"We like to brag about how the games industry brings in more money than the film industry, but as soon as someone like Zynga makes enough money to trigger our envy, we invent interpretations of the game rules to say it’s not okay."
I seriously doubt that the criticism against Zynga were due to game developers being envious of Zynga. Frankly, this is a straw man and avoids the valid concerns people have about games and their addictiveness. It's not about rules that have been broken, but what responsibilities game developers have.
"Meanwhile, we are breaking the very same rules: the addictive qualities of Facebook social games can be found throughout all our games."
Maybe it's not a question about if games should have addictive qualities but rather how much and where you draw the line? Games can have a profound effect on a individual and affect their behavior and if the gaming industry doesn't routinely discuss the various ethical and psychological effects of gaming, they risk being seen as irresponsible or oblivious towards the well-being of gamers.
"Jane McGonigal bent the rules to bring her buddies up to share her rant time, but her shenanigans were sanctioned by the industry guard."
McGonigal was "sanctioned" because conferences, like most other IRL interactions, need order to function. Maybe the conference panelists were unnecessary strict and actually caused a loss by stopping McGonigal from talking, but many interactions would become difficult to participate in simply because people gamed them to their benefit.
As far as I read it - he wasn't so much critiquing or defending the gaming industry for their social games. He was offering a parody of their inability to apply the standards to themselves that they apply to others.
To play a "social" game of any sort is to play a game that is automatically rigged against you - since the perception of success will change depending on the status of the person playing (whether they are the creators of the social game, or in league with them).
What's wonderful about the story is that he demonstrates neatly how to win such games. Create your own. As he says - the time he had spent online social games could have been spent building one. If, however, you are stuck in a context where you can't get outside their game (like a conference) - your only move is to perform the action which is most like creating your own game...
This guy did a great job of gaming the actual game and did what players in real games do all the time. Find the easiest way to competitive advantage through the available mechanics, even if it is through a loophole in the rules.
Maybe they would have been happier if he had traded his credit card for the bag of coins instead.
So what I am saying is that the industry must keep having serious discussions about the ethical, social and psychological implications of gaming - otherwise populists and crooks will set the tone and agenda.
Game companies started to broaden their reach, to expand their demographic. The same is happening with Facebook. I watched my mother play game after game of Bejeweled. Facebook's reach is huge, well beyond the demographic usually thought of as gamers, that 18-35 male collective cash cow. I'm not on Facebook, but my mother is, my aunt is, the sort of person that kinda likes clicking cows. Zynga's games are close to their tolerance: easy, always there, not too deep. The gaming equivalent of a Will Smith summer blockbuster, the type that upsets the people that really love movies. A McDonald's burger, a Mariah Carey song, Marlboro Lights, Windows XP, Zynga: the suburbs of their industry. It may not be loved by critics, but damned if you can't make more money selling to a broader demographic than to a smaller group of devoted genre fans.
So, on a much larger scale, we're seeing the games market broaden and develop, the same way that we saw it happen 10 or 15 years ago. There's hope for the future: you can still get rich making an iPhone/Android $2 game or a Minecraft, so we still have some sort of vibrance, sparks flying from the souls of the passionate and creative. But the way things are, there's more money in Farmville. I've stopped being angsty and dropped my elitism: you can't fight basic laws of commerce or Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap").
I value my time, so I don't play social games (unless you count GitHub), but the customers have indeed decided what they want, or at least what they'll pay for.
...Where's my copy of Ninja Gaiden? I still haven't beaten it in two decades.
Better mirror, courtesy of reddit user FunkyFreshFlow:
(although the images are broken)
The article is well worth reading.
Game developers should embrace and reward players that think outside of the box and subvert the game to add their own rules.
I can recall MissingNo. from the original Pokémon games as a great example of players subverting the game and in essence creating a cult following to this "cheat".
I also have to say Jane McGoningal's "rant" was incredibly lame "rah rah we're changing the world" stuff. I wish they had given this guy more time -- honestly the panelists have mostly been the same people saying the same things the last few years, it'd be nice to hear some new voices.
I think he also made a deft mind flip, turning it into an example for his own talk. I'd have thought the entire thing pre-staged, if I'd been in the audience, it's so brilliantly full circle.
I guess it's a good example of human behavior in general: If someone doesn't play how we want them, as "Owner" of an event or product or game, we get pissy. And then, from outside, it just looks sad. Of course the author could simply be an unreliable narrator.
People like that are the true gamers. (cue a grumpy Scotsman).
The ability to see the rules, see past the rules, and see into the structure of the question, then deal with that are the real hallmarks of what makes the hacker culture great.