Today's topic is inspired by the comments of our recent Soapbox column: fluffy interviews.
The Soapbox article, Own your game's mistakes, called on developers to do exactly that: be honest about their games' shortcomings. But a few Massively readers thought that blogs like ours should be responsible for holding developers accountable. Said reader dradiinmmo,
I would hope publications like Massively could do their part by holding the developers' "feet" to the fire and asking those questions about issues found in MMOs. [...] Do some investigation [...] and start asking pointed questions about [an MMO's] mistakes.You guys must think we're really powerful, that we can just bust into a studio and demand answers to questions and get them. The reality is that no one has to answer a journalist's questions -- not in gaming, not in any field. A game developer, for example, has to think there's something in it for her or her game before she'll sit for an interview. That sort of tit-for-tat can lead to ethics quandaries throughout the industry. You can ask whatever you want, but only rarely will a studio address a question when the answer might make the game look bad.
Reader Cimeas argued for hostile relations with developers:
When you go interview someone from BioWare, ask him why SWTOR failed. When you talk to a person at ArenaNet, ask him whether it can really sustain the game just with a cosmetic gear shop, and call him out if the answer is bullshit.This is the equivalent of standing on the courtroom steps barking angry questions at lawyers and defendants. We just can't get answers that way, though it might make us feel vindicated momentarily. If they don't want to answer polite questions, they certainly won't answer rude ones! Is our goal to get answers or dress-down the studio rep sent out to field our questions?
Sometimes we'll interview a developer whose responses are laced with PR-speak. That surely annoys readers as much as us; we all feel blown off. What are we to do in those situations? Do we scrap the interview before anyone sees, knowing we didn't get the answers we really wanted? Or do we print it anyway to show that we did try? I tend to want to print them anyway because I think our readers are smart enough to read between the lines. Sometimes what they don't say (and the way they say what they do say) is just as revealing.
That doesn't mean we should lob softballs like how awesome is your game? at developers, though, and it doesn't mean we can't fulfill the other half of dradiinmmo's wish. The real role bloggers have in holding studios accountable for their games is in penning honest opinion pieces, not conducting interviews. Developers and their PR handlers might control interviews, but we control editorials. Opinions aren't Massively's sole focus, and the opinions we do hold aren't always negative (we blog about games for a living because we like them, after all, not because we don't), but ultimately, criticism is our sharpest tool.
What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is there no edit button? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments or the tip box. Just ask!