One of the new avenues for games in recent times has been a focus on user created content. Whilst mod tools have been around for many years they have been limited to a small PC audience. Now though, the idea of the end user creating their own game content has hit the forefront of many games and marketing campaigns. From something advanced like Little Big Planet to the ever so simple tool of Mii creation. Involving the user in their own games and then sharing that with other people has become another check box that game developers need to consider in their projects. It is all about building a community that essentially makes the game live and breath without the developers needing to pump out their own content to occupy people.
Another area of community focus is the interaction of players and developers, this has led to the creation of community managers and developer specific forums. However, is a push for games to have a community the very thing that is killing the prospect for community?
Take Little Big Planet; play, create, share are the foundations of this game. Media Molecule provided a fair amount of levels on disk but the intention has always been for people to feed off of each other. In theory this is a good idea, you have people who just want to play but you also have those who yearn to create. A well balanced system should be the result of such a set up but it has turned out to be something quite different. The community produced levels are rife with inappropriate content, copyrighted material and scenarios designed to obtain specific in game trophies. The great levels out there, and they do exist, simply get lost on the latter pages with little to no playtime and then fade into insignificance. A community has been created but it is one of exploit, immaturity and irresponsibility. A game that should have been a sign post for where community gaming can go has instead been dragged down by the very community it attempted to inspire.
In fact, the majority of the time a community thrives is when there is a lack of community focus in the first place. Step back to around the year 2000 and there were endless seas of fan sites for games, each of them harbouring their own communities, built out of nothing more than peoples desire to discuss the game at hand. Yes they were the hardcore but at least people went there with a purpose and very rarely strayed from it. That landscape is a very different one today, very few fan sites exist that hold any substantial community. Gaming discussion is mostly centred around a few forums and popular gaming outlets which should bring that community sense to a grander scale but has in turn only bred fanboy behaviour, immaturity and a lack of respect.
A recent example of this would be an incident that occurred over at the Criterion Games forums. The developer was attacked by the community for moving to a paid DLC format for their upcoming Burnout Paradise expansions. Groups of people also decided to post illicit and inappropriate images onto the forums as a sad protest. This resulted in a statement from Alex Ward the studios creative director saying:
ĎOK. It seems there are several members of the ďcommunityĒ who seem to enjoy messing things up for others rather than just enjoying the game.
Enough is enough. Weíre done with coming to our forum and seeing a small minority of ďmembersĒ coming to post offensive and abusive posts.
And many of you seem to be participants of this behaviour.
(Yes we do read all of your other forums, and see how you enjoy causing trouble.)
So hereís the deal - either this stuff stops TODAY or WE WILL STOP ALL INTERACTION going forward.
This means everything - no podcast, no forum, no blog, nothing.
It really is up to you guys. But we donít need this.í
So, a developer which opened itís arms to the community and encouraged a two way dialogue became subject to attack and general stupidity from itís Ďfansí. In a industry that is very closed and on a very strict time table in terms of releasing information Criterion stepped up and involved the community by giving any information that was available. So yet again an attempt to foster community has resulted in immaturity and irresponsibility.
So even though these are isolated incidences it does have a pessimistic outlook for any future focus on community, itís an ironic situation and something that I donít think should be met with the excuse ĎItís the internet, deal with ití. The internet has become as serious as the physical world and it is perhaps time that the inhabitants changed with that. The tools are there, lets use them correctly and actually benefit the experience we are meant to support or we could just make the umpteenth penis joke, itís your call.
Lazlow out. read