In an earlier post, I wrote about Love and Attention, a new way of looking at developing and selling games. I argued that, like it or not, we put Love and Attention into our games, and the players receive that Love and Attention gratefully, and ask for more. I suggested that, while it’s an emotional commitment we developers have an aversion to, it can make good business sense to sell your Love and Attention, not just your game.
Since then…I haven’t yet heard my peers scoff, but I’ve put some further thought into the subject.
First, there are lots of examples of people who don’t buy this nonsense. For instance, Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) has virtually gone into hiding, and there’s some rumors that while he continues to paint, he then burns his paintings. Clearly Watterson doesn’t want to give any Love and Attention to his fans (other than what he already did, I mean). He, and other artists, feel that what’s important is to clearly and purely express themselves creatively.
Part of the principle of Love and Attention is that your creative output isn’t owned by you alone. Your players or fans take the Love and Attention and make it their own, making creations based on yours, critiquing your work, and begging for more Love and Attention that meets their needs. This means that your creative vision is muddied up with theirs, it’s no longer pure. For some artists, this is unacceptable.
Just yesterday I heard that Prince (the musician, not the mercenary CEO) was suing several fan sites, demanding they remove copyrighted images, lyrics, etc. While everyone agrees that musicians shouldn’t crap on their fans, and it’s possible that this is just an example of lawyers earning their paycheck, I can easily believe that Prince just doesn’t have much Love and Attention to give his fanbase. I think he has a right to demand that his artistic output be pure, not sullied by letting the riffraff "own" part of his creations. It just makes poor business sense.
Back when I was working at Acclaim on the All Star Baseball titles, a marketing guy came to us and asked for marketing ideas. We told him that we should take video of the dev team, and post them to show the fans what we were working on, how it was going, and WHO was making the game. This would create a real connection between the players and the developers.
He didn’t get it, and that can mostly be blamed on the top-down corporate mentality, which has ALWAYS desired to make the individual developers into faceless, nameless cogs. But it’s also true that big companies usually don’t have any idea they are creating Love and Attention, and act accordingly. There are exceptions, like Saturn, Mini-Cooper, and others, but in those cases the marketing department is the group that understands and capitalizes on the principle of Love and Attention.
Here’s another example; Star Wars. Lucasarts can like it or lump it, but Star Wars is owned by millions of people throughout the world, who responded to the Love and Attention Lucas put into his movies. No amount of lawyers are going to stop every fan costume, fan fiction, fan video, and fan convention. Lucasarts can work hard to maintain control of Star Wars, or they can accept the principle of Love and Attention. And until they do, we shouldn’t expect a great Star Wars MMOG.