Do consumers have rights? It’s an odd question, I know, but entertain me for a moment. When someone spends their hard earned money on the product, do they have any rights to that product? I would assume so. Like most of you, I work very hard for my money. When I spend that money, I am effectively spending hours that I put into my job to acquire a product. Shouldn’t that give me some sort of right over that very product?
On March 6th, 2012, BioWare released one of the most anticipated games of the year called Mass Effect 3. The ending to the game caused quite a bit of outrage due to the inconsistency with the entire series. A good number of fans of the series, at least 70,000, wanted a new ending that fit into the overarching narrative of the series. The reaction to this was odd. Some called these fans entitled whiners or worse. Others dismissed it as a vocal minority who shouldn’t be listened to. The fans were made fun of by the video game media and critics, calling these fans cry babies who only wanted a happy ending rather than something realistic.
So again, do consumers have rights to the products they spend their hard earned money on?
Many say no.
- People argued that if the fans didn’t like the game, they shouldn’t have purchased it in the first place. This argument missed the point that the only way for them to not like the ending was to play the game and reach the ending in the first place.
- People argued that if the fans didn’t like the ending, they should stop whining and show their discontent by no longer supporting the company. This argument missed the point that the fans actually like the company and the product. The fans only want what they paid for: an ending that was consistent with the narrative of the series.
- And then there was the argument that video games are an artistic creation and the developers don’t have to change the game to suit the fans because of artistic integrity. This argument claims video games aren’t a product, but a piece of art. This is a very dangerous claim, as it begs the question if video games are actually an art form. That will deserve a separate blog. I would argue video games are not art, but shares similar characteristics with art.
Gamer advocacy, at its heart, is a struggle with the idea of ownership over the video games that are purchased. When any product is owned, the one who purchased it has rights over that product. Or at least the owner ought to have rights over that product. Based on the response from the video game industry and media to the reaction to Mass Effect 3, there is an underlying assumption that video games are solely owned by the industry. Is this something that gamers should accept, to be passive participant in the entire process? These are topics that are important for anyone who purchases video games.
This is why the idea of gamer advocacy matters.
There are a few websites that deal with video game advocacy that are worth looking at, if this is something you are curious about: