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General: Panel Report: Third Party Sites

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

This year's AGC gave me (Dana Massey, Senior Editor) a unique chance to talk on the panels I normally cover. I sat on a panel that discussed the role of third party community sites and their interaction with game developers. Today, I give you my summary of the panel and some additional thoughts on the topic.

Later, in response to a question from Bruce Woodcock, I got to get my prepared rant out there. I’d written it out in advance, and while the actual delivery strayed a bit, I’m putting my originally intended version here:

“We [third party community and news sites] are the trusted impendent sources, but only if you [developers] let us be .It sounds like a contradiction, but when companies try to control factual negative press we [game press] must make a choice. Do we cave and cease to become a reliable independent source or do we risk no longer being a source at all? It hurts games over time more than us. If you never let anyone say bad things, the good things – earned or not – become meaningless. The only way to control your press is to make good games!”

The rant above stems from a not uncommon practice of companies who complain bitterly or – worse – cut off communication after an unflattering editorial or review. It happens, it has happened on and our policy has always been to let them react that way if they want. To be clear though, this only applies to factual or fair negative press. We have a responsibility as well and should expect to loose our relationships if we unabashedly and unjustifiably attack a game simply because we were in a bad mood.

You can read more here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


  • Beatnik59Beatnik59 Chicago, ILPosts: 2,377Member Uncommon

    It sounded pretty interesting Dana, and I have to agree with what you told the panel.

    I am also interested in how the PR gurus approached the panel in terms of strategies to identify and control the perceptions of their product in the fan community, as if it was in their power to manipulate it.  In some ways they have tools at their disposal.  They buy ads, and they line up access to interviews and exclusives.

    However, the talk on the panel also showed a lot of hubris on the part of the public relations arm of the gaming industry, and they are going to have to come to grips with the fact that the fan community needs neither ads, nor interviews, nor exclusives to exist, be popular, and most of all, be trusted.  The FoH and f13 boards aren't looked at by the independent mmo fans because they rely on official channels, and official revenue.  If they give no news, we can still create news through our membership in the form of rumors, speculation, conspiracy, and muckraking; all of it bad for them, and all of it believed as genuine.

    I think one of the things business fails to truly grasp is how media savvy we are today in the industrialized world, and in new industries like tech and gaming, they are even less aware of it.  The fans today recognize spin, they can sniff out street teams, they can pull the gurellas out of the mist, all without the use of a tinfoil hat.  Yet even so, many of us are by nature already wearing them, and to tell you the truth, we revel in them.

    The fan community has been so innundated by these tactics from the industry, that even genuine comments of praise from disinterested parties are assumed to be just more biased spin out of the marketing department.  Just take a look at our forums and our reviews and you'll see how suspicious many of us can be.

    Part of the reason we are all here is because we are already wearing tinfoil hats due to the inability of the official sites to be truthful, and we have a tendency to take such attitudes to the extreme.  We oftentimes do not need to have any reason to believe a negative rumor is true, and at the same time remain skeptical at even the most innocuous fact if it happens to look good for a game.  The mere fact that it is negative is verification enough to make it credible to the third party members, while at the same time, the mere fact that the comment is positive heightens our skeptical instincts.

    Therefore, if they believe that they are doing themselves any favor by staying away from us, then they should think again.  We'll talk about their games whether they give us things to talk about, or not.  So its better that they give us constructive things to talk about, and it starts by answering our questions without a script.

    The reason we in the fan community are cynical has to do with the reasons we are here, and not on their official forums and blogs.  In fact, the very presence of the 3rd party sites is due in large measure to the lack of cred their PR really has.  Perhaps it would be interesting from a media standpoint to see the membership rates at times of great controversy, like the cancellation of Ultima X, the NGE or CU of SWG, or the launch of Dark and Light.  I would bet that the membership rolls increase dramatically whenever the games suffer a setback, for there is no reason to come here if there is no reason to leave the provider's community network.

    Ultimately though, I think what they need to understand is that only they can prevent tinfoil hat speculation, and negative perceptions from the 3rd party sites.  They prevent it by being transparent (which they refuse to do), and keeping the viral and gurrella tactics out of here (which they are trying to do instead of transparency).  The gurrella tactics don't work here (no offense at your avatar, Dana), and the transparency can go a long way in restoring the growing credability gap the providers are experiencing.

    "Its sad when people use religion to feel superior, its even worse to see people using a video game to do it."

    "...when it comes to pimping EVE I have little restraints."
    --Hellmar, CEO of CCP.

    "It's like they took a gun, put it to their nugget sack and pulled the trigger over and over again, each time telling us how great it was that they were shooting themselves in the balls."
    --Exar_Kun on SWG's NGE

  • VasDrakkenVasDrakken Los Angeles, CAPosts: 9Member
    I have to ask who pann was representing since the autoassulat community was told she is no longer working for NCsoft as part of their downsizing whatever they want to call it... 

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

    Originally posted by bubbles69
    I have to ask who pann was representing since the autoassulat community was told she is no longer working for NCsoft as part of their downsizing whatever they want to call it... 

    As noted in the article, she is now a community rep for CCP Games... aka EVE Online.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • tkobotkobo Dunellen, NJPosts: 465Member

    People dont trust game companies becuase history shows they dont act in a trustable manner.

    People dont trust "Journalists",game reviewers,game magazines,game sites becuase we know where their income comes from."Journalists" and game reviewers often come off as incredbly biased surrogate game company pr guys,instead of as people of the occupation they hold.

    Reviews are often non-sensical.I cant think of a single MMO customer service team that would rank above a 2 or 3 rating wise (on a 1 to 10 scale).YET look at the insanely high scores contiually given them by these "jouranlists" and game reviewers.

    Site like this either serve the customers, or serve the game companies.There are FAR too many cases where these factions would be in conflict for you to effectively stay in the middle.

    If you choose to serve the customers, you might get some respect.

    BUT if you choose to serve the game companies then expect peoplel to eventually figure that out and treat you like the company CS reps youve chosen to become.

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