project." Magazines are the same as the stores. You'll see advertisements for God Of War in the same magazines as ones for Loco Roco. Gamespot famously had full-screen advertisements for Kane Vs Lynch, and currently they're running similarly constructed advertisements for a kid-friendly DS puzzle game. Kind of like (but not directly equivalent to) airing a trailer for Saw IV before Ratatoullie.

There's no serious effort in the industry to differentiate between what's a kids game versus what's not. Simply saying "look at the content, ya moron!" is obviously not a workable solution because we live in the real world with real people who really think that "Anime" is a genre and judge books by their covers.

The struggle is to get people-- including industry insiders-- to view video games as a medium, not a genre. Once we can do that, I suspect the battle will be half over.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

The struggle is to get people-- including industry insiders-- to view video games as a medium, not a genre. Once we can do that, I suspect the battle will be half over.

I think you've hit the nail on the head. And in addition to your points.

Every developer has, or should have, some talking head. A Jayde Raymond, Cliffy B, Ken Levine or whatever needs to be up there whenever something like the Mass Effect debacle shows up saying 'You are right Jim, this game should not be played by your 6 year old, see here on the box where it says M for Mature, or 18+.'

The games industry needs to reach out to the non-gamers to educate them about the possible ramifications of what they allow their children to expose themselves to. It may be like King Canute telling the tide to go out, but if every time someone from the industry addresses these issues one parent learns the importance of watching their children's gaming habits, that is a victory for the whole industry.

I'm sure Ken Levine will disagree with this, but it is a pity that Bioshock didn't provoke an outcry with the harvesting aspect. I don't doubt that if the game had been featured on Fox News Ken would have been out there trying to educate the masses. It is a shame that Bioware lacks a 'personality' who would surge to the forefront when under attack.

The Control Point podcast gave us a shoutout, both our players joining them for TF2 AND the GWJ podcast.
Good stuff.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

Every developer has, or should have, some talking head. A Jayde Raymond, Cliffy B, Ken Levine or whatever needs to be up there whenever something like the Mass Effect debacle shows up saying 'You are right Jim, this game should not be played by your 6 year old, see here on the box where it says M for Mature, or 18+.'

This, I think, gets back to my earlier point. There seems to be a strain of thought amongst pro-game advocates that says "if you give an inch, they'll take a mile." It's the "You are right Jim" which seems to get stuck in their throats-- as if conceding the opposition has a point without simultaneously roaring that it sits squarely above his forehead will mean all is lost. That's the other attitude we should be fighting. It's not just how the opposition sees us, it's how we (meaning gamers) see the opposition.

In other arenas of controversy, I've found that most ordinary people on the "anti" side of an argument tend to be simply misinformed. That misinformation can come from ignorance or malice. My tendency is to assume ignorance unless I see evidence of malice. As a result, I'm more likely to listen closely to people I disagree with and figure out where we diverge. It's easy to get riled up an say "Jack Thompson hates games because he's an evil man" and leave it at that.

And he may well be. I don't know the man. But he's persuading a lot of people, whichever is the case. And it can't be the case that all of the people he's persuading are malicious. There is genuine concern there. There are people who actually believe that certain games are harmful to kids and, by extension, society as a whole. Calling them stupid or evil isn't going to change their minds. You have to persuade them.

Remember; even if Thompson, or Tipper Gore, or whoever is acting out of malice, it's not really them you have to convince. It's the people who take them at their word. They have their concerns, and and our responsibility-- or rather, the responsibility of industry spokespersons-- is to either alleviate those concerns, or convince them there are better ways to deal with the problem than legislation.

Good show as always, but as I always must when there's a discussion about game censorship, I need to bring up the example of film.

When movies started becoming more widespread they were attacked as evil as well. In turn, the movie makers started censoring themselves, not only in content but in form. Today, you almost never, ever see a movie in a theatre that isn't a straight up linear story. There is so much you can do with the ability to create animated art, yet because of all the attacks, because of the controversey, the art form has grown up stunted as a result.

It's hard to say if gaming is heading in the same direction. You already see censorship creeping in, either forced or voluntary, and of course whenever a game makes it big you see tons of copycats so that if a company simply wants to make money, they make a traditional FPS or an MMO (and it's truly amazing just how similar most MMOs are, basically the exact same game with different art assets). However, it's possible for some kid in his mom's basement to make a game and put it online. It's possible for fans to create content on their own, without any sort of censorship or restraints at all, and really make it big (the obvious example being Counterstrike). On the other hand, as graphics advance in leaps and bounds, it becomes harder and harder to compete. I used to make mods for Doom, skins for UT/UT2k3,etc., no problem, but now not only do textures need to be photorealistic but you need to do the normal mapping (and soon, whatever you'll need to do to get the super-detailed physics stuff to look right). So we're approaching a situation where the big companies are afraid to take risks and the only people who are skilled enough to make games are skilled enough to hold jobs at those big companies.

So I'm glad that the media is starting to take games seriously, but I'm afraid of how much damage the politicians and reporters might do as they step over something in which they hold no personal interest merely as a means of furthering their careers.

We've seen stem cell research, perhaps THE holy grail of medicine, become a political football and as a result the research is now heavily limited and controlled in the US to a point where some of our best minds have left for Europe where they can work in peace. With that in mind, you think the powers that be would think twice about crushing something as inconsequential as a niche hobby if they thought it could boost their ratings 1%?

We've seen stem cell research, perhaps THE holy grail of medicine, become a political football and as a result the research is now heavily limited and controlled in the US to a point where some of our best minds have left for Europe where they can work in peace.

Stem cell research itself is not limited to the degree you suggest, or that most people believe. Stem cell research that *receives Federal funding* is severely limited.

Sorry for the side track but we've come a really long way with stem cells:

http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_vi...

doubtingthomas, I agree with you 100%. There is such a predilection for a knee-jerk reaction from the industry and its fans that we are actually justifying the current perceptions in the minds of the misinformed. Every time Jack Thompson opens his mouth the (uuughh) blogosphere is set alight, but that is preaching to the choir.

lobstermobster, you are so right. If the games industry doesn't try to reach out to the misinformed it is going to either suffer under the hectic self censorship of the movie industry, or even worse a comics code type of censorship.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

I think a lot of it has to do with the way they're marketed. The content is comparable to movies, but they're not advertised or marketed like movies.

Look at your typical movie retailer. Movies are organized by genre and sometimes age-appropriateness. You get your "action" section, your "horror" section, your "kids" section (and usually right next to the kids section is the "anime" section. As if Pokemon and Akira belong next to each other on any shelf. But that's another rant).

Currently, I see Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, and DVD movies in their own sections of the store, just as VHS, Beta, and Laserdisc were in their own locations previously. Within the format, however, they were all distinguished by genre -- except Laserdisc, as that was pre-sorted into movies that would only appeal to nerds.