Recently, Denis Dyack of Silicon Knights appeared on the 1up Yours podcast to discuss the current state of forum accountability, specifically citing the popular forum NeoGAF as a place that requires change before “something bad happens.”
The crux of his argument (though I recommend anyone interested listen to the entire podcast, because there are several layers of smoke and mirrors before he really gets to his point), is that the anonymity of online discussion leads to a lack of accountability, and that, coupled with the attention that such boards get from journalists and marketing organizations, is bad for the industry in general and society as a whole. It should be noted that Mr. Dyack also seems to think that message boards are “not for profit organizations,” when in reality they are simply giant internet water coolers where word of mouth propagates.
Denis made some good points about the subject, citing journalists who gave nigh-review level previews of his company’s Too Human based on unfinished code, a practice that is, to put it very mildly, irresponsible. Next he began railing against Metacritic, comparing the practice of score aggregation to IQ testing and then saying that both are arbitrary and useless (tearing down this argument is well beyond the scope of this article). The next stop was a recent post he made at NeoGAF (and the subsequent backlash). This is where he got to the heart of his rant, and where he started to go far off the reservation.
To give a little background, recently Denis called out the members of NeoGAF to “stand and be counted,” and give their absolute positions on his upcoming game Too Human. Of course the thread reached epic proportions, with everyone and their mother giving their two cents on the predicted success or failure of the upcoming title.
In the podcast, he went off on a tirade claiming that he wrote that post purely as a “social experiment,” then accusing forum goers of judging his game without having any basis for doing so. He additionally implied that no one should post their opinions of a game that they have not yet played. In this, I don’t think he could possibly have been more wrong. When you put information out there about your game- screenshots, footage, etc- you’re doing it in the hopes that it will generate positive buzz. Denis’s tirade, once you strip away the babble about anonymity and accountability, has very little merit at all. Particularly when you consider that he baited these reactions by asking for people to state how they felt about his game and then complaining that they shouldn’t be able to speculate without having played it.
He argues that people should play the game before they are allowed to express an opinion of it. This works out great for Denis, since this scenario features thousands of people buying his game in order to have the right to discuss it. Unfortunately for Denis and Silicon Knights, the average consumer doesn’t have the time or money to buy and play every last game that comes out just to have the pleasure of satisfying Dyack’s conditions for entering the conversation.
If he wants to complain about journalists acting improperly or marketing companies being lazy about their research and scouring forums for data, then those are the parties he should be consulting. Instead he’s flailing wildly, trying to prevent word of mouth from spreading.
One has to wonder if Mr. Dyack would feel quite as strongly if the forums were generating positive hype, the way he had intended.