No Man’s Sky is being torn apart by angry fans all over the net, but it seems some writers and developers are coming to Sean Murray and Hello Games’ defense, with the usual argument of “entitled gamers.” I’d like to take an excerpt from one of these articles that I feel accurately portrays the general defense:
…Used to being told they’re the centre of the galaxy, gamers are furious about the lack of direction in the game, the lack of point, the lack of meaning, the lack of recognition. It has occurred to me while watching the controversy unfold that many of the angry comments about the game are expressing existential angst. There’s no point and no direction…The people dismissing the No Man’s Sky creators as liars and thieves because some of the potential features they talked about haven’t yet materialised in the game, are having trouble coming to terms with the vagaries of the creative act – and of life itself. They think everything has to work and operate like a product; whether that’s a game, a movie franchise or other human beings. When things don’t work like that they feel cheated. (The Guardian)
Ignore the extra douchey tone and focus on the bold parts in particular, where we see a common tactic that’s used today in pieces of “journalism” written about gamers. First, authors of this type try to establish gamers as angry, spoiled, and entitled in order to invalidate their position. From there, they try to set a commercial product on a pedestal and pretend common sense doesn’t apply to it.
Blah blah blah, creative act blah blah.
100% complete bullshit. I’m sorry, but when you package your creation, put a price on it, mass produce it, and sell it for profit, you’ve created a f&%$ing product. It doesn’t matter if that product is artistic in nature, it’s subject to the exact same consumer backlash due to any other product that doesn’t work as intended or stated.
People often try to say gaming will never be taken seriously as an industry/medium/art form until X, but fail to hold the gaming industry to quality standards you’d find in any other. In the minds of those people, many of whom have direct conflicts of interest, the gaming industry is exempt from this sort of responsibility.
The Bullshot Culture of the gaming industry
This exemption is the reason bullshots, a term created by the gaming community to describe marketing that deliberately misrepresents a game’s quality, have become so rampant: There is virtually no legal downside to the practice of companies outright lying about their game (product), and the upside is significantly increased sales.
One of the few cases to actually be taken to court over the practice, Aliens: Colonial Marines, saw SEGA agreeing to pay $1.25 million, on a game that sold over 1.31 million copies. That’s less than a dollar per copy sold: Of course lying about a game’s quality is going to run rampant when the worst penalty to date is a mere pittance in comparison to the increased revenue from the lie.
I’m sure that’s something Sean Murray knows all too well now. There were tons of lies about the game’s content that his defenders are trying to brush off as part of the developmental process: “Unfortunate cuts that are bound to happen to every game. So let’s just cut him and Hello Games some slack for their overenthusiastic words, okay?”
Where do I even begin dismantling this stupid position?
Have we not all at some point heard an adult or authority figure in our lives give us the spiel about “If everyone else were jumping off a cliff, would you?” Just because other gigantic scumbags lie about their games (Ubisoft), doesn’t mean Sean Murray gets a pass for contributing to and escalating the problem. It’s still wrong.
How about the undeniable fact that Sean Murray repeatedly claimed we could see other players and interact with them, up until the release of the game? Within days of its release that seems to have been proven false, which is also supported by data mining the PC version of the game: There is not a single aspect of that multiplayer found in the available game data. So either multiplayer never existed in the first place, or Hello Games took extra care to scrub all traces of it from the game’s data, which seems unlikely seeing as they left in all evidence that they lied about their spontaneous stage demos (The game has the code for the staged E3 2015 demo, oops).
Either option results in Sean Murray being a dirty liar.
Since this bit of fraud came to light, Hello Games’ refusal to say anything on the matter is a case of deafening silence. Players are still trying to formulate theories about how the mutiplayer could be instanced, server based, etc., but it’s all pointless: If multiplayer were actually in No Man’s Sky, Hello Games could have just said it was and ended this whole ordeal. Instead, they removed online multiplayer from the packaging and listed it as singleplayer on Steam…
It’s now undeniable fact: Sean Murray lied.
Quite frankly, it’s likely that Sean Murray thought he could get away with pulling a Molyneux and lying about features, because the chance of him getting busted was, for all functional intents and purposes, 0%. Which sort of makes the whole situation hilarious when you think about how fast he struck the failure lottery. The odds of winning that jackpot being less than one in a trillion, a value so pathetically small that most human minds cannot comprehend its insignificance.
Yes, sometimes features don’t make it into games and it sucks. That’s not the issue here, the issue is that No Man’s Sky marketing claimed those features were in the game after they were scrubbed from it. In fact, the Steam page is still using a “gameplay” trailer that’s full of cut features to sell the game. That’s indefensible.
(Since I originally submitted this article for publication, Steam has begun giving refunds outside of the usual scope due to the misleading nature of the trailer on the game’s page. Even PSN is giving refunds: They know Hello Games fucked up bad.)
So Sean Murray lied about features in his game, other developers are defending him because they’re most likely fellow liars in a system where telling lies is best for business, and nothing is going to change.
Actually, there is a little hope for change now: Sean Murray represents Hello Games, and has committed blatant fraud. His role in development, production, and sale of a product (No Man’s Sky) makes him a merchant, and his talks to the media, or consumers on a trade show stage like E3, is marketing. The product (No Man’s Sky) fails to live up to the warranty of merchantability, as consumers have been lead to believe certain features exist when they do not. This means Hello Games legally must offer a refund at very least and is subject to punitive damages at worst.
Since Hello Games is a small company compared to Ubisoft or Sega, they are much more susceptible to litigation. If someone were to successfully sue them for falsely advertising No Man’s Sky, it would be a huge blow to the bullshot culture of modern game marketing. That would be a huge victory for gaming consumers, and would likely lead to more accurate portrayals of games in the future.
Now, will anyone step up to the plate for the most consistently maligned and mistreated consumer base in the world?
(The following is cut content that begins to go off tangent, and doesn’t really flow as well, but the idea of these posts is to cover things I write that never get published. I stand by the words, even if I don’t feel they fit into the article as well, so I want people to read it. Probably has tons of errors in it too.)
The media vs the consumers
My fellow writers also seem to forget No Man’s Sky costs $60 if you don’t get a free review copy. If you’re going to have the gall to ask for such a high price on an indie game, it should come with the quality associated with the premium price. It doesn’t matter that No Man’s Sky was developed by a much smaller team, they decided to ask for the same price as a game developed by a massive AAA studio, Again, Sean Murray and Hello Games should be held to the same standard of quality when it comes to their product.
However, that clearly isn’t the case with No Man’s Sky, which still crashes on PS4 with stunning regularity. At the time of this writing, Hello Games still hasn’t fixed an awful camera bug that sometimes re-positions the camera perspective to the players feet after high jumps or exiting the water at certain angles, with the only fix being to hop back in the ship (which may be hours away for some people) or to kill oneself. Let’s not even go into the gong show that was the PC version launch.
Gamers are the same as every other consumer base, and have the right to be upset with a purchase that doesn’t function as advertised, so can we stop insulting or attempting to shame them for not being okay with how they’ve been treated? Is there any other social group towards which this is acceptable behavior? No.
Gaming media is at an all time low in quality and integrity, a fact that is again highlighted by the No Man’s Sky fiasco. There has been a shift in the gaming media, from the purpose of informing the gaming audience to shaming those who badmouth the companies that grease the wheels. What has brought about this change? Advertising and monetized attention.
A glimpse of a bygone era, when gaming media appealed to actual gamers.
Gamers no longer contribute to the financial success of the gaming media in the same manner they did with gaming magazines. In the time of magazines, gamers would pay to read the articles you worked on. Subscribers to gaming magazines not only paid out of pocket, but gave the magazine a better proposition to advertisers: “We can guarantee [X number of people] in your target demographic will see your advertisements.”
Now a piece of “gaming journalism” is free to read and more easily disseminated over a wider audience. Articles are paid for by the number of clicks generated. Instead of writing thoughtful articles about things that interest gamers, its far better for the bottom line to quickly produces click-bait garbage that grabs readers that aren’t even gamers. The deal only sweetens when you throw in “sponsored content.”
If writers fish hard enough for outrage, their articles could go viral or get picked up by a major news site and get millions of additional hits: Articles about Sean Murray being a dirty liar don’t have as much reach as articles telling a story about how big bad gamers are bullying the poor Sean Murray who just wanted to bring us happiness through his game.
I say f^%* that, I’ll take up a spare job at Walmart if I need the money that badly: Sean Murray is a liar, and Hello Games should be taken to court for fraud.