Welcome to this week’s Q&A with the VideoGameWriters staff. Each week we present a round-robin discussion on various video game tastes, opinions and controversies. Have a topic you’d like to see? Feel free to drop us a line!
This week the VideoGameWriters staff tackles the myriad of “issues” surrounding the recent release of EA/BioWare’s Dragon Age II. Mixed reviews and opinions of the game content aside, the game has made headlines via a MetaCritic review, an “accidental” forum ban that resulted in a player being banned from his game, and the possible inclusion of a security feature (please note that while Reclaim Your Game stands by its statement that this feature is, in fact, SecuROM, these claims have been denied by EA/BioWare reps). What’s your take on it? Sound off below and add to our noise!
Jen: As a person who has played community mod for years, I have had dreams of this type of ban-hammer activity. I’ll be so bold as to say that I not only completely agree with them banning from the forum for this particular comment (if you come play in my house, you play by my rules. If you want to bad mouth me, go play somewhere else), I think this type of thing should occur on a regular basis for online games. Far too often, posters abuse the anonymity of an online environment to act like jackholes, and I’d like to see more accountability. On that note, however, for a game with zero online content (that is to say: I will never have the misfortune of running into said jackholes), there should be no call for it. Which is why, as often as I jokingly refer to EA as the evil empire, I have to believe this was an honest mistake. I’ve seen a handful of blog posts popping up and around claiming more users are being banned, but none of these have yet to be confirmed.
I’m torn on the inclusion of a security measure. On one hand, I understand EA’s desire to protect their product. In fact, I will go so far as to play devil’s advocate and say that I think SecuROM is completely necessary to protect the integrity of the product. However, as Volition recently said, developers’ first and foremost concern should be creating a product people want to pirate, and then worring about how to keep it safe.
Daniel: I actually find that situation more humorous than alarming, but I am more of a lurker than an actual poster. However, I believe this was probably either a genuine mistake on EA’s part, or maybe a mischievous mod wanted to turn the tables on that particular poster. Even though everything has been made right to some degree, it is still something that makes me wonder about a publisher’s power to ban access to a game. Obviously, cheaters and other assorted miscreants should be ban hammered with impunity, but stretching that out to the forums as well is worrisome to a degree.
The reason I think this was a mistake or some type of mod prank is that the user’s post does not cross any sort of EULA breach. There should be no reason for a ban unless that user used some profoundly inappropriate words or images in that forum. However, it should only affect his forum status, and not his game account.
I would not even consider this being an abuse of power by EA — at least I hope not.
Casey: What disturbs me about it isn’t the abuse of power, which was probably more a glitch than an intended effect. I think developers need to have the ability to ban some people, for the good of the multiplayer, of course. However, it seems like this is something that should have checks and balances involved, so that one rogue mod doesn’t go off the deep end. It makes me wonder why they had that “button” in the first place. Transparency regarding the process itself might go some way toward eliminating fears. The other issue seems to be one of the consequences of dealing with new technology and interconnectedness in general, but this is just bad ethics. It’s definitely a sign of lagging corporate ethics and the steady decline of professionalism, but ultimately the best thing to do about it is to keep exposing those who do so, and learn from it.
Kevin: On the banning I genuinely think that it was a mistake. Let me say that first and foremost. I’ve done the homework on this story and all the evidence points to this being an isolated incident. However I do definitely agree that the fact that EA can lock you out of playing your single player campaign and your DLC is completely uncalled for. If nothing else the system that locks you out of your EA account should be totally separate from your non-communal gaming for obvious reasons. In this case there is a transaction of money so it’s more like, I dunno, stealing.
The SecuROM is interesting. It should be noted that EA is constantly coming under fire for SecuROM. Each and every time they’ve also ended up taking the SecuROM out. And they are still saying it’s technically not SecuROM but some slightly different form of shenanigans. Obviously if they’re lying about they should probably, ya know, stop that. I mean this game has enough bad PR as it is. And if they’re telling the truth then I can’t say my opinion defers much. They still smuggled something in there after implying the game would be DRM-free for so long. Tsk tsk. That’s not lying but it is manipulative.
As far as the employee posting the Metacritic review, it is true what EA says. Everyone does do it, and regardless of what the consumers think, everyone will keep doing it. Their defense is certainly interesting and it’s kind of difficult to argue against I think. I think consumers often want to believe in a world that doesn’t exist, where reviewers are honest, they’re always going to share your opinion and justify it, and they’re never paid off or pressured to give positive reviews. Fact is, reviewing video games is a business and that business is, for all intent and purposes, a transaction. The publisher gives the reviewer freebies in exchange for positive attention. Remember those Darksiders swords THQ gave away? They didn’t send that stuff out to be nice. How about that insane Activision party last year at E3?
Lee: Based on what I know, I think EA is getting a bad rap for this. I expect Miley Cyrus to give her album five stars on iTunes. I expect Dan Brown to give his new release five stars on Amazon. I don’t see anything shocking about a developer giving his game high marks on a public review space like Metacritic. As long as his “review” doesn’t carry any more weight than any other user’s review, the scores should average out. I really don’t see it as being different from a fanboy of any franchise reflexively upvoting a new release that he’s naturally predisposed to like. It’d be a little unsavory to find out that EA was orchestrating it, but even that wouldn’t be shocking. This kind of shilling happens all the time.
Jason: While I consider EA’s shady insertion of SecuROM bad business practice (and something PC gamers should loudly complain about), I’m finding it difficult to hold Bioware or EA at fault for the Metacritic user review. In fact, I applaud EA for being so transparent in their defense of said Bioware developer. This was merely someone passionate about the game they created voicing their – let’s face it – unofficial opinion. Had EA or Bioware orchestrated this, I’m sure we would have seen dozens more similar user reviews. While the detectives at Reddit who unearthed this should be applauded for their sleuthing skills, that’s pretty much where it ends for me.
Readers, sound off! What’s your take on all this?