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Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Professionalism" in Gaming Part 1

Today I was reading on Reddit about the first person to kill Diablo in Diablo 3, on inferno difficulty, in hardcore mode. Now that is no small feat...but what overshadowed this, was the conduct of the individual that achieved this and the conduct of Blizzard towards this person over the last few weeks. Suffice to say the two have had a rocky relationship, and it sparked what will become a series of post on "professionalism" and how it might apply to gaming. There are two main topics I aim to address; the conduct of the company towards its players and they to it, and the conduct of one player to another. Today I'll start with company and player interactions.
I'll preface this by saying that I am a Law Student, not a Public Relations manager, but I have the concept of "professionalism" beaten into me almost every day. Professionalism is a very relative concept; each profession has different expectations of its members, and we're talking about the Video Game industry, an industry known for having artists and businessmen among its industry where people playing games in their apartment have become youtube sensations. While its struggling to be accepted as "art" it has a unique community where the companies and fans interact in odd ways.


First we have the company and the celebrities the game has spawned. Whether they are Idra, Kripp or GuardsmanBob some people have earned fame in certain gaming communities and enjoy a following that looks remarkably similar to that of "real" (and by real I mean "physical" not more valid) spots. The fans following Team Liquid look remarkably like those who'd cheer for the Packers or Yankees.

Thus the simplest analogy is sports teams. Yet there is a distinct difference; Bret Farve has had a contract, he was an agreed upon representative of his sport. To play for the NFL (or whatever sports league one wants to discuss) the players have to sign contracts and these contracts most certainly include behavioral clauses. There is a reason the league gets to suspend and fine players who act out.

Video game companies, outside of the sponsored leagues, do not have this authority. MGL and such leagues might be able to do this to players, but it does not have the monopoly on authority. The streams for players like Kripp reached into the five and possibly six digits at times. Kripp is not paid by or contracted with Blizzard (outside of the TOS and EULA he agreed to which he SURELY read in detail).

What should we expect from these celebrities? There is no easy answer, every person has a differing attitude but in MY opinion, these people have presented themselves as public figures (by streaming or participating in major tournaments) and thus have some duty to act as role models for their sport. We can still have "bad boys" and such, but these people should know that other gamers are going to sometimes use them as an example for how to act. What they do, others will assume is allowed.


So what do we expect from the companies? What can we expect from Blizzard or Bioware? The same as any other company; we can expect from them sophistication, professional conduct (typical of a business) and everything else we'd expect from a large corporation. We'd LIKE transparency, as if we could always peer over their shoulder to take their temperature, but that is not always what we get. They made no promise to let us know everything they are doing and to some degree we are not entitled to it.

From their representatives...well it's difficult. We want people like Ghostcrawler or Bashiok to treat us one part like peers, one part like customers, and another like friends. We want them to be out window into the process, but we want them to give us deference. However some of these expectations are contradictory. We can't joke around with Ghostcrawler one moment, then leap at him the next because we don't like the Shaman changes.

Blizzard has a history of CM's...whether its Tseric and Caydiem who were great but faded away, or Bashiok who transferred to D3. The community bears down hard on these few individuals, crowdsourcing the task of finding every mistake they made or fact-checking every statement. This puts them in an awkward situation, where every single post has to be carefully thought out. And if they even begin to bend under conduct from others that is borderline (and sometimes well over it) abuse, we call for their immediate firing.

So perhaps we have to lower the bar if we want our CMs to be a little more open; we have to recall that they are people and deserve to be treated with that same respect. In many cases these people are acting as our advocate and it doesn't help them if we abuse them in return just because we don't like the answer.

Player to Player

Not today I am afraid! This is a big topic all on its own so I will save it until another day, hope you enjoyed the read!

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