After having a few responses from his Xbox World 360 Magazine interview scattered as quotes throughout an unflattering article, Epic Games Design Director Cliff Bleszinski took to Twitter in an effort to clear the air — and in the process, took a few jabs at the abundance of flamewar “journalists.”
The whole thing started when gaming site, CVG, used the aforementioned quotes in a piece they titled ‘Japan can’t keep up with US tech’ – Cliff B. They went on to quote him in the opening portion, as having made the following response to a question posed about a potential move to Japan for Epic Studios:
“Part of the problem is, technically, Japan just can’t keep up with the US,”
Taken as is, or worse, paired with the headline that perched above it, and you’ve got the makings for one spicy meatball. However, there is some context here — unfortunately (or fortunately for the CPM savvy), it was placed near the end of the write up, in a spot that doesn’t do much good for those who formed their opinion early on in the piece.
“There’s been this fundamental shift. And it seems like part of the problem is not a lot of people play console games that much in Japan anymore. It’s all moved to this really weird mobile-type situation.”
Now, when I see these two quotes near each other, it seems to me that what Cliff is really trying to say is that consumer trends currently limit the profit potential for the product they offer in that region. Offering the additional back story may have left him open to those who wanted to read into his understanding of the situation over there, but that doesn’t change the business logic behind what he is trying to say.
Cliff issued the following Tweets in an attempt to clarify the story which had reached featured status on gaming news site N4G:
Internet tabloid alert: I said *nothing* about Japan not being able to keep up with the US regarding tech. #fabrication (link)
There are plenty of existing and upcoming Japanese titles that look amazing. I have nothing but the utmost respect for those devs. (link)
There are economists that get paid big bucks to assess market trends, and advise corporations on where it makes the most sense for them to focus their efforts. Cliff gets paid to design games and promote them however his company’s PR department deems best — and if second set of Tweets regarding the CVG article have any merit on the future of dev interviews, we may all be in for a future filled with extremely dry news updates.
If this “journalism” continues devs will only be able to recite fact sheets verbatim. (link)
Websites intentionally publish misquotes and out of context pullquotes to create forum flamewars which generates traffic and profit. (link)
Here’s another technique: you can say *anything* as long as you put a ? after it. ;) (link)
As you can see, words, when taken out of context, and placed in front of an otherwise uninformed reader, can lead to very ugly results. Ugly articles. Ugly backlash. Just plain ugly all around.
For example, I could say that the state of Florida will never be able to keep up with Wisconsin when it comes to heavy winter coat sales, and though it may be hard to imagine, someone unfamiliar with our geography might take that as a knock on the fine people in the Sunshine State. However, most people in the United States would understand that this is a climate issue. I’m not implying that Florida doesn’t have a skilled enough work force to manufacture the product, instead what I am saying is that it lacks the severe decrease in temperate during winter months that would compel consumers to buy them — therefore they are not readily prepared to compete in that space.
Now, when the contrast is based on culture, and the majority of the readers are unfamiliar with the specifics of said culture, it could very well be seen as unfair to expect them to fully understand the context of what is being quoted without thoroughly explaining the cultural and economic differences.
I’m no expert in Japanese culture or economics when it comes to games or any aspect for that matter. However, after reading an article that leads with an apparent knock on an entire region, only to have it half-heartedly clarify the comment towards the tail end, it’s no surprise that Cliff took action. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done the same.
Both CVG & Xbox World 360 Magazine have since issued an apology to Cliff Bleszinski. The magazine claims a production error was the cause of their misquote, and CVG apologized for any inconvenience their reporting of said misquote may have caused the designer.
No one individual is perfect. No one site is perfect. That said, the events that transpired here serve as a good example of what can happen in a world where hits become more important than facts, and headlines become more important content.