So Platinum Games is working on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a fact members of the team openly denied when rumours of its involvement broke earlier this year. Members of the studio told some porky pies to our very own Stephen Totilo regarding the game -- was this the right thing to do? This issue struck a nerve with God of War creator David Jaffe, who lied regarding the existence of the new Twisted Metal to preserve an E3 surprise. Jaffe wrote an interesting blog about the reasons for that lie, and the ethical dilemmas that come with working in an industry that thrives on rumour and speculation.
According to Jaffe, if he has to lie to protect his team, he will do it in a "heartbeat", but would never tell a lie that hurts consumers or raises unrealistic expectations.
I think I've been pretty open over the years when game journalists ask me all kinds of things and so I think most folks know that I'm a pretty honest individual. But if I can make our customers happier and more excited by lying to a reporter and thus revealing a title at the right time, then that's what I'll do.
And if I can lie to a journalist in order to protect information that will hurt my team if I reveal it, I'll do that in a heartbeat as well.
The only lie I would never tell is one that would hurt the customer (i.e. 'yes, we are shipping with 30 vehicles in the new Twisted Metal' when in fact, I know we will only ship with 17; or releasing screenshots that are CLEARY not representative of anything even close to the game we're shipping or videos that clearly are not representative of the game or the game experience we are shipping). To me, those are lies that HURT the customer and hopefully - if we do engage in that brand of dishonesty- the reporters and- more importantly- our customers-will lose faith in us quickly.
But there's a difference between a lie meant to entertain (i.e. you think the magician on stage sawing the woman in half is supposed to tell you 'now folks, this is all bullshit and I'm not really sawing her in half'?!?) or a lie meant to protect the integrity of the product (i.e. 'Oh Mr. Reporter, your question is ''does Neo turn out to be THE ONE at the end of the Matrix trilogy? Sure, let me tell you that he DOES even though the last movie is still 10 months away!'') and a lie meant to trick your customers into thinking what they are going to pay for is different from what you know you are selling (i.e. saying 'our game is 100+ hours of gameplay!' when it's really only 12). I think reporters should blast the SHIT out of us and then never speak with us again if we lie like the later example because we are hurting their ability to do their job for their paying customers. I get that. But the former types of lies? I don't lose a wink of sleep over them. And I'm just surprised reporters think they are owed those sorts of truths JUST BECAUSE they ask for them!
It's an interesting dilemma -- I fully understand the need for developers to protect their product at all costs, and don't judge David Jaffe for his lie, but I have personally been on the receiving end of dirty tricks intended to make me, personally, look silly for breaking stories that ultimately y turned out to be true. That was not a nice experience.
A simple 'we don't comment on rumours and speculation' is fine as far as I'm concerned. Jaffe seems to believe that isn't enough, and consumers simply assume whatever story being reported is automatically true, but that's not always the case. I'd rather have a no comment than an outright lie. In fact -- I'd rather have a deathly silence.
Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire! [DavidJaffe.biz]