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For arguments' sake

Opinion: Gaming's 'immature' spats are actually pretty grown-up, says Tim Ingham...

"Wellington is a bad general. The English are bad soldiers. We will settle this matter by lunch time."

Napoleon Bonaparte could smack talk like the illest gangster MC.

Back in the 1800s, of course, this sort of thing was look on as inspirational and galvanising; a verbal elixir of strength for one's beleaguered followers.

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Thousands of public figures have since adopted The Little General's pugnacious mantle and - whether hot-headed screeching or a calculated loosening of composure - it's all been for much the same purpose: To make the other guy look a bit of a penis.

Invariably, the other guy can't resist a pop back.

Our natural human reaction to these spats is to curtain-twitch; to absorb as much entertainment as possible without poking our neck into the firing line.

The media - from The Jones's crude cul-de-sac chatter ("Have you heard what Brian said to Judy?") to globally-facing online goliaths - has become the ideal conduit for this barrage.

Modern day icons that let fly with targeted abuse even deliberately rely on news outlets to amplify their rankling message. Heck, most of them send theirs over by email. Spellchecked.

Step forward Electronic Arts and Bobby Kotick. In one of gaming's most explosive feuds, the Activision boss and his fierce rival (not that Bobby would admit it) went at it hammer and tongs this week.

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"EA's been struggling for a really long time," said Kotick in his already infamous Edge interview. "It's lost its way."

Oucha. An EA spokesperson emailed the firm's (spellchecked) response to CVG. Corporately restrained? Not on your Nelly.

"His company is based on three game franchises - one is a fantastic persistent world he had nothing to do with; one is in steep decline; and the third is in the process of being destroyed by Kotick's own hubris."

FIGHT!

The tussle is gaming's latest public fracas, in a year that's seen similarly stormy fallings-out between Epic's Mark Rein and indie dev Cliff Harris, Gearbox's Mikey Neumann and ex-BodyCount man Stuart Black - and, in top billing, Tim Schafer and... Bobby Kotick.

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This cavalcade of animosity is making some sensitive games industry observers fret. Their cheerless reaction to these scuffles is to mourn the games industry's ability to graduate from the playground; to damn its 'frat boy mentality'.

Could you imagine in a million years, they fuss (with a wisp of 'notice us!!' paranoia) top execs in the movie or music businesses entering into such infantile disputes?

Erm yes. Bloody loads of them. Both industries regularly pull the certain back on colossal feuds between their most powerful players - poison-tongued millionaires that make Bobby Kotick look like Gandhi.

It just so happens that they have 'stars' to play this antagonistic role.

Last year, Megan Fox called her taskmaster Transformers director Michael Bay "Hitler" - and claimed "he has no social skills at all".

Kind of puts Tim Schafer's "prick" dig in the shade, wouldn't you say?

Want to go a little more senior? How about Stephen Spielberg publicly branding a Close Encounters draft written by Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader "the most embarrassing script ever turned into a studio by a professional".

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