Writing about games is a fun-time. My day job is to play, write about, and lead opinion on the most incredible, exciting and dynamic media form in existence. There are days, like today, when I can’t quite believe that I do what I do.
The corollary of that is that, quietly, this job has real economic impact on thousands of people – those who’s careers rely on the games we write about, selling. It’s not something I, or anyone I know who does this job, enjoys thinking about. As writers, our responsibility lies with the reader first. As long as we respect the creators, that we don’t deliberately misrepresent their work, we can maintain our perspective.
What’s interesting to me, though, is how successfully game publishers and developers have adapted their marketing to the internet. It’s no longer enough to advertise: developers recruit communities. It’s not enough to gather fans: publishers should recruit ‘key influencers’ to push their message. This is a product of our times, the inevitability of our industry. Marketing isn’t a one off event. It’s 360 degrees, 24/7.
Communities are amazing things. But they can be savage. These communities are built on optimism, built on ideas of what a game will be in six months time, rather than a tangible product. And there’s nothing more devastating than dashed hopes.
I saw Warhammer Online a few months ago, at an event in Paris. Mythic, the people making it are smart, funny, and respectful. They care deeply about their product. The talks they gave were inspiring, the interviews spectacular. Their game, will, I think, eventually live up to their talk. But I saw problems that deserved to be addressed. And I was deliberately vicious in the words I chose when describing those problems. I knew, when I wrote the piece, that it was going to upset both players and developers.
It’s a credit then, to Mythic, that they took that criticism on board. I met with one of their lead developers, Paul Barnett, a little while ago, and we talked about what I’d written. Paul talked of how their developers were working long hours to correct the problems. It’s quite upsetting, hearing that a paragraph you spent five minutes writing, can cause that much work.
The amazing thing, though, is just how smart gamers are. It’s easy, in these communities, to reject dissent. Warhammer’s players didn’t seem to. They read the preview, talked it over, and took it all on board. There is vitriol, yes. There always is. This is the internet. But it gives me hope, and makes me happy, that so many of Warhammer’s community didn’t try and kill me.