Restricting Cutscenes

In another classic display of ‘picking a topic just shy of its relevance’ I wanted to talk briefly about content creators attempts to restrict various aspects of a game in question. a thought that was of course brought on by Atlus’ decision to full on block the streaming feature on the PS4 version of Persona 5 as well as heavily moderate what can and cannot be covered in media such as Youtube, Blog/News Articles, Forum postings and just general talk about the game.

For reference, check out this post Atlus posted the day the game came out over here:

http://atlus.com/note-persona-5-streaming/

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Pretty cute huh? They did a pretty great job at writing the article to come off as humble and very “relatable” in an attempt to fight spoilers of all things but there are a few pretty big problems with this thought process. Firstly, note that the decision to lay these guidelines out were made by Atlus of Japan more than it was the American division’s. This is not something new for games developed in Japan and then given a global release. A popular example that comes to mind was when Super Smash Bros Brawl was released. A key reason Sakurai (The lead developer for the series) decided not to do a story line when coming up with another Smash brothers game was the fact that all of the animated cut-scenes in the games story mode were made available on Youtube (Source). The reasons he did this was because:

“…I felt if players saw the cutscenes outside of the game, they would no longer serve as rewards for playing the game, so I’ve decided against having them.”

Now with Super Smash bros I can understand the sentiment a little more, even though the public(including myself) still abhorred this design choice as a whole. The Smash bros series is a series that has a large younger audience that are more susceptible to spoiling the game for themselves or even justifying not playing the game because they can watch the cut scenes online. They are young, they don’t know better and more importantly, they don’t have money.

But with Persona it just doesn’t make as much sense. The game is not designed for children, as its a series that has grown up along with the people playing it and I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that most people who bought Persona 5 played at least one other Persona or Shin Megami Tensei game before this one. Most of the people playing P5 are in one of two camps, they either picked up Persona when it first started in 1996 or, they picked it up with the flux of popularity received with Persona 3 and Persona 4 which were released in 2006 and 2008 respectively. There is also another pocket of people that are very much into the hand held titles that have received a lot of praise such as Devil Survivor and that Shin Megami Tensi game on the 3DS and others that I most likely am forgetting. These are grown people with their own money paying for the beautiful masterpiece that Atlus has created for its devoted fans.

But lets say, for the sake of argument, that the sales data for Persona 5 indicates that the majority of people playing Persona 5 have never played a Persona game in their lives. Lets even go so far to say that the only people playing Persona are people who usually only watch movies and have limited knowledge of video games as a whole. By attempting to fight players regarding spoilers, they show that they have very little faith in their consumer base, not just in their consumer’s base intelligence but in their comprehension of what the video game medium is as a whole.

Unlike movies which entertain a passive, captive audience–video games engage you through challenging and active ways. Where a movie requires little to no effort to advance to its conclusion (save for pressing play and being emotionally prepared/engaged) a video game will not advance without inputs from a player. In other words, adding a controller adds an entirely different means of engaging its audience. A movie can open with a dramatic expository voice-over and a slow pan shot across a war torn battlefield to set its stage but a video game can explain that all to you by letting you walk through that very battlefield and seeing the effects of the battle first-hand. Its that shift in context that lets video games captivate people, ESPECIALLY so in a such a story-driven game as Persona.

Honestly its kind of sad that I have to even explain this in the first place. The Persona game in question carries themes of changing the world and having to deal with not being recognized for it, which directly parallels this situation. Once a game is released it is a part of every person that touches it, every speech bubble, every cut-scene, everything is for the public domain. That’s the nature of releasing something to the public after all. There is no reason that Atlus should still be trying to control it like it is solely theirs any longer. And this doesn’t even go into the fact that in their attempt to stifle spoiler content, they weakened Persona’s presence in the media which kept it from gaining popularity and reaching out to maybe get those people into buying a Persona game. They have all the tools to make this game into game of the year, but because of some kind of backwards ideology, the developers shoot themselves in the foot. Why not let your customers celebrate in the historic achievement that is Persona 5? Why limit its growth to protect a person that is too lazy to experience your work like it should be experienced? Its a childish sentiment that hurts both the player and the developer. Be proud of what you’ve made! It truly is a game worthy of its praise!

I have no doubt that Atlus worked as hard as humanly possible to make Persona 5 a reality. I can also understand concern with people being spoiled on the internet before playing a game but what I mean to stress is that, spoilers like that are the nature of the beast. Its far more worth it to ride out the benefits of the internet’s ability to connect people together to spread hype about the game, then try to limit how much content can be posted. Its greedy and unrealistic to try and fight against the whole world on this. Or were they worried about those Facebook meme pictures that post spoilers to things as a cheap laugh?

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Context and actual experience trumps second-hand experience every time.

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