This was one of the most nerve-wracking weekends I’ve had in a while.
The Escapist is having their March Mayhem Developer’s Showdown, where they have 64 game developers, and people vote for their favorite. My developer of choice, Valve, was wiping the floor with the competition — until Round 5.
That put them up against Zynga, the people who created those Facebook games people play for some reason that completely eludes me. Let’s compare the two: Valve, the company that redefined first-person shooters (twice!), pioneered digital distribution and still has the best system out there, their Source engine is six years old and still looks as pretty as anything released today, they pay close attention to customer feedback to make their games better… Should I go on?
Zynga creates Flash games on the Internet. (Which are actually ripoffs of other games) They are the most dull, boring, unintelligent games I have ever seen. Oh, and did I mention the shady business practices and scams that they’ve had in order to get more money? They don’t care about their customers at all, they just want to take their money. (Where do I find these videos?)
When the round first started on the morning of April 1, Valve had 83% of the vote. As the day went on, I watched that number drop — and drop — and drop. Zynga posted a link on all their “game” (I use that term loosely) pages, saying “click here and vote for us!” And the legions of Farmville players complied with their overlord’s request. (I took a peek at the Facebook thread, and 9/10 replies were “add meeeeeeee!!!!!11!” That says something about their fanbase.)
By the 2nd, I had lost all hope that we would ever stop the Zynga Zombie Apocalypse. We were down by 3000 votes, and still falling. But that night, Valve released a Steam news announcement asking for votes. And we pulled ahead again. But only slightly. Before midnight, we were behind again.
On the 3rd, we took the lead again. But as before, only briefly. Zynga had another ad campaign, and charged even further ahead than they were last time. For every hundred reinforcements we brought in, Zynga brought two.
I couldn’t follow it through the night, but by 8 AM on the 4th, (Easter Sunday,) we were ahead by no less than 3000 votes. Finally, after four days of constant assault, we had real hope. The polls closed, with the torn-and-bloodied Valve flag still standing atop the hill. The dust settled. We had won by exactly 3207 votes. The defeated Zynga crowd crawled back to their farms, to resume their endless plowing.
During those four days of battle, hardcore gamers from across the planet campaigned for help everywhere they could think of. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, fan forums, and even the forums of the other rival developers in the contest. Because this wasn’t simply a battle between Valve and Zynga. This was a battle between the Old Ways of hardcore gaming, and the New Ways of casual social gaming. And we proved on this day, that no matter what they say about the rise of casual gaming, and the fall of hardcore, we won’t go down without a fight. The day may come when the courage of fans fails, and we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY.
This was a day for the ages. This day will go down in history as a day that the rivalries between the different factions in the gaming world were put aside for just a little while, and everyone stood under one banner to end the onslaught of what is an enemy to everyone. We all knew that the pride of every hardcore gamer was at stake. And now, no matter who or where you are, we all have one thing in common that we can all be prideful of: We held the line. We stopped the Zynga Machine. This was a huge victory for gamers everywhere; especially for fans of NCSoft, Infinity Ward, Rockstar, and Square Enix — The ones who fell trying to stop Zynga. You men put up a good fight, and we salute you!
And so, the world returned to normal. The gamers returned to their various camps for the final round of the contest, with Valve fighting BioWare. Even if Valve loses, I won’t be disappointed. Of all the other developers who entered the contest, I can’t think of an opponent more deserving than them.