Destructoid Marks Itself as the Nadir of the Kickstarter Phenomenon
When Destructoid journalist, Jim Sterling, last night published yet another morally preachy liberal-regressive castigation of his readership, it was the source of some considerable exasperation as well as something of a minor headache, for the simple fact that it was the myriad such incident within the previous fortnight. The argument he put forth was mostly illogical and more than a little disingenuous, but at the very least it purported to be a response to a very real problem. The article claimed that in an earlier Destructoid post by Sophie Prell which announced the Kickstarter for the world’s first large-scale homosexual game convention, Gaymercon, the Destructoid readership had responded with ignorance and homophobia at the suggestion that gay gamers might benefit from such an event. As Sterling himself puts it: “The reaction from our community was … a little disheartening. I’ve felt for a while that we’ve started becoming one of the most open-minded and welcoming of online videogame communities, and while I still think that, I think it just a touch less right now. There was, to be quite frank, a lot of ignorant shit being spouted with regards to this project. Not by everyone, but by enough people to warrant a few clarifications. After all, when so many readers seem confused about the point of a gay gamer convention, and seem viciously angry about it, they definitely need to be sat down and talked to … For you to have an issue with that, for you to be vehemently upset that folks who are segregated by society might want to club together and put on a positive event for themselves … well … I honestly don’t know what to say to you. I think I wouldn’t want to talk to you at all, actually.”
After delivering this high-handed admonition, Sterling went on to talk about heterosexual white male privilege while (irrelevantly) sinking the boot into Chick-fil-A, because no liberal worth their smug can afford to be seen not losing their shit over a corporation with a different point of view than themselves; yet underpinning all of the hot air and bluster was the vague kernel of a notion that this tirade was initiated and justified to some extent by the poor behaviour of Destructoid commenters. While that justification may be all well and good for rusted-on liberals who tend to take rather a lot at face value, actually reading the original article would be sufficient to disabuse most thinking people of this contention, as the alleged homophobic deluge quite simply never occurred.
Many Destructoid readers did indeed respond with some considerable fury to the original post, yet precious little of it derived from their inherent bigotry, but rather from their incredulous outrage at Sophie Prell’s suggestion that one had to donate to this particular Kickstarter in order to be a decent person – a fact that Jim Sterling carefully ignored in his faux-moral misrepresentation of the situation. The original article stated: “So donate. Do it because you’re a decent person. Do it because Chick-fil-A sucks [Ed: are we beginning to see a trend here?]. Do it so the game industry can grow in diversity. Things only get better when people can be who they are and feel safe in their hobby at the same time. And hey, it’s not like Jim Raynor is going to suddenly dump Kerrigan for Zeratul and get all freaky on some blue alien wing-wong. Although…”
Covering Kickstarter is an incredibly thorny issue for gaming journals. Rock, Paper, Shotgun essentially released a short discussion paper describing the selection criteria for their positive coverage of Kickstarter projects, in an effort to eschew providing oxygen to anything that is not above board. Here at Caspius.com we are even more reluctant to provide anything in the way of positive coverage to Kickstarter projects on account of not wishing to inadvertently encourage readers to donate their money to what are frequently found to be highly dubious products. There is scope to argue between the relative merits of these two different policies, but what is clear is that both are a far cry from Destructoid’s Kickstarter policy vacuum. Prell’s direct exhortation for readers to support her pet project is a huge breach of journalistic standards, while Sterling’s meritless attack on unhappy readers is nothing less than scandalous.
Ever since the journalistic coverage of Kickstarter projects came into vogue, the Caspius.com staff have been quite concerned about the direction in which the industry reporting was headed; with Destructoid’s lack of journalistic integrity on this issue, the worst case scenario has been realised, illustrating the importance of overarching structural discipline even when a publication’s writing style is informal. Incredibly, when this professional breach of faith was brought to Sterling’s attention he continued trying to to transform the issue into something that it was not. A reader pointed out to him that he had failed to mention that much of the negativity toward the article had focused on Sophie Prell’s lack of journalistic integrity, to which he replied that “It wasn’t the point. If you read a Sophie article and get pissed off at Sophie for being Sophie, you did kind of bring it on yourself. :-) Besides which, hating on a fundraiser because you don’t like who told you about it is too silly a point to address.”, amply demonstrating that he simply does not get it, or worse, he understands but pretends to ignorance.
The Arse Has Fallen Out of Zynga
There was a time when Zynga’s stock reached the lofty heights of $15.91, and had market analysts speculating that this was browser gaming’s destined ascendency over the stodgy old console traditionalists – yet it seems that the intellectually (and now fiscally) bankrupt Facebook developer may have flown too close to the sun, as their stock is now in freefall. Earlier this year when the company’s stock was still priced at $12, Zynga floated additional shares in the company, and the Zynga management used the occasion to cash-out of $500,000,000 of their own personal stock in the company. Now, after Zynga stock crashing to a new low of $2.66, investors have filed lawsuits alleging insider trading.
Key to the lawsuit are allegations that on the 23rd of March Zynga’s management amended the lock-up restrictions in place which applied to the Zynga management. The lock-up restrictions effectively precluded the company’s management from trading company shares until the 28th of May, which would have prevented them from offloading their shares during the second float of Zynga stock. On the 26th of April Zynga issued positive guidance which indicated that the company was growing market share, and was expecting growth to be heavily weighted toward the latter half of the year – then in late July Zynga disclosed its second quarter numbers which painted a bleak picture involving a huge drop-off in user interest and revenue gleaned from the company’s Facebook operations, which constitute the bulk of Zynga’s business. The suit will allege that Zynga’s management knew and failed to disclose this information when they sold $500,000,000 of their company shares.
Insider trading is serious business which carries serious jail sentences for those found to have acted inappropriately. While it will no doubt prove quite difficult to ascertain just what was known when, there does seem to be the pungent whiff of convenience in the management’s decision to offload a bunch of personal stock shortly before it crashed. At any rate, at least things could not get any worse for Zynga, right?
EA Sues Zynga for Copying The Sims
Well, as it turns out they most certainly can. Zynga has made a (fleetingly) lucrative business from copying other developer’s successful social titles, yet this is the first time that Zynga has been brazen enough rip off a company with the wherewithal to defend their intellectual property. The game in question is The Ville, which imitates The Sims Social to a shonky Chinese extent. Play systems appear identical, layout appears to be a perfect match, and tile-sets appear to be an almost pixel-perfect duplicate.
According to EA this is not just about defending their intellectual property, but also about protecting the creative endeavours of their employees, as well as those of the other smaller developers that Zynga has copied. In reality this is probably more a case of EA seeing a their chief social gaming competitor in a moment of weakness, and seizing upon the possibility of potentially taking them out for good – though few could deny that Zynga absolutely have this coming. For their part, Zynga has stated: “We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘Ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.”
Yes, that is right – Zynga actually accuses EA of copying their long running SimCity franchise from Zynga’s CityVille browser game. Intellectual property law is so arcane that it is very difficult for the lay person to discern just how much of a case that EA has against Zynga, but then that may not be the point. EA has already said that they do not care about winning because this is about principle, which can be interpreted to mean that EA is aware that they may not win this suit, but it pleases them to bleed the beleaguered Zynga in a public court of law. Zynga can ill-afford to fight another suit whilst attempting to fend off allegations of insider trading. Moreover, the company will remain unattractive to investors while it is beset with such existential strife, and if EA can manage to get a temporary injunction against The Ville then one imagines that they will be quite chuffed. Further, if EA actually manages to win their suit then Zynga’s entire business model goes up in smoke, as it will set a precedent that will entitle other victims of Zynga’s intellectual theft to receive redress. At any rate, one hopes that Zynga continues to live in interesting times during the coming months and years. It is very difficult to imagine a scenario wherein Zynga is ever able to regain the power that they once wielded.