So this has sticking in my craw for a while, and was enflamed by Doug Lowenstein’s comments as he left the ESA… I wrote a first draft of a comment for Gamasutra’s Q&A, but it had so many curse words by the point I had found enough time to edit it, the deadline had passed.
I’m not going to talk about the whole affair, I just wanted to point out this one quote in the Wired article (because everyone else on the internet takes quotes out of context, and it looks like so much fun). From Terry Donovan, “childhood friend” to the Housers and one of the cofounders of Rockstar, speaking about games:
“There isn’t some kind of social responsibility to have a redeeming value.”
Wow. Cluuuuuuue-fucking-less. Responsibility isn’t something that’s assigned to you like your goddamn social security number. It’s something you TAKE.
Ok, so maybe Rockstar doesn’t want to take larger social responsibility to make games with arguably more redeeming social values. Alright, fine – in any medium there’s always a place for pure entertainment sans meaning (far too big a place, unfortunately). Still, you’d figure they’d at least take some responsibility for the games they do make.
Now why would it be advantageous for them to take that sort of responsibility? Well, if they don’t defend their own games, there’s no guarantee anybody else will. Well, ok, that’s not exactly true. Somebody will do it eventually (Doug Lowenstein did), the question is what does that lack of responsibility & delay cost Rockstar? You’d figure they’d realize if they backed up their work a little more, they would probably have to withstand fewer lawsuits, for one.
That’s what makes them the worst sort of cowards – it’s not just that they’re not interested in saying anything of much socially redeeming value with their games, it’s that they don’t even have the balls to stand up for the content they make. They can’t even take responsibility for their own actions enough to say, yeah we made these games, we have a right to make ’em, they don’t make people kill each other, so fuck off. I guess they’re too busy finding thickly accented voice acting talent for GTA IV.
Usually that kind of spineless behavior meets its own just reward in the end, I think, over a long enough time period. But that’s the sad part, that’s just as likely to not happen (even with activist investors). The Housers are, admittedly, masters of their chosen form. They execute on their vision, and they are rewarded for it – so I don’t really see the ruin prophesied by the Wired article. The biggest chance for it to come about is not because they’re media shut-ins & have torrents of lawsuits, that’s always been the case. It’s the final hope that they will do what they’re so good at – pissing people off – to the one group they can’t afford to do it to, their fans.