Friday, November 27, 2009

Boycotting: A Game anyone can play, or: Why I'm still not a true fan of anyting.

The word boycott seems to be appearing a lot in my life lately, at least in regards to gaming. Two games that were recently released have come under 'controversy' that have led certain groups to boycott these games. I am speaking of Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2, and Left 4 Dead 2.

It's worth pointing out that games (or indeed other media) that are boycotted are in fact nothing new. Media is boycotted on a daily basis. The remake of the film Lolita was boycotted by audiences concerned with the underage romance therein. Leisure Suit Larry: Manga Cum Laude was boycotted for graphic nudity and sexual content.

I would hold that the above two products should be boycotted because they're awful, but there you enter into a debate of quality and opinion, which is a debate nobody can ever win, as you are always entitled to your own opinion, so long as it's theirs.

Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ has the dubious honour of being boycotted both by religious groups (for the portrayal of the Jewish leaders) and non-religious groups (because it's about religion and they don't like that sort of thing).

I'm trying to point out that people calling for a boycott of products is nothing new.

What makes these two games and their boycott interesting is a) They're both good games (again, in my opinion, though I really don't think I need to clarify this. Obviously this is my opinion, for I am saying it), and b) their reason for boycotting is (in my opinion), nothing short of bizarre.

I'm going to stop pointing out that this is all my opinion now. Everything in this blog is my opinion. The End.

No, wait, come back! That wasn't the end of the blog, that was just... oh never mind.

Anyway, the boycotts. It's worth pointing out that simply deciding not to buy a game is not enough to boycott, it must be a decision to encourage others to also not buy these games.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is a near future war first person shooter. For non gamers this means you shoot stuff with guns.

It has been boycotted by members of the PC community because 'Dedicated Servers' have been removed. I won't get into the technical details but without a dedicated server the quality of the playback of the game can vary depending on how far you are from the person who started the game. It also prevents the ability for players to create custom content for the game. This is a similiar experience to what you would find on an Xbox 360 or a PS3.

PC gamers are unhappy that what they have considered a given of PC gaming has been removed, and concerns have been raised that the developer of the game is abandoning the PC market (where the series started) in favour of the console markets.

Left 4 Dead 2 (which surprisingly, is the sequel to Left 4 Dead 1) is a current day first person horror  survival shooter. For non gamers this means you shoot stuff with guns, but this time the stuff is zombies.

Announced shortly after the release of the first game, many gamers felt angry that a sequel was being developed so soon after the first game came out, as it was felt by some that this meant the first game would not be supported. It is worth pointing out that Valve has a long history of supporting their games after they  have been released with updates and additional content.

The key point in both of the complaints above is that the gamers feel they are entitled to dedicated servers or ongoing free content. These are long term fans of both companies, who have bought their games for years, and know them well. They feel that these companies owe them.

I've got news for you. These companies don't owe you anything.

When you buy a game (or a dvd, or a magazine, or a book), unless the cover or the EULA specifically states that by purchasing this game you are also purchasing ongoing additional content, you are not automatically entitled to ongoing content. I recently bought a kindle (a topic worthy of its own post) and I am entitled to ongoing updates and features, because the terms and conditions says as much.

Where I'm going with this (and this is really a continuation of my last entry) is this:

I think fans are the worst thing that can happen to a product.

Fans are misguided, fans are selfish, fans have delusions of grandeur. We've bought your product, the fan says. Now you owe me. Give me my dedicated servers. I expect my ongoing free content. No, Dumbledore can't be gay, that messes up my fanfic. Anakin would never say that, you need to change that line. That's it, I'm boycotting your products. Screw you guys, I'm going home.

Fans are indeed responsibly for the success of a product. If they do not buy the product, the product fails. However, I would argue that if there is no product, there is nothing for them to be fans OF. Ergo, the product and the creator of that product is immeasurably more critical to the success of the product than the people who's only contribution is to put money on a counter.

If I make a game and you buy it, thank you very much, I hope you enjoy it. If you think my game is lacking a critical feature, I understand and you are perfectly within your bounds not to buy my game.

But if you feel my game is lacking a critical feature and I should put it in there because you bought my last five games and I owe it to you for that feature to be in there, then you, dear sir, are wrong. The previous five games were stand alone sales, and I may indeed have set a precedent of expectation. But I am under no moral or legal obligation to provide the features you expect. I am glad you enjoyed my games and I hope you enjoy the games I make in the future. But I do not owe you anything.

In my opinion.