As consumers, fans have a right to moan about games (within reason) but when developers start moaning back problems set in, says Sam Neal
Lately, some developers have felt the need to make public statements defending new features of their games. However, in an effort to defend their product, these developers end up lashing out against some fans.
Leaders of a company have a certain image to maintain. They need to be intelligent in conversation and have an iron cap on their tempers. Company leaders are the face and voice of the company and have a responsibility to act as such. In the same vein, developers should not need to make public statements defending themselves unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so.
Last week, Treyarch design director David Vonderharr inadvertently spoke out against players who only play the single-player campaign in Call of Duty games.
He said, “As popular as CoD is, there are a lot of people who don’t play multiplayer. And quite frankly, this bugs the **** out of us. They should all play multiplayer. And Combat Training helps us get there.”
While Vonderharr said this to promote the Combat Training feature of the upcoming Black Ops II, his message was a veiled attack on players who prefer to shoot Russian terrorists alone.
What’s wrong with players who enjoy the single-player campaign? It’s odd for a developer to accuse fans of their game for playing it the wrong way. While I’m sure it was not Vonderharr’s intention to insult fans of Call of Duty, his comment came off as such.
However, Vonderharr’s comments were a tame misstep compared to those of Splinter Cell: Blacklist developer David Footman.
When fans of the series took to the internet after Splinter Cell’s action-focused E3 demo, Footman took annoyance with those fans.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Footman lashed out against this vocal group.
“Everyone can make knee-jerk reactions to a vertical slice of the game that are really uninformed as to what the whole experience is like,” Footman said. “It seems to be an overreaction because people are just seeing the ‘pow!’, the explosiveness.”
Yes, having a loud vocal minority can be overwhelming and demoralizing, but should developers lash out against their own fans in defense?
Oftentimes, the people who complain the loudest are among the most devoted fans of a series. After playing many games in a franchise over a number of years, fans develop a personal connection with the product. Over time, they gain a certain feeling of ownership with the franchise, and can react negatively if they feel betrayed by a game’s shift in direction.
Their criticism is worth as much as, if not more than, that of the non-vocal majority. So when a developer speaks out against this group, they attack their most-loyal fan-base.
By calling fan criticism “an overreaction,” Footman is reprimanding loyal fans for offering what can ultimately be viewed as constructive criticism.
Footman should not publicly place his blame on the fans. He accuses the fans of making comments from an uninformed perspective, but these fans can only comment on the trailers and information that the game’s publisher Ubisoft makes publicly available. Footman’s grievances should have been directed at the Splinter Cell: Blacklist public relations team, and he should have done so in private.
When developers are speaking for their company in a public forum, they should represent themselves accordingly and treat all of their fans with a certain level of respect.
In addition to mistreating fans, these kind of public comments can make a developer sound unnecessarily defensive over their game. Actions speak louder than words. Developers should have enough faith in their products that they do not feel the need to publicly defend themselves against all forms of criticism. Speaking out against this criticism only makes the developers seem less confident in their product.