Monday, August 13, 2012

Girlfriend Mode: Please, somebody take the shovel away

What's amazing about the latest videogame fiasco isn't so much the latest tipping point ("girlfriend mode", just in case she holds the controller upside-down HAHA) as fact that it keeps on happening over and over again in the first place.

Steps for success:

1) Say something anybody with ten seconds experience in talking publicly about stuff could tell you is a bad idea on the grounds of it being a) silly b) offensive to a decent slice of your paying audience and c) silly

2) Watch as it becomes the focal point of said article, exploding across the internet at a million screaming people an hour

3) Ensure the head guy says something that suggests he hadn't actually seen the article in question before weighing in

4) Dig that failtrain all the way down to Chinatown in a horrible, horrible example of "it's broke, so I did the exact opposite of fixing the shit out of it".

There is a time and a place to use the "...but, but..." defence, and this sure as Hell isn't it.

When you raise legitimate questions in the minds of people who potentially buy your stuff (or just wonder why person x said silly thing y), you don't repeatedly dismiss them as "sensationalists", especially when most of the objections I saw flying around were entirely reasonable. It's also probably a bad idea to retroactively throw in the term "boyfriend mode" after the lightning strikes, despite it never being called that and only focusing on females in the original context.

This is the president of the company, and everything he's tweeting in response to the fallout is only making things progressively worse, not better (no, it's not a good thing when you're the #1 trend on twitter if it's because lots of people think you did something silly). Add this to the original comments in the Eurogamer piece, and I'm once again reminded that - just like in the Mass Effect 3 pr meltdown extravaganza, this stuff wouldn't keep happening if game devs selected to be the mouthpieces of the industry were actually trained in the art of talking about things and stuff.

Like...where is the PR rep in the interview gently correcting the clearly soon to be disastrous direction the discussion has taken? Where is the formal prep talk before the interview takes place? If there had been one, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have been talking about girlfriend mode. Why do people in the games industry keep doing this? Even the "pro" industry talking heads like Cliffy B skirt dangerously close to the edge of the pit, and despite being mostly positive here it still comes across as somewhat.....hmmm.

Let's put it this way, when people are suggesting that a sane solution is for the supposed-to-be-impartial gaming press to advise the people they are interviewing that their words are poorly chosen, something has gone horribly wrong. The gaming press should do their level best to not be doing something like that at all times.

I mean...look at this. Here's the Eurogamer news editor having to ward off claims of "sensationalism" and all the rest of it, in admirable fashion I might add. On the other hand, I guess there's no danger of Eurogamer handing out free pr tips anytime soon.

So far, there's been a reasonably sensible post on Kotaku about this and not much else. However, given how these things tend to go down I'd almost be willing to bet cash money that this thing just gets worse when the inevitable "No, people are wrong because..." articles appear on gaming sites starting from tomorrow.

My advice? Take the lumps, apologise, give up and move on. Anything else will result in generous helpings of failure and pretty sweet jokes.

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