A conversation piece

Opinion: Tim Ingham is ready to champion developers' issues. If only they'd tell him what they were...

"We can't talk about that right now."

Not true. You can - you just won't.

"I think we're getting a little off topic."

There's a reason for that. You're getting boring.

"We're really just here to talk about the game. We'll be happy to answer any other questions at a later date."


The above three quotes will send fury down the knuckles of any games journalist worth his or her salt.

The first two are staples of a certain, frustratingly obedient breed of developer - they have a script, and they stick ferociously to it. They often work on huge games. Ask them anything outside the confines of the three levels/multiplayer map/multi-format deal announcement that brought you together, and the conversational walls shoot up.

These people do not discuss anything but their product. They are single-mindedly fixated on the sell.

The third quote, however, is by far the most infuriating: The PR intervention, whereby a company rep - tasked with suppressing the true opinions of creative types in front of the media - comes to their 'aid', by shutting them up. It happens a lot. It's an extraordinary skill. But it's never not depressing.

I'm starting to believe that the video games industry is the most PR-shackled in all entertainment. Sure, music has its manufactured machinery; controlled, Rizla-thin 'controversy' neatly tied up with the red tops to convince you that you actually do give a rat's about X-Factor... that sort of thing.

But it also has stars. Huge, beautiful, big-mouthed stars - whose egos dictate that their view on the world is more important than their latest LP, and whose mouths often manifest this belief with wonderful, impassioned, stupid, emotive, inspiring dialogue.

It also has Bono. There are downsides.

In video games, this calibre of ballsy, opinionated individual is few and far between. We lap up the Pitchfords, the Molyneuxs and, yes, the Bleszinskis because they're auto-tuned to 'animated' - and they understand that there are more important people to excite than public relations execs, shareholders and advertising partners. Namely, gamers.

Sad truth is, there's not half enough of them. Many of the biggest video games developers in the world double up as mouthpieces for huge, Dollar-gobbling corporate empires - and they're scared witless to talk out of line. I would be too.

This means that the real issues almost always get ignored. We consistently ask the questions - they just get abruptly smacked down.

That's real issues: Not how you "built the game from the ground up", not how your "biggest influence was the fans - because we're fans too" - nor any other fuel for another "man says positive thing about own game" story.

Do developers have any insight into the fact that publishers are taking a Uzi to the second-hand market? Of course they do. But the majority refuse to talk about it.

What about on-disc DLC? Isn't it cheating the consumer? Same deal.

And what about censorship; the use of video games as a pariah in the halls of power?

I'm delighted to see that at least one, unexpected leading light has the cojones to tackle this doozy head on.


Writing on his blog yesterday, Insomniac boss Ted Price called out gaming news websites - including CVG - for reporting on a story in which he appeared to boast about his firm's prowess on PS3. But he also had a much weightier point to make.

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