I’ve spent a lot of time talking about shitty things that game devs and publishers do in the name of greed or sheer ignorance. But looking over some of what I’ve written before, I realized I’ve never actually defined what does and doesn’t constitute ethics in game development. To rectify that situation I’m going to set down some rules of what should and should not be accepted by consumers. So, like Moses coming down from the mount I now present the first half of the” Ten Commandments of Ethical Game Development”.
Thou Shalt Treat Employees With Dignity
Let’s start at the development process itself. People go into game design because they love games. It’s a shame that so many of them end up hating the business because of the piss poor behavior of the company’s that mistreat them. Poor working conditions, unrealistic expectations, and unhealthy scheduling all combine into a miserable environment that takes passionate people and crushes the life out of them. Companies have an obligation to manage projects in a way that sets their people up for success. Not only does this harm the employees, it results in games that are not at the level of quality they could have been if the team had remained passionate and engaged. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who fight through and pour their effort into projects they love despite the situation. They are definitely out there but they should be rewarded for their dedication, not punished. If you can’t treat the people you hire ethically you dont deserve to be in business.
Thou Shalt Respect the Intelligence of the Customer
If you ever want an example of how to fail at public relations just do a Google search for “sense of pride and accomplishment”. As of the writing of this article, that is still the most downvoted comment in Reddit history with 660,000+ votes against it. That, among other great statements like “do you not have phones?” and the various quotes by people from companies like EA insisting customers want loot boxes, have been coming out more and more often in an avalanche of stupidity. The people high up in these companies know that what they are doing is not what players want, however, they seem convinced that their customers are so dumb that they will actually buy the garbage they are spewing out like a sewer pipe wearing an 800 dollar suit. If you cannot be honest with your customers you have no right in the business.
Thou Shalt Not Embargo Reviews
Now this is a subject I’m not sure I’ve ever talked about at length so here is a quick primer. When a game is released, advanced review copies are sent out to reviewers so they can play the game and give their thoughts at or before release. Unfortunately, some publishers send these with the caveat that the reviewer cannot say anything about the game before a certain date. This is usually they day the game is officially released to the general public. More often than not, this is because someone doesnt have confidence that the game will review well and it is done to protect launch week sales. There are certainly other factors such as preventing spoilers and the like, but that is the exception more than the rule. Needless to say, if you’ve made a game in a state that you think reviews will be a major problem then you probably shouldn’t release that game.
Thou Shalt Not Publish Broken Games
Over the last few years there has been a growing trend of publishers releasing buggy, broken clumps of software with the intention to fix them after the fact with patches and updates. These problems are often game breaking and can ruin the experience. Sometimes they missing advertised features. To quote Jim Sterling these are not finished games, they are “early AAAccess” titles. They use the consumer as quality control and allow them the dubious honor of finding all the problems so they can be fixed at a more convenient time for the publisher. I’m a broader sense, this could also apply to poor marketing such as showing demos that do not accurately represent a game or making claims about a product that are blatant lies. If you cant make a game that will be released in a state that is properly playable and you have to lie to sell it, learn how to do your job right or just dont bother.
Thou Shalt Not Chase Trends
The constant pressure to make all the money in the world has led to a culture of fad chasing in the games industry. I’ve written about that at length before. However the damage it does to the gaming industry has earned it a place here. Basing design on what’s popular at the moment has caused good games to be scrapped in favor of mediocre cash grabs. It has lead to studios being closed by parent companies after they were forced to make games they weren’t good at and those games failed, leaving good game makers without jobs. It has seen countless games damaged by having things shoehorned in at the last moment in an attempt to capitalize on a change in the market. Games should be made with a vision in mind. They should be allowed artistic integrity. They should be made as games and not marketing devices. If you can’t design games that stand on their own merit without copying the ideas of others because theyre then you shouldn’t be making games.
Next week I will cover the other half of these rules, these divinely inspired words of guidance for the lost and wayward souls of the gaming industry. Until then just act like you’ve got a little common sense and common decency and you should be alright.
The Revolution is a weekly series where Sour Pineapple rants about crappy things in the game industry in the hope that people will stop letting companies get away with it. Bring a torch and pitchfork every Wednesday and join the mob. Know of something that Pineapple should get mad about? Find him on Twitter @bssourpineapple and let him know.