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Opinion: Hecker On 'Me And The Wii'
Opinion: Hecker On 'Me And The Wii'
November 24, 2010 | By Chris Hecker

November 24, 2010 | By Chris Hecker
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[In an opinion piece, SpyParty dev Chris Hecker reflects on what he sees as the damaging relationship between developers and the games press saying "someone is going to have to take their finger off the trigger first" when it comes to trust and information.]

Back in the 1990s, a friend of mine was a fairly senior marketing executive at Microsoft, and I was an opinionated twenty-something programmer who knew everything, like most people my age.

I hung out with her and her husband (another Microsoft programmer, slightly older than me, but much less annoying) fairly often, and I noticed she was always very careful and measured about how she spoke in public.

One time, I was at their house for dinner, and I bluntly asked: "Why don't you ever say anything interesting or subtle when the press is around?" Without pausing, she said: "When I was a junior marketing person on Excel, somebody from a trade magazine came by to talk about the new version."

"I gave him the demo and we talked about the new features, and it went well. Towards the end, he asked if it had any bugs, and I said 'sure, we postponed or resolved as won't-fix about 2,000 minor bugs', which was pretty good for a piece of software the size of Excel, localized into so many languages.

The headline for the article was 'New Version of Excel to Ship with 2,000 Bugs'. From that day forward, I have always been careful about what I say to the press."

What's the lesson here? The headline wasn't a misquote. The "journalist" didn't make up the quote and attribute it to my friend. She said it, plain and simple. So, fair game for a headline? Or, did it completely misrepresent the conversation, losing any contextual subtlety about the reality of commercial software product development, the nature and severity (or lack thereof) of those bugs, and was it designed merely to get eyeballs on the article, without regards to communicating any kind of deeper truth?

I think you can guess where I come down on that question.

In 2007, I gave a 'rant' at the Game Developers Conference, entitled, Fear of a Wii Planet. Rants at the GDC are short lectures given by developers that, at their best, are thought-provoking, entertaining, and controversial. They are usually given in a tongue-in-cheek style, which is not to say they're fictional or not truthful, just that the good ones try to balance comedy, veracity, detail, and rhetorical effect.

In this rant I said the following quote: "The Wii is a piece of shit."

It got a lot of laughs. I was blasting Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet in the background for comedic effect and then I went on to explain what I meant in relatively technical terms, which I'll talk about below.

But, I said it, plain and simple. So, fair game for a headline, right? And, I did work on a high profile game at the time, so no problem using that in the headline as well, right? Maybe something like 'Spore Developer Calls Wii a Piece of Shit' or something similar...

I don't think so. Journalists have a responsibility to present their readers with the context of a quote, and to not pull quotes out of their context simply to drive traffic or incite flame wars. No one at the rant, in the context, thought it was a big deal, and this included a senior Electronic Arts executive on the rant panel itself. No one who was actually there foresaw the firestorm it would cause amongst the press and fans.

This disconnect, this gap between the experience of the people in context, and the experience of the people reading the quotes out of context, is the key problem with "reporting" like this. It creates its own news, news that did not happen at the actual event being covered. The minimization of that gap should be one of the primary goals of a journalist covering an event. Instead, too often, game journalists seek to widen that gap.

Let me be clear: I screwed up, and I am sorry about it. I never should have made my points that way. However, the sad truth is, I screwed up because I stupidly didn't realize how my quotes would sound out of context. It never even occurred to me that they would or could be taken out of context. I never imagined somebody would read a single quote from a dense 10 minute comedic lecture and draw conclusions about my beliefs from that, not to mention draw conclusions about me as a person, or even about my wife, who also got insulting mails as a result of the rant and its coverage.

Some would say my mistake was assuming the relationship between the game press and game developers was not a hostile one. My more experienced friends were surprised at my naivety. They said: 'Duh, you always have to be careful around the press, they're just looking for an angle to exploit like that for controversy'. I think that's an incredibly cynical attitude, but I can't say my experience is refuting this argument very effectively...

I laid relatively low for a while, until I was inaccurately blamed for the lack of depth in Spore in a forum post. This also caught fire, and was again covered by some mainstream news outlets. This time, I hadn't even said or done the things I was accused of, and no fact checking was done at all. In response to this, I gave a rant aimed at game journalists called 'Do Your Job Well, Please'.

Now, years later, a journalist interviewed me about my new game SpyParty, indie game development in general, and my misadventures with the press. I figured enough time had passed, so I talked openly about the mistakes I'd made in the Wii rant, the context in which it happened, and how I thought the journalists who covered it also made mistakes, especially in choosing inflammatory headlines to drive traffic that grossly misrepresented the subtlety of what I was actually trying to say.

We spoke about this topic for almost an hour. We talked about how misquotes and out-of-context quotes are why most game developers never talk openly with the press, and always stay on message, even though those pre-approved messages are almost always boring and content-free. We talked about the chilling effect this has on the free flow of information in our industry. We talked about how there is a responsibility on the parts of both developers and the press to make sure interesting and accurate information is conveyed to the fans. We talked about how the title of a piece should reflect its actual content.

The article for this interview was just published with the title Hecker: I stand by my Wii is s*** rant. It's as if the conversation about the importance of the choice of title for a subtle discussion about controversial subjects never happened. The quotes inside the article present some of the longer, more nuanced discussion, but as you can read in the comments, the damage is already done. Again.

And then, of course, because the initial tone of this article is senselessly negative, this is carried across to the other articles regurgitating the interview, including Chris 'Wii = Cubes duct taped together' Hecker stands by his original comments, and the beyond-awesome Former Spore Dev Still Thinks the Wii is "a Piece of Sh*t".

What the f**k, people?!

I don't know what the solution is here. It is completely obvious to me now why most developers are not allowed to speak to the press, and why most people who do speak to the press don't actually say anything interesting or subtle. This is the situation we are in now, and I think it's going to take the cooperation of both press and developers to get out of it.

Developers do not trust the press, and why should they? My experience over the years is certainly evidence that trusting the press is risky. At the same time, because of this lack of trust, the press never gets any intrinsically interesting information from developers, and so they feel forced to amplify the controversial aspects of any story. Someone is going to have to take their finger off the trigger first.

Here, for the record, is what I was actually saying in the Fear of a Wii Planet rant:

1. Computation Power is Not Orthogonal to Gameplay

This is a technical statement, and the words are chosen carefully, especially orthogonal. This statement says the speed of the machine and the gameplay you can create on the machine are coupled. The faster the machine, the more options you have for developing the algorithms that make up the interactive systems of the game, including the AI and controls.

I am saying performance matters, and not just for graphics, but also for gameplay. I tried to be clear that a) I'm not saying anything about the importance of graphics, for the purposes of the rant I "didn't care about graphics", I was talking only about the gameplay, and b) I'm not saying one cannot do awesome games on a slower platform, only that it's harder. Of course one can make good games on slow platforms, that's prima facie obvious, just look at history, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it's easier and more fruitful to try to advance the state of the art of gameplay when you have more memory and horsepower.

If aliens came down and said we could only develop on the Wii from now until the end of time, I would still make games for the rest of my life, but I would rather the aliens not do that, just like it would have been a bummer if the aliens had stopped hardware at the Sega Genesis. I want games to fulfill their potential as the preeminent art and entertainment form of the 21st century, and I think we're going to need to make a lot better, deeper, more advanced games for that to happen, so both hardware and software developers are going to have to work very hard to make this possible.

The faster the hardware, the more software developers can concentrate on the higher level algorithms, and the more advanced interactive algorithms are possible, it's that simple.

2. I worry that Nintendo doesn't care about games as an art form.

The second part of the rant contrasted how the three console manufacturers talk about games. This is obviously a more hand-wavy argument than the previous one, but in general, I've found Microsoft and Sony executives talk about games as being peers to the other big art and entertainment forms, like film, literature, and music, while Nintendo tends to focus on "making fun games".

This worries me, because I think everybody in the industry needs to step up in terms of pushing games to be deeper and more emotionally meaningful, to speak to the human condition. I don't think aiming "just for fun" is enough to get us where we need to be, and as I've said before, I worry we will end up in the cultural ghetto like the toy and comics industries if we do this.

Again, this does not mean I don't like fun games, or that I don't like any Nintendo games, or anything simplistic like that. I just think Nintendo has earned a lot of influence in the game industry, and I want to see them using this influence to help push the art form forward in other directions besides just accessibility and fun. I think they've done some amazing games, and I do think their work on making games more accessible and mass market has been great, but we need their help in other directions as well.

I know this was a long article, but I wanted to comment on and clarify the situation in my own words, and I appreciate you reading this far.

[This article originally featured on Chris Hecker's blog. It is republished here with permission.]


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Comments


Gaming Droid
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This just shows that perhaps game developers should communicate with their gamers directly through blogs instead of relying on the press to do so.



There will always be some guy somewhere that will twist and turn your word into something you didn't intend!

Doug Poston
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Sadly the press has clued into direct blogs (calling it the "blog-o-sphere"), and loves taking out of context quotes from there as well.



>>Ex-Spore developer says: "Nintendo doesn't care about games..".



People who read Hecker's blog will know this is a gross misrepresentation, but the 99+ percent of the rest of the hardcore gaming community (and 100% of everyone else) will just think this person is a know-nothing asshole when he is actually one of the smartest, most generous people in this industry.



I don't agree with everything Hecker says, but I love hearing his opinions on things. I never miss a chance to listen to him speak. It is unfortunate that we probably hear a lot less open discussions from Hecker (and countless people like him) because of the way the media twists things out of context.

David Fried
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"Hecker re-reaffirms, Wii is shit, also, Nintendo sucks at games in general."



Couldn't help myself.

Mark Venturelli
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"Hecker still-still thinks Wii is a piece of shit, says Nintendo doesn't care about games as an art form"



I don't agree with your opinions, but those articles from fairly mainstream websites such as Eurogamer and Escapist (!) are just SAD. Grow some responsibility in those pants, journos.



I applaud you for being stubborn and standing against shit like this. Also, SpyParty is awesome.



Coming up: "Man Who Ruined Spore Thinks Press Is Shit".

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Simon Fraser
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Of course you're absolutely right that journalists "should" start being responsible with their headlines.



But I can assure you, it'll never happen. Even if most "reputable" journalists form some sort of coalition and agree to publish only fair headlines (as if) there will always be a few bad journalists who ruin it for everybody... and thus get all the traffic, prompting the reputables to go back to writing imflammatory stuff.

Manuel Mestre-Valdes
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Great article, thought provoking and enjoyable to read.



I'm pretty sure anyone talking with the press in other fields (be it politics, sport, business, etc) would agree. And the press has a work to do, a product to sell. Only if us, customers, vote with our wallets and infuence the media to be less "dramatic" things could change.

Paul Tozour
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This article makes me much less sympathetic to Hecker's argument.



> "... while Nintendo tends to focus on "making fun games". This worries me, because I think

> everybody in the industry needs to step up in terms of pushing games to be deeper and

> more emotionally meaningful, to speak to the human condition. I don't think aiming "just

> for fun" is enough to get us where we need to be ..."



I really don't think anyone in the industry needs Chris Hecker to tell them when to "step forward," and how to do so.



Nintendo has built an $85 billion company by putting smiles on the faces of countless customers around the world. They've single-handedly advanced the industry countless times, and when they failed, they had the humility to learn from their mistakes.



As a gamer and a developer, I will happily take Nintendo's vision of "fun" over Hecker's vision of artistic self-indulgence any day.



Chris, if you'd like to try to prove that you actually have a specific, actionable plan for games that are "deeper and more emotionally meaningful," you're welcome to make it happen. Make a game that shows exactly where you think the industry needs to "advance" to and maybe I'll take you seriously.



In the meantime, I think that attacking Nintendo as shallow for not living up to your preconception of what games should be -- as you do in the quote above -- really isn't going to get you anywhere.

Doug Poston
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I don't want to come across as a "Hecker Apologist" ;), but I think his latest project "Spy Craft" is designed to advance the industry in the way he wants.



Will "Spy Craft", and other "deeper and more emotionally meaningful" games make billion of dollars? Doubtful. You are far more likely to make money playing it safe and releasing another CoD or Mario Cart title. But, in my opinion, without pushing the limits of games in directions other than just better graphics and "fun", we will never find out what games can be.

Ian Uniacke
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My only question would be, is Hecker making Spy Craft for his own artistic puruits or to prove his point? Sounds more like Spy Craft is designed specifically to highlight the ability of computational power to represent ai. Which is fine in itself I have no problem with it, but it sounds like some kind of personal vendetta when it comes to his opinions about nintendo.

Jack Beardshall
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He's making games like he has been for 12+ years, he's obviously doing it to prove a point he made in a mini-lecture, just in case you missed it this is GDC a place he's made these lectures, albeit on different topics multiple times. You obviously know nothing about his game either as it doesn't make sense, because his game doesn't use a lot of computational resources to make ai act like players it does the opposite in forcing players to act like ai. You've also completely misunderstood that his 2 separate points were just that, separate. Another thing you might want to look into is Hyperbole.

Ian Uniacke
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the point of SpyParty that you need to determine which of the people at the party is the human controlled enemy amongst sophisticated non-player ai characters?

Jack Beardshall
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Yes but that's not done by creating super sophisticated ai, it's done by forcing the other human player to act like the ai in order to not get caught out.

Paul Tozour
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Well, if Spy Craft works out, more power to him. I haven't played it so I can't say anything about it at all.



The thing is, when you're a developer, you really have an obligation to speak with your code and your art and your designs. Those are the tools you have at your disposal to prove your points.



If instead of using those, you start engaging in public flame wars because some other developer doesn't make games the way you want them to, then you're a game critic, not a developer. You can't be both.



Everyone has opinions. Anyone can get up on a stage and say nasty things to try to prove a point and then try to claim later on that it was "humor" or "hyperbole" or that the journalists exaggerated it or the dog ate my sense of professionalism and maturity.



So you can do all that, but making a great product that actually shows the point you were trying to express, and actually advances the industry in a meaningful way, takes actual talent.



I used to work for Nintendo. I, too, felt that not all of Nintendo's games had as much depth as I personally would have liked.



When Retro Studios decided to make Donkey Kong Country Returns, I felt that that was not the kind of game I wanted to work on.



But instead of getting up on stage and ranting that Nintendo was somehow doing the wrong thing by making a game like that, I accepted that it's the market that gets to decide, not me as a developer. Who the hell would I be to impose my own tastes on Nintendo's fan base?



So I kept my mouth shut and moved on to other things.



So far, in the first week of release, half a million customers have apparently decided that Donkey Kong Country is their kind of game.



Here's the thing. It's not about us as developers. It's not about our "artistic vision."



It's about making our customers happy.



Ultimately, as a developer, you have to have the humility to accept the market's judgement.



Believe me when I say there are a million developers out there with opinions every bit as strong as Hecker's.



The ones that make a difference aren't the ones that spread rumors or play manipulative political games or get on stage and "burn down the house" and their own careers at GDC.



The ones that make a difference are the ones that let their games do the talking for them.

raigan burns
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sigh.

Francis Page
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I think Hecker's opinion explains pretty well how is vision of game vs art is wrong.



Spore is closer to art than lots of Nintendo games, but failed miserably. Nintendo games may be "simpler", but are fun and sell well. And anyway, this is only relevant if you consider art as something beautiful and aesthetic, which is not really the case.

Adam Bishop
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Chris Hecker writes an article about the relationship between the media and game developers; commenters respond by trying to determine whether or not it's fair to criticise Nintendo. Point = missed.

Eric Leslie
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Which would seem only to imply that nobody can communicate a message with any complexity to *anyone* anymore, not just to the media. Clearly going directly to the intended audience doesn't yield better results.



I mean, it's right there at the top. "[In an opinion piece, SpyParty dev Chris Hecker reflects on what he sees as the damaging relationship between developers and the games press saying "someone is going to have to take their finger off the trigger first" when it comes to trust and information.]"



How could that possibly be made more clear?

Gary Beason
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@Adam: Chris has two points, and most commenters have focused on his second point, what he *really* was saying in 2007. I don't think folks are missing anything. I think you might be missing the points of the various arguments when you says they're about criticizing Nintendo. I think he has a valid point on both counts, but I think the second makes some questionable assumptions.



At the same time, I'd argue that developers benefit as well from the current state of game journalism. Look at the glowing previews we often get--previews, interviews, and articles that are too often slavish to the developers' and publishers' intentions and hype. These game sites and writers don't dig deeper than what they're told. In both ways, these sites are about driving traffic. The economics drives the practices.

Andrew Gray
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Being a new fresh know-it-all 22-year-old programmer, I read this and took it as a good warning: Watch what I say, if for some odd, highly improbable reason I do get stuck with the press. Lesson pre-learned, and thank you.



For Nintendo, though, I have to refute the "blanket" claim that their games are not artistic expressions. While it is true Nintendo focuses on gameplay over storytelling and other artistic aspects, have you played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess? That game has pretty good storytelling, coming from Nintendo, complete with some really emotional moments.



I'm not saying "I know it all, you're wrong." I partially agree, I've always seen Nintendo as a company focused around well-designed *games*, and not *games* that are also their own form of media. The rant aside - which I do think is rather funny, to be honest, I see Wiis everywhere I turn - I think a better way to get Nintendo to make a movement towards making more artful games is positive reinforcement, both by speaking with the wallet, and praising their efforts when they make an artful game.



They're human too, and thus receptive to positive reinforcement. The fact that they're a business makes that go double.

Jack Beardshall
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"For Nintendo, though, I have to refute the "blanket" claim that their games are not artistic expressions." -What you said.



"in general, I've found Microsoft and Sony executives talk about games as being peers to the other big art and entertainment forms, like film, literature, and music, while Nintendo tends to focus on "making fun games". " -What he said



Spot the difference. Reading this comments section I'm wondering if anyone actually read this article, or if their ability to comprehend the written word is just amazingly impaired.

Michael Joseph
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1) Regardless of Mr Hecker's views on various hardware, it's clear that he cares about game development and the state of the industry and the direction it has been heading.



2) The media uses sensational and provocative headlines... never ever gonna change. People complain about political correctness and Mr Hecker's experience demonstrates why it's necessary.



3) It's not too surprising I think that some fan boy gamers would say or write crude things about Hecker or his family just because they felt that their precious hardware supplier (Nintendo) was insulted but it's strangely appropriate that it would happen to someone who advocates advancing the medium and avoiding a future in the "cultural ghetto" shared by toys and comics.

Kim Pallister
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So... getting back to what the topic is (press, sensationalist headlines, lack of nuance, etc). Chris writes:



>I don't know what the solution is here.



I think I have an idea: Accountability and "mutually-assured destruction" (to play off Chris' 'finger off the trigger' metaphor).



Right now, the press stands to win (with a sensationalist headline) but a misquoted developer is the one that might lose. There's no downside for press, and there are both down and upsides for the developer. Accountability - for the article properly reflecting the interview - is required for the press to feel compelled to be accurate. Right now that accountability comes in the form of potential damage-to-relationship. You can be sure that those interviewing Steve Jobs or the head of a large publisher run their draft by the company PR people before going to print. Problem with a small developer is that the relationship is viewed as worth less than the sell-out headline.



There should be a mechanism (wiki?) for those interviewed to post their side of the story, full text of interview (audio?) etc. With this, the press (individual journalists as well as publications) could be tracked as to how often their stories and headlines misrepresent the intent of the story. Over time, the development community might get to know who the better ones are.



Bears further noodling...

james sadler
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Wow this is a charged article with a lot of thoughts from other people.



All in all I agree with you. Given the choice between a game made for the Wii/360/ps3 I will generally avoid the Wii version. The system is FUN while playing with my family or having a party with people that aren't necessarily of the gamer variety, and so the Wii has its place. I am fine with that. I don't go looking at Wii games for depth because I don't think that is what the system was designed for, however people might argue the point. Nintendo did a brilliant thing in marketing their system as a wider audience system and has sold many units because of this. In order to keep that audience happy they need to turn out games that reflect their message. Does Nintendo look at the artistic nature of a game, sure, but I don't think it is a high point. Saying game design is art is wrong though.



Game design is a lot more than just art. Art has a lot to play in it but not in total. Design CAN be an art form, but isn't by definition.



That all being said I completely agree with you about the journalist methods used so often. I can't even count how many times I've seen a headline and read the article to find that it has little to do with the headline. Generally when they do tend to align with each other it feels like the writer is grasping at straws to tie it all together. Its sad that it has come to this in the industry. Having to explain yourself over and over just to be kicked back down is ridiculous. Things said in jest and in the spirit of thought should not be construed as fact or opinion.



I just hope this hasn't affected your career. Heard great things about SpyParty. Good luck in the future.

Jeremy Koepke
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You gave a public presentation and and two on-the-record interviews that went horribly wrong.



"I don't know what the solution is here."



Stop doing presentations and interviews?

David Clair
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I was thinking the same thing.. perhaps leave talking to the press to your companies PR/Advertising people or let your games speak for you..



Anyone who has been even close to this industry over the last 30 years knows darn well that calling a "System/Company/game shit" is going to cause a stir and will result in some peopel getting upset about it.. The press thrives on comments like this.. and they have been doing it for Years.. again no surprise...



?

david paradis
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Or, be like Kotick, not give a crap what the press says, but make such great games and so much money for your investors no one cares.



The key.....don't give a crap what the press says.



If it is going to effect you this badly where you carry it with you like this, as suggested above, don't be like Kotick and say whatever you want to the press.



Problem solved.

Matt Gilgenbach
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I think that many commenters are blowing Chris’s statements about games as art out of proportion. Chris never said that Nintendo games aren’t art. The main thing he mentioned was about the way Nintendo as a company talks about games. In a fast company interview, (http://www.fastcompany.com/1662313/video-games-art-roger-ebert-ni
ntendo-sony-microsoft) the President of Nintendo of America completely dodges an opportunity to say “yes, games are art”. He says that there are games that appeal to everyone, which is “one of the core fundamentals of an artistically-driven enterprise”, but he missed a great opportunity to say “yes, and here’s why”. Representatives from both Microsoft and Sony said that games are art.



There is definitely artistry to all aspects of game development, and I would say all games are art regardless of how “artsy” they are. The worry Chris has is that Nintendo is not trying to push the idea that games are art as much as they could. Maybe they are, but I think it is reasonable to question whether they could do more.

Paul Tozour
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> The worry Chris has is that Nintendo is not trying to push the idea that games

> are art as much as they could. Maybe they are, but I think it is reasonable to

> question whether they could do more.



Fine, but is that Chris Hecker's problem, or your problem, or mine?



If Nintendo not pushing "games as art" is truly an actual problem, then they'll eventually lose sales because of it, right? And so their marketing people will have meetings, and they'll try to figure out what the problem is, and they'll eventually realize that a lack of a "games as art" is the problem and take the steps they need to take to fix it.



Or it won't be a problem, and then that won't happen.



Either way, the market will decide, not you and I, and developers mouthing off at GDC certainly won't achieve anything.

Banksy One
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-Why the Wii is 'the shit'-



Nintendo might have thought to themselves a few years ago 'home console gaming, we are the fathers of home console gaming (sorry Magnavox). Nintendo were like 'we must ensure our heritage and develop a gamecube successor', but instead they decided to concede the fight, and move into a market where everything was white (a symbol of newness). In that risk (which the others wouldn't take) they did something altruistic and therefore beautiful. I wont admit that the pricing of the Wii has been fair, but i blame Sony and Microsoft, because their focus on cutting edge blueshit drives and raw processing power meant Nintendo could have a motion control monopoly and could charge a premium for that motion control experience. I sure to god hope they didnt invest all those profits into the Other M cutscenes.



-Why the others have a shit mentality-



They were thinking like wolves think. Wolves are the genetic ancestors of dogs, but they don't play well with others. Kutaragi, the so called father of the playstation was obviously offended by Msoft, and regardless of his paycheck and good quality of life made some very bad decisions, decisions which had an effect on many other businesses and individuals. I'm sorry if it is untrue of the man, but the point is more in the moral, that we should try damn hard to avoid fighting each other wherever possible.



-Wolves in dogs clothing-



Mario keeps Nintendo in check, he is their morality check, cuz you cant stick a gun in Mario's hand any more than you can put a guitar in Master Chiefs. The wolves aint got a good mascot, they aint got a track record cuz you cant buy your track record by buying other companies, whether its rare or not. Sony tried half heartedly to look like a dog, but their Sixaxis support was that, half hearted. Microsoft were all like 'fuck you Tendo', and actually regressed their control scheme (by getting rid of their pressure sensitive buttons and having the worst D-Pad in known history).



Now the wolves have found new skins, and are reading themselves for the annual town feast. Is it possible they changed their colors, and there is finally peace in the land?

Ara Shirinian
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Chris I think you said some important things that needed to be said, thank you.



Unfortunately headlines, particularly on internet publications seem to be getting worse with respect to these issues, not better. Too often the headlines and pictures are so sarcastic, misleading and/or masturbatory that you don't know what the piece is really about until you read it, and even then, yes subtlety and actual meaning of a person's words are discarded in favor of drama. It makes the reader feel like they are in some maze full of carrots where the press gets to say, 'ha ha, I got you to click.'



I have seen the press use the 'it's entertainment' card as a defense against these types of criticisms. But is it really entertaining? Is that really why most people read video game media?

Bart Stewart
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This "games journalists are irresponsible" line sounds good. But consider for a moment the fact that not every producer/designer/developer has their points distorted.



I can't think of a single instance in which anything that, for example, Warren Spector has said has been turned into an out-of-context bombshell quote. He took some grief for his support of Deus Ex: Invisible War as a console game, but nothing to my recollection was grabbed by some unscrupulous gaming writer and turned into something he never meant. Why is that? If all game journos are just looking to increase their page hits, wouldn't they do the same kind of hit job on Warren Spector as they have to Chris Hecker?



Or could it possibly be that sensationalist headlines tend to be written when quoting sensationalist comments by developers who make a habit of making sensationalist comments?



Mature, respectable people don't go around peppering their speech with f-bombs and verbally sticking their thumb in the eyes of other people's interests in the belief that this makes them look "cool." And for the most part (with the exception of politics) those people who speak in public in a responsible and friendly way don't get their comments quoted out of context.



I understand that a GDC rant is meant to be a little looser. And I am not defending any case of knowingly quoting someone out of context.



But maybe it's worth stepping back and considering that choosing to participate in a public "rant" makes it harder to be taken seriously and quoted thoughtfully.

Ian Uniacke
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I like the cut of your gib my friend.



In all of this, what people seem to be primarily over looking is the fact that (imo) "Hecker was NOT QUOTED OUT OF CONTEXT".

dana mcdonald
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Thanks Bart. I think your comment was the most intelligent thing I have read here.

Kim Pallister
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@Bart: Funny you picked that example, as Chris' GDC Rant from this year had a Warren Spector press example:



http://chrishecker.com/File:Wspector2-small.png



Not a controversial quote, but it makes the point.



:-)

Glenn Sturgeon
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The press does indeed have the right to use any information given to them so it can be greatly advantageous to keep the info restricted to what you want them to report.

Granted i agree for a current gen console the Wii is "in a sense a POS".

The "other comment from an unnamed telltale developer about the iphone being more powerful than the wii. The sad part of it is he was right.

Needless to say some developers seem as underwhelmed by the wii hardware as i have been.





"This is obviously a more hand-wavy argument than the previous one, but in general, I've found Microsoft and Sony executives talk about games as being peers to the other big art and entertainment forms, like film, literature, and music, while Nintendo tends to focus on "making fun games".



I've noticed that and nin has tended to never (that i have read) use the words Art or artistic when speaking of any game or the industry beyond the snes title mario paint.

Fun is not to be underrated but the way nintendo employees "speak of games" they seem to undercut the artistic value of the industry.IMO

brandon sheffield
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Chris - there's a lot going on here, and I'll give a bit of my take on a few things.



First, yes, it does suck that sensational headlines get more reads. It's sort of been the way of things since the time of town criers, as it's human nature to try to latch on to something exciting. One small point you made that is very key to the press/developer arrangement is the cycle of press not saying anything because they don't want it taken wrong, and the press feeling they're not being given anything. I've often had to make the choice of how to position an interview or story based on its content, and made the choice not to go with something obviously sensational like "well, everyone knows Midway folded because of XXXName." But it's true that if I write "Chris Hecker Talks Wii Specs" a far smaller number of people are going to read what you talked about at all.



Obviously there's a middle-ground, and that's where I think journalists should try to be. Something like "Chris Hecker Says Game Journalism Needs A Change" could've been a more appropriate title for the Eurogamer article without losing any eyes.



I think that we as journalists do sometimes forget the power of the headline. As you can see painfully clearly in the comments here, a lot of readers' brains simply shut off once they see a headline, or a controversial bit, then go straight to writing about how you're an ignorant piece of shit and of COURSE nintendo games are art, and HOW could you say that. And you didn't say that!



It is the journalist's job to guide readers to the correct conclusion, and sometimes, some would argue often, we drop the ball. But on top of that, there's the fact that many people who comment simply don't read what we write. A large number look for something that resonates with what they already think, and then go with that.



That's an important distinction by the way. Comments are an interesting way of interacting with press and developers, but comments on an article don't necessarily correlate 1:1 with reads. I can tell you that on Gamasutra, some of the most-read articles or news stories have some of the fewest comments. But a story with a lot of comments *feels* like it's been given greater scrutiny, and so those comments will be given more weight. So that's where you get into the situation of getting in trouble because "everyone knows you think the wii is shit now." But there may be a lot more people who read this and got it, but just never said anything.



Naturally, the grand majority of game players have never even heard of you - nor of me - nor of anyone in particular. They buy games they think look interesting, or that their parents get for them, or that their friends encourage them to try. They don't care who said what about what.



So journalists' job is to make people care about things - and we are meant to repackage things in interesting ways so that new points can be made. But there is a lot of responsibility that we sometimes forget about - and honestly, it's so much easier to go with a sensational title than to work out something that's really thoughtful. In many cases I would blame laziness or apathy! Not to mention the paltry number of persons in this industry who have any training doing this sort of thing.



As blogs become the defacto news source for most game content, these sorts of things are even harder to regulate. You have a large number of people getting paid not so much to really just talk about what they like and don't, without any particular qualification. It's fair to complain about gamasutra or eurogamer if we do those sorts of things, we should be accountable. But when you get to your destructoids and kotakus, and even further afield, what then?



I think it's good that discussions like these are happening - not the one in this thread necessarily, but the meta discussion that's taking place about these issues among persons who can do something about it. We can all do better with this, but there will always be that "I know it's what I said, but it's not what I *meant*" difficulty, because the written word is almost entirely removed from the context. That's what I wanted to change when I got into this industry, but I pretty much just didn't do it. I think there's still room for that, but it requires a Vanity Fair approach to writing, something which is impossible in a lot of contexts, when you're talking about a new free to play model, or the fact that Gears of War got some new characters.



It's a complicated issue, and I hope everyone will keep thinking about it. And I hope people will continue trying to *actually read* what people say in these articles.

Morgan Ramsay
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I had a recent discussion with a media executive, who you and I both know, about bias in the video game press. The executive advised me that outlets give preference to stories that provide the most value to advertisers. In a sales presentation, page views are more impressive than reader engagement. Interesting, relevant, and timely content, from news about an important book to a critical editorial, is often neglected as a result.

brandon sheffield
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And one point I didn't really address - it's certainly true that if you make any kind of statement like that, it is going to be picked up. Back to the town crier thing, I mean "Troy Falls!" is going to be the headline even if the reality is much more nuanced. Journalists aren't going to intentionally nerf a story if someone says something like "yeah, well Activision is the worst company that ever existed, but anyway, back to my awesome game features..."



There's definitely some caution that needs to be exercised. It's human nature, even within a conversation, to focus on the "big points," and when you make a huge punctuation mark like "the wii is shit," it'll certainly come back around! Especially when you have the ability to plan for it, it's wise to avoid that sort of stuff except in the company of close friends. As the world becomes decreasingly private, and everything stays on record, thoughts will be the only things we can keep to ourselves. And in the case of that statement, that's something you made a choice about. Had you presented your argument without that line, you might've gotten a lot more serious eyes on it, and a lot fewer "OMG BUT NINTENDOOOO" knee-jerk reactions. A lot of it is in presentation - and ultimately, was that line necessary for your point? It was funny, but did you not know it would get picked up on, after your previous experiences?



So indeed, there's stuff going on on both sides.



man I wrote a lot.

Ian Uniacke
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I may be off the mark, but you sound a bit hypocritical when you say for instance "continue trying to *actually read*" and "OMG BUT NINTENDOOOO". You say we shouldn't misrepresent the articles but you are blatantly misrepresenting the commenters. Do you actually try to understand what the commenters are saying or do you just take a quick glance and boil it down to OMG NINTENDOOO?



Also you said "It is the journalist's job to guide readers to the correct conclusion". Well excuse me for saying this but when did god come down from heaven on high and appoint journalists as the exclusive prophets of truth? If a commenter is making a comment that is contrary to the article, I'm going to hazard a guess that they drew a "different" conclusion, neither more or less correct than the conclusion of the author.

Martin Danger
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This is on Reddit as "Spore developer: "I screwed up, and I am sorry about it""

Tim Carter
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We are already in the cultural ghetto.

Leon T
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Yup. Have been for 1,000s of years now.

marize marize
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Chris Hecker are two pieces of shit duct taped together

marize marize
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I hope now he learns to be quiet and take care of his life. If Nintendo is where it is today, and has the success it has, is because it took care of their own live and their work instead to criticize the work of others

marize marize
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Chris Hecker are two pieces of shit duct taped together

marize marize
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chris Hecker's approach:



1) Blame the console



2) Blame the press



3) Blame the people

Tyler Glaiel
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4) Make good innovative titles that push the envelope of what games can be that are also fun at the same time (spyparty)



5) Share years of first hand technical experience online in the form of articles and tutorials that benefit almost every less experienced programmer

marize marize
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chris hecker ask responsibility of the press but he has responsability with his words? NO!

marize marize
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I hope this has affected your career!

Jack Beardshall
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Comments sections of articles have showcased the ignorance and puerility of people who read and comment on gaming articles. Surely if you can make the effort to write a 200 word comment you can make the effort to read carefully just before you do it. What should have surely inspired insightful debate and comment has just revealed the general idiocy of people on the internet.

david paradis
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^^



Good example.

marize marize
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Chris Hecker, those looking for confusion, find

Tomiko Gun
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Game journos, what a joke (with the exception of a few here in Gamasutra).

Joe McGinn
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Nice article Chris. Depressing how many people in these very comments missed the point entirely and went off on fanboi rants. Depressing because I *like* hearing intelligent, interesting, and even controversial opinions ... but it seems there's no safe place to do that outside of private forums.



>I don't know what the solution is here.<



Oh yes you do! You're older, wiser friends already told you. Unless your *job* depends on talking to the press (as a politician or something) just don't do it. Brandon S has a reasonable post above about a middle ground, sounds great, but Brandon here is the problem: only a tiny percentage of journalists have to be unprofessional to create this problem. And that percentage will always exist no matter how good you are at your job.



Chris, you have my sympathy. There are a couple good private game dev forums out there. Maybe you'd find a smaller group but more interesting people to talk to there.

Joe McGinn
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LOL! Jack Beardsall, I can't decide if it's hilarious or sad that your comments are sandwiched in between an obviously ignorant troll!

david paradis
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People don't wholeheartedly agree with what Chris is saying about Nintendo, and also don't feel he was misrepresented as much as he states.



These views differ from your own.



So you dismiss them as uninteresting people, and fanboi's.



Think abou that. There are plenty of very good comments in here. Even the short snipes have value. Even if you may disagree or they didnt write a novel about it. If you have that big of an issue with this medium of communicating with people, why are you responding on it??



Think about that too. Are you really any different than anyone else on here?



Hint: no.

Joe McGinn
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Soecifically, I dismissed "marize marize" posts around Jack's as fanboi trolling. I dare you to read marize marize posts in this thread and deny that's what they are.

david paradis
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I hate the media, and agree they take advantage of any angle they can to grab readers attentions for the sole purpose if gaining an audience which then makes them money. It's almost like it's a business rather than a public service or something!!



However.......



I think it is great that he made a statement in a rant to grab the attention of the audience, and get them engaged in the topic....



Then gets mad because the Media does the same thing. LOL.



You seem to be saying Wii has problems, and go on to say you don't think they are good for video games, and nintendo doesnt do enough to make sure games are respected as art.......and call Wii shit in the same rant.



To me, a good summary of your rant is....."wii is shit"



You sealed your own fate. LOL



Trying to justify it by using more professional and technical language doesnt hide the fact that you admit yourself (this is called jest by the way) by joking around by saying "wii is shit".



"Your an idiot" Just kidding........



See what I did there?

Leonardo Ferreira
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Why can't we all just get along?!?!?!

DanielThomas MacInnes
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(munching popcorn)



Ah, good fun. Laughs all around. Alright, back to Minecraft and Donkey Kong.

Joe McGinn
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>> Then gets mad because the Media does the same thing. <<



In what world is making a humorous, in-context statement live with a few dozens of pieces "the same thing" as a completely out-of-context headline read by millions? Go no further than the comments in this thread as proof how different they are: there are people here in these comments quite clearly emotionally upset at Chris because of that absurdly out-of-context headline.

Knockity Knock
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As much as I hear you when it comes to sleazeball "journalist" maggots... I'm sorry to have to break this to you, Chris, but games are ENTERTAINMENT. Games are supposed to be ENTERTAINING and FUN.



WHY do we need "to speak to the human condition"? I don't get it.



WHY do games have to be "deeper and more emotionally meaningful"? Why can't they just be fun and entertaining?



I don't need games to lecture me. I need them to entertain me. If you don't want to entertain people, you have chosen the wrong business!


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