Speaking at DICE (thanks Kotaku), Activision/Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick apologized for said he didn’t mean it when he advocated “taking all the fun out of making videogames,” and that “an atmosphere of skepticism, pessimism, and fear represented ‘mission accomplished'” for his developers.
Words are cheap; you’re gonna have to do better than that, Bobby. Also: salad, motherfucker. It’s what’s for dinner.
Every aspect of Kotick’s speech was choreographed to appeal to the same audience – gamers and developers – that he has consistently thrown to the wolves. From his zippy sweater to his jokes about Star Wars, Kotick’s usual robber baron bluster was replaced with immaculately scripted geek-ese. Clearly Activision/Blizzard PR assumed that gamers and developers are dumb enough to fall for words when deeds, particularly Kotick’s deeds, are damning.
Why do I dislike Kotick so much? Showmanship, not Genius. It’s the slogan RKO Radio Pictures adopted after firing Orson Welles. It’s a fancy way of saying “brilliance doesn’t matter; quality doesn’t matter. Stuff that’s shiny matters. And you’re all so stupid you’ll buy it.” And it defines Kotick’s helmsmanship of ActiBlizz. He cares nothing for games, and certainly nothing for their potential as art, despite his speech’s protests – in which he claims he “loved Zork,” then calls it an Activision game when Infocom was self-publishing at the time of release. Aside from the self-aggrandizing falsehood, saying you love Zork is like saying you love Wayne Gretzky and that this alone makes you a hockey fan.
So while the gullible may fall for his mea culpa, let’s also not forget that he spent most of his speech whining about the IPs and companies he should have bought but didn’t, or bought too late, to maximize his own personal fortune. He was quick to blast EA, a company that’s hardly a shining light of goodness but that, under the leadership of CEO John Ricitiello, at least tried to be a better place until shareholders put the kibosh on it. And while he described himself as a “dick” for his cracks about taking the fun out of development, he never actually had the balls to apologize; he just justified the remark by saying he was talking to investors.
It’s not inconceivable that Kotick turns himself and his company around. EA did it (sort of). But he runs the 400-pound gorilla in the industry, the largest publisher – by far – that we’ve ever seen. My Mom told me that I shouldn’t be so mean to Kotick because he probably has kids who feel bad when people talk shit about him. But my Mom is a saint, and I’m definitively not. You know why I have to talk shit about him? Because he, and by extension his company, is so powerful that very few who aren’t completely independent dare to. The IGDA itself – the International Game Developers Association – was too cowardly to condemn his remarks about maintaining an atmosphere of skepticism, pessimism, and fear. Game Informer magazine interviewed him last month. They asked all kinds of questions about why he’s so awesome, but never the most important:
“You’re the most despised man in gaming. Thoughts?”