Turnabout is fair play

Some game reviewers crying because a developer played hardball:

Here’s a quote from Totalbiscuit:  Unfortunately, every day we have to sit there worrying, will some company decide to abuse the copyright claim system to destroy my livelihood today?

Another popular youtube guy, Francis, also chimed in with this: YouTube has saved my life, and it terrifies me that with this system in place, it’s possible all of this will disappear tomorrow morning.”

and this: Your dream, your livelihood, your future… everything you’re aspiring to be can go *snap* like that.  It’s terrifying.

That’s powerful stuff.   It is terrifying.  How do I know? Many video game developers live this every day of their lives.

Many of us, especially indies, have made staggering sacrifices to pursue our dreams.  Financial, mental, emotional, relationship.  Many of us pour our life energy into our creation.  We dream for success.  We dread failure.  Failure is catastrophic.

Especially indies, who rely almost exclusively – not on multi million dollar marketing budgets, but on the people who review and talk about their games.  A review by someone like Totalbiscuit can completely change the fortune of an indie developer.  And I mean completely.

First of all, having been a nationally syndicated game reviewer as well as a game developer, I am EXTREMELY dubious that any reviewer has the sort of power being described here. I suspect an amount of correlation/causation confusion. Second, while Totalbiscuit may be an excellent reviewer, (and he is clearly more conscientious than most with regards to playing through the entire game before reviewing it), it appears no wise old editor ever taught him a very important lesson concerning game reviews.

It’s one that I was taught by Chris Lombardi of Computer Gaming World when I was reviewing a very, very bad game for CGW, a game that has repeatedly made Worst Game Ever lists, and it was a lesson I never forgot.

After I emailed him the review, he called me up and said: “It’s a really funny review. It made me laugh out loud. And it isn’t publishable. Drop the ba-doom-boom stuff; it’s not professional.”

What he meant by “ba-doom-boom stuff” was lines like this: “In space, no one can hear you scream.  And when it comes to Salvation Prophecy, that might be a good thing.”  These sorts of one-liners indicate that the reviewer is sacrificing the game on the altar of a punchline. And that’s not only unfair to the game, it shows that the review has become more about showing off the reviewer’s clever wit than actually reviewing the game itself.

I don’t know if the game developer was in its rights or not to get the review taken down; that is outside my area of competence. I do know that as a general rule, I am 100 percent opposed to DMCA-related nonsense. But I also know that if reviewers are resolutely professional and play fair in their reviews, developers are unlikely to react in an unprofessional and unfair manner even when the reviews are less than flattering.