Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Sony's Not Ready For User-Made Videos

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 11 Jun 2013 16:00
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In short, I wonder if Sony fully understands what they're letting themselves in for. Maybe they do. They're a big company full of smart people, maybe they've accepted that a railing is inevitable, have weighed up the risks and are going for it in the hope of testing the old theory that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I mean, a video of a hilarious bug rarely creates genuinely bad feeling for a game, it's often rather charming. Like a puppy running into a room too fast and sliding into a wall. But in a way, Sony being all good sports about is even worse. Because that turns into a company exerting control over the culture of criticism surrounding it.

I've written in this space before about my love of Let's Play videos, or long plays of games with commentary by the player. They've been in the news fairly recently after Nintendo announced they were going to steal all the pocket money from the kids doing LPs of their games on Youtube. And this has raised a lot of complicated questions. Obviously you can't get away with selling someone's movie with your commentary on it because watching a film is the entire experience of it, but you have not fully had the experience of a game until you've actually played it yourself. A playthrough is unique to the player. Perhaps not so much with your incredibly linear triple-A games these days, but even in Final Fantasy 13 you could still run around in circles for an hour between cutscenes.

Yes, LP videos display a lot of art and sound assets that somebody else created, and maybe Nintendo are within their rights to claim copyright - regardless of whether doing so is ultimately a smart move, when LPs and machinima are basically free advertising and this will only encourage people not to make them - but part of me thinks this feels like claiming copyright ownership on a film because it was filmed in your house. I'll leave this argument for the courts.

What I find dodgy about Nintendo claiming ownership is that I believe LPs to be works of criticism. And as I said the last time I talked about LPs in this column, what makes an LP interesting is that the person showing off the game has no vested interest in making it look good. But I've seen a few cases of game publishers trying to get in on the action by having "official" LPs done, and that smells like missing the point, as does any notion that the PS4's video uploading feature will be anything but an exercise in crowdsourced marketing. When the creator makes their own criticism, like a state-run newspaper, it's at best pointless and at worst dangerous when abused. Like a wolf disguised as a sheep in the flock of a very lonely, sexually frustrated shepherd.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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