Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Colonial Marines Developers Should Own Up to Screwing Up

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 5 Mar 2013 16:00
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I don't think there's much more that needs to be said about Aliens: Colonial Marines. I mean, that was sort of the case even before my ZP went up. My review schedule being a couple of weeks behind usually works fine when I'm talking about games whose quality can be debated for a few weeks, but it tends to make me look silly when everyone immediately realizes that a given game is a fucking trainwreck the day it comes out. We live in an age of low attention spans and instant information, so when we get an undeniable and universally accepted bomb, it will bomb fast, and bomb hard.

Even without playing the game you could get an indication of its quality just by the way its many developers all started busily blaming each other after the first week or so, and in many ways, that was the most disappointing thing about the whole affair. I'm trying to champion games as an art form over here, and desperately passing around responsibility for any game, shit or otherwise, is not helping our case. Films were once dismissed as having no artistic value, just as games are today, because so many people worked on them. Eventually some film journalists managed to convince the world that a film is the product of the director's single artistic vision. Which is still only debatably true, but it did the job.

I'm not naïve. Everyone knows that triple-A games are massive corporate enterprises developed by an average of twelve studios each, and a minimum of around ten individuals in positions to claim some kind of artistic ownership. But even bearing that in mind, indulging in a bit of blame-slinging right after the game has finally been pinched out is not a classy thing to do. In my day, you plastered on a false smile and stood by your product at the time. You take all the criticism gracefully and you let it inform your next project, and it's only at that point when you can start badmouthing. You do this because (a) there's nothing to be gained from burning bridges and (b) because there are always going to be seven or eight complete freaks who for some reason really enjoy your horrible game, and the last thing you want to do is tell them they're wrong.

Abdicating from responsibility does have a bit of a Nuremberg Trials feel to it. It doesn't matter that someone told you to set someone else on fire, what matters is that you were the one who lit the match and hid all the water buckets. And it doesn't matter that someone else working on the same project shat the bed, what matters is that you didn't notice that a bed had been shat in, or take the necessary steps to educate the culprit in non-bed-shitting and sheet laundering.

It's in everyone's best interests for videogames to adopt the notion that one auteur is in charge. In that case, if shit rockets bedwards, we know who to blame, and since that person knows that would be the case, they're motivated to do everything they can to ensure the game's quality. In theory, of course. Issues with the game that were beyond their control may still exist - as is often the case with the directors of films, too - but the perception of ownership is all that matters. When you start pointing fingers you give away that responsibility was divided, and therefore, there were loads of people who could have raised a hand and done something about the game's obvious poor quality, but none of them could be arsed. And no-one comes out of that looking good.

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