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Chris Roberts Hates the Media

Red Thomas Posted:
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Well, he moderately dislikes us, I guess.  I had to exaggerate a bit, because that’s what we media people do.  According to Chris, we whip out sensationalist headlines to generate a little drama around our articles.  To be fair to him, we do to some extent, but folks like him are there loading our ammo for us.

In a recent post about the release of their new dogfighting module for Star Citizen, Chris asked the community whether or not they should continue to report milestones publicly.  In his post, he says that he’s “given pause not by internal cricisim from frustrated backers who really just want to get into space (which we completely understand!), but by sensationalistic headlines that imply we’re not working hard or that the game is some sort of scam.”

Of course, then he goes on to refer to Star Citizen as the best damn space sim ever.  Apparently sensationalism is only okay when it flows one direction.  I wonder if the same is true of sarcasm.  If so, I call dibs.  Sarcasm is sort of my thing.

Pot, this is Kettle. Black! I say again, black! Over.

The irony is, the fault here lies with Chris, not the media.  Roberts and crew created a firestorm around their game, and now they’re getting all the attention they wanted.  The media are just doing their job and reporting what strikes them as being interesting to the readers.

And you can’t get upset when people question the integrity of crowd funded games.  I and plenty of others have been saying there was a lot of potential for abuse here for a long time.  Proving the point, there are stories of major developers potentially taking cash from their crowd funding campaigns to pay themselves, among other shady actions.

People have given Star Citizen $45 million dollars.  Not invested, nor purchased, but given it to them.  CIG could potentially walk away right now in the black and there’s not a thing anyone could do about it.   So, yeah.  The media is going to keep a close eye on the development, because it’s important.  Frankly, I think Chris should be glad of the scrutiny.  I know this is a game he’s passionate about, and I don’t see him walking away from it like certain others might.  All the attention just serves to prove him honest, and keep everyone else in CIG honest as well. 

Chris tells fans in his post that what happens with Star Citizen defines the future of open development, and he’s right.  That’s why I care.  Not only am I a fan of the game the guys at CIG are making, but I’m a fan of the new world for video games they’re creating while doing it.  Games like Star Citizen and Shroud of the Avatar are already showing how open development helps them to better zero in on what their fans want.  Everything from art directions to game mechanics have been cheaply changed mid-stride thanks to this new development concept.

It needs to be protected, but not by attempting to keep the media out.  Instead CIG needs to take a few pointers from Portalarium on community interaction.  It’s not just enough to throw out a lot of information and talk about the things you want to talk about.  You need to talk about the bad stuff as well.  CIG needs to be honest when they run into issues, just like they were doing the week leading up to the release for the dogfight module.  Not as in posting every day, but talking about their road blocks more.

Let us into your safe place, Chris. Let us in.

Chris and the guys at CIG have been using information for promotional purposes, and that has its place, but they need to do a better job of educating their fans on the process of building games, as well.  That’s the only way this is going to work.  If they’re going to have open development, it needs to be truly open, and that includes the things they’d really rather not admit publicly.

They’re not trying to pull in venture capitalists, so they shouldn’t treat their fans like they can’t handle setbacks.  The Star Citizen fans have actually proven time and again that they can handle setback with an even keel.  The only thing GIG will do by holding back information, is making any bad news sound even worse.  If your fans know about problems before the articles come out, you’ve just armed your best defenders, guys.

The alternative to not being more open with fans, and by proxy the media, is that you create a lot of potential for letting folks down.  SC fans are verging on rabid, and it’s important that the developers be super clear about what Star Citizen will have, won’t have, and what they’re hoping to have.  I see a lot of comments in chat and in the forums from backers who have some pretty wild ideas about what will be in the game.

It’s just human nature to get excited about something and exaggerate the awesomeness.  The problem is that this could be dangerous to Star Citizen, with strong reflections on open development and crowd funding, also.  That means Chris and his devs need to be especially careful.  It’s not just one game on the line here.  It’s this amazing new medium we have for artists and creative types to potentially achieve their dreams.  I don’t want that damaged.

I think CIG just needs to do a better job of telling their story.  They are doing something very impressive, and while I know this article comes off as negative, I’m actually a huge fan of the project, and incredibly excited about what they’re doing with Star Citizen.  I even find myself fist-pumping a bit when Chris utters his rapidly-becoming-iconic phrase, “best damn space sim ever.”

That’s why I wanted to take time to write this article.  CIG is doing so much good with this game for the industry and for the fans, both.  I just think they could stand to be a little less guarded when it comes to the setbacks than they have been.  In the end, it’s better for everyone.  Hopefully in the end, Chris can see that writers are a little like game designers.   Some of us may suck, but definitely not all of us.


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.