It wasn’t long ago that one person managed to complain hard enough to get Tracer’s pose changed in Overwatch. Nevermind that the new pose isn’t really that much different from the original, or that the original is just like many of the other character victory poses. Ignore the male victory poses that have them thrusting themselves forward as if proclaiming their victory with a burst of manhood at the screen. This one character had to be changed, and Blizzard changed it. They didn’t change it so much though. She still shows her backside, looking over her shoulder, flirty look; not much difference at all.
Then comes winter. Blizzard releases a fun holiday skin for Mei and people get upset. It’s a fun skin, perfectly matched to the season. It fits her character theme, and her original costume design. Again, Blizzard apologizes, for a design choice! They wanted to create something fun, fun being an entirely subjective word, and the company says sorry. Of course gamers have a right to voice their complaints, but when’s the last time a painter apologized for a painting, or a writer apologized for a book? It doesn’t happen all that often does it? The artists that create our games, however, they always seem to be apologizing.
If only that were the end. Now comes the Lunar New Year update and people are upset about Mei again. Now, while the profile view looks odd, and yes it could either be her clothing or a strange bug, people weren’t just complaining about that. Take off her thick fur parka and voila, she’s still a curvy girl but sans a thick parka. Blizzard is saying this bug will be fixed, and granted they may not change her all that much. How can we know, at this point, whether it was a bug, a design choice, or just a mistake? Is it Blizzard just apologizing again? We won’t know for sure, because they’ve set a precedent.
It’s not just them though, and no this isn’t going to turn into an ‘entitled gamers’ rant. If you don’t like a game, something about a game, or the company that makes it, say so. Don’t buy the game, express your suggestions, and do whatever you think best. What I have a problem with is every company bending over backwards in an attempt to please everyone. It creates an environment where if a few of us yell loud enough we can make an artist change their creation however we want.
It’s one thing to apologize about a mistake, a large number of bugs, or delays of release. The list of apologies for design choices is long however. Christina Love recently apologized and censored her own game because of complaints about one sex scene. Just this past year a handful of games were censored because of outrage, localization or fear of outrage as in the case of Uncharted 4. Watchdogs 2, a game featuring male genitalia, had to be changed to remove one instance of female nudity that was found (not readily on display), and shared to social media.
We’re creating an atmosphere where creativity is chained by fear. Where art has to run through a checklist of things that are allowed and aren’t, and where artists are always questioning their decisions because someone might be upset. I’m here to tell you someone will always be upset. I’ve seen games change things to please one group, only to piss off another, then change something else that pisses off the first group again. I’m a writer, and I can tell you there’s nothing less creative than having to work off a checklist of things you can and can’t do, things you have to do. Then there’s the realization that even if you check off all those boxes, and do your best to make sure it doesn’t seem like you’re just checking off boxes, someone will still be pissed.
Don’t get me wrong. Voice your opinion and give feedback. Let them know when a game’s broken or that you are upset at a ridiculous delay. Report bugs and offer suggestions. Just remember that those hard-working artists that put all those hours into the games we love are people too. They’re creative, caring, and real people. When criticism turns into just a mob crapping over a design choice, or getting offended by a joke, we’ll wind up with games created by automatons rather than artists. I don’t think any of us want that.
Artists, stop apologizing so much. If you have to change your art to please some people, then you inevitably lose others. If some people don’t want your work because of what it involves, guess what…that’s normal. Not every person in the world is going to read my book, like someone’s painting, or play your game. Make the stories you want to tell. Create the art you want to share. Never apologize for creating what’s in your heart. If you make an honest mistake then own up to it, but when you bring something artistic out of your mind, or your heart and soul, that’s not a mistake, a bug, or an error.