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  • 1. MORE AWESOME THAN Resistance and Appropriation in The Sims gaming communities Ruth A Deller, Sheffield Hallam University UK r.a.deller@shu.ac.uk @ruthdeller
  • 2. Following last year’s surprise Worst Company In America victory by Electronic Arts, there was hope that the video game giant would get the message: Stop treating your customers like human piggy banks, and don’t put out so many incomplete and/or broken games with the intent of getting your customers to pay extra for what they should have received in the first place. And yet, here we are again, with EA becoming the first company to ever win a second Golden Poo from Consumerist readers. After an astounding number of votes, Consumerist readers once again chose EA over Bank of America, with the video game company taking nearly 78% of the vote. Like many other competitors in the WCIA bracket, EA has repeatedly failed at three core requirements of running a consumer-friendly business: (1) provide a product people want and like, (2) sell that product at a reasonable price, and (3) support its products. (Morran 2013)
  • 3. We're sure that British Petroleum, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton are all relieved they weren't nominated this year. We're going to continue making award-winning games and services played by more than 300 million people worldwide. (SnrDirector of Corporate Communications John Reseburg in a statement to Kotaku featured in Schreier 2012) Here’s the truth: each year EA interacts with more than 350 million gamers; Origin is breaking records for revenue and users; The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing 3 are at the top of the mobile charts; Battlefield 3 and FIFA are stunning achievements with tens of millions of players; and SimCity is being enjoyed by millions of passionate fans all over the world. Every day, millions of people across globe play and love our games – literally, hundreds of millions more than will vote in this contest. So here’s my response to this poll: We can do better. We will do better. But I am damn proud of this company, the people around the globe who work at EA, the games we create and the people that play them. The tallest trees catch the most wind. At EA we remain proud and unbowed. (Peter Moore, then CEO, April 2013)
  • 4.  Over 175 million units sold (EA 2013)  Sims base games supplemented by expansion packs, stuff packs and online store. Largely female audience (see Gee and Hayes 2010; Flanagan and Nissenbaum 2008) PC Sims games renowned for user modding and custom content (CC) (see Sihvonen 2011; Jenkins 2006). Sims fans congregate all over the net – on almost every platform. Maxis bought by EA in 1997; closes 2004. From 2006 no Maxis logo on Sims products; reappears 2012.
  • 5. Survey of almost 1500 Sims players in summer 2012. 10.5% currently play TS1; 23% TS2; 86% TS3; 18% TSM; 4% ‘Stories’; 10% mobile/app; 7% console/handheld; 4% other variants. 82% used some form of user generated content 56% used gameplay mods 22% created their own custom content 1.33% created their own mods 48% used file sharing sites – many more downloaded than uploaded – averaging 60-70% depending on client. ModTheSims used by 59%; Nraas 40%; The Sims Resource 31% At least a third used sites for free downloads of pay CC or EA store content
  • 6. The Sims will probably never go back to TS2 or TS1 because they removed the key ingredient. Passion. The Sims was created by an awesome guy named Will Wright and after Sims 2 he left the franchise (I think it was to pursue another career, but don't quote me on that I'm not sure), and all the copyrights were left/sold/whatever to EA. The company was like a chicken with its head cut off and they lost direction because they had no leader, and without their leader there was no passion. The new creators have tried, but have not done The Sims justice. They all may not have agreed on the same vision, or the company restricted them on what they could do, but whatever the reason, TS3 lacked the heart and attention to detail the first two games had. (Erry, modding forum)
  • 7. Cultures of piracy Diverse range of reasons for piracy (Lindgren and Linde 2012; Jewitt and Yar 2013):  Political acts and/or corporate resistance  Everyday practice – convenience/habit  Innovation  Unavailability of resources –through cost or within particular nations.
  • 8. Piracy is directly related to EA's policies and is not a purely financial problem…. there has been major shift in the entertainment market… [in some cases] there is a push-back from the geek community for pirating these things BECAUSE the money is going to the talent and the people that they need to do their job. In exchange for this solidarity, the developers are obligated to fix bugs as soon as possible and work with fans to create entertainment that they enjoy. There is a mutually beneficial relationship… This is not the case with EA… content is released with known bugs and rather than having a development team (which they obviously have the money for) dedicated to resolving the problems, they release ANOTHER product. (Andrea, interview)
  • 9. On one side I think it's unfair to pirate games, but it's unfair to everyone who has to pay full price for them, not the company. On the other side I can easily understand why someone would pirate. By the time I get the next expansion pack for sims 3 I will have spent over $600 on it, and that doesn't include money spent on the earlier versions, and many times it hasn't been worth the price. So more power to those who pirate for not getting ripped off. (Aly, interview) The fact that we (loyal) fans have to buy yet another 5 to 10 expansion packs for Sims 4 to make the game more "complete" is just complete madness. And i will never support that in anyway. I will buy the first game, but i won't buy a single expansion pack! (JB, EA Sims 4 blog)
  • 10. I hate seeing posts on Tumblr (and I see them a lot when new EPs come out) with people begging for someone to give them their CD key or let them download the game from their Origin accounts. It's so incredibly entitled. I unfollow anyone who makes or reblogs those posts immediately. If you're going to pirate, you can do the work involved yourself. I don't know why it bothers me so much but it really does. People who just pirate without making a big to-do about it, I don't really care. Games provide many hours of entertainment for me and I don't mind paying for that. (Enchanted, interview)
  • 11. Sims 3 Store is For Rich Suckers: They can take our blogs, but they can never take our freedom! Silly EA took down my blog, but not my downloads. It's just a matter of reposting the links. Bear with me folks! (anonymous content sharing Tumblr) 19 year old who should really quit reddit and reinstall their games. i sometimes buy gifts for followers because i'm a nice lady. mostly i try to post stuff from the store that is free elsewhere (Cerry, Reddit)
  • 12. I just do not think the prices the Store charges for their content is worth it… I think they're very sneaky to put all their prices up in "SimPoints", so you don't really realise how much you're paying… And then the fact that so many of the things they put up are buggy and have to be fixed by the community anyway. I'm not paying for the pleasure of being ripped off. I think everyone should do it [pirate store content]. I actually get angry when I hear about people paying $40 for a store world that they won't play, just so they can get the "premium" objects (which are always either buggy or not that great anyway)… I think this goes well beyond running a business and is skirting very close to an actual scam. It's a really nice little racket they have going and I dearly wish people would stop supporting it. (Enchanted, interview)
  • 13. Players will have until the 14th June to spend their remaining SimCash. Neither Refunds nor transfers will be provided. They have your money, tough titty. Moral of the story, never have a ‘truck’ currency account of any size unless you have something you wish to buy now. On the same day of the announcement, EA had the brassneck to proffer new store content over at EA’s Sims Social site, without bothering to mention the closedown at all on site! (gossip blog)
  • 14. Modding cultures Modders have a range of motivations (Postigo 2010; Sihvonen 2009; Laukkanen 2005)  Fixing ‘broken’ gameplay  Adding elements to ‘incomplete’ games  Personal play-styles  Creative expression  Co-operative practice  Fan-pleasing  Skill building  Professional development
  • 15. Are you aware that [Modder] has had to provide overrides to fix problems with the routing paint in every world EA has produced? Somehow EA's world design team never seems to have learned that those holes cause stuck sims that lead to massive lag. Our best world creators, on the other hand, understand how to test for and avoid that type of problem... if these worlds actually had been playtested for any amount of time, these things would be caught and fixed. (Skarf, modding forum) I like the Sims games just like the next guy, but EA had bitten off more than it can chew. Sims 3 is glitchy and half of the contents either don't work properly or not at all, not to mention the expansions and stuff packs are so expensive! I would like to see EA fix Sims 3 before venturing off to the next generation of Sims. As Andy stated, make a game, not a cash cow! (DK, EA Sims 4 blog)
  • 16. [Modder], without a doubt is my favorite. He has saved my games. I would totally have his sim babies (Survey respondent 1104) I only use [name] mods to make the game playable, no other CC or mods installed. I do find *name’s+ mods to be of extremely high quality and when I initially discovered [modder], the reaction was "oh, so the game CAN do all of those things I thought it would be good if it did“ (1249) I'm strictly against using any CAS/object cc, but I don't think I'd enjoy my game half as much without *name’s+ mods. It's the only cc I'd ever put in my game, just because [name] is so reliable, updates the mods quickly, and makes so many great modifications to the gameplay. (1680)
  • 17. Now what comes to the sims and CC. I agree with the people who said it's whats keeping the game alive and expanding it's life-cycle beyond what EA expects/wants and even though EA does praise the community, I don't think they want to see CC. What they want is all CC to be store items. That would be their dream. Would EA make user made CC hard to add to the game? It would be in their best interest not to, but at the same time I'm sure part of them want to have CC be only the stuff they make so I doubt the mod or CC community will be getting a helping hand from EA to how to add mods and CC to the game. (Annie, modding forum)
  • 18. I can't see EA being that ignorant of the fact they have a symbiotic relationship with modders whether they like it or not… I think we all kind of know the modding community has served as free labor for EA in terms of debugging and play testing the halffinished crap they release… I think it's an unspoken agreement that the modding community will happily go ahead and correct EA's mistakes in order to provide a playable game for everyone, as long as they also receive the ability to customize their game any way they like and share those creations with the simming community. EA would be remiss to default on that unspoken agreement, because I don't think they're magically going to stop pushing their own creators with release deadlines and other such chaos-inducing business tactics (For the record, I don't tend to think the shoddy games are so much the fault of the programmers who work on these things as much as I think it's the fault of the upper business management pushing them so much they cannot do their jobs properly). (Gloworm, modding forum)
  • 19. Firstly, we hate paysites. Are you a paysite owner? Well, we hate you, too. We do it because it will piss you off. Yes, we are assholes. Tough. Besides, you're only charging for bandwidth, right? Isn't it so nice of us to contribute our $100/yr to alleviate your bandwidth load? No? It pisses you off? Great! And now you know why we do this. (Anti-paysite repository)
  • 20. This is a NO T$R ZONE. No, I will not tell you where to find anything on the TSR website is. There will be no more links to any TSR page. From now on, anything I might have from The Sims Resource will be found through the Booty ALONE. I will not pay for any Sims stuff that does not come from EA itself. I have never — nor will I ever — purchased a subscribership to The Sims Resource. If this means I can’t download things from your site because you use too much TSR pay stuff, sorry. It’s unfortunate collateral damage. Perhaps you should think about removing any TSR CC that cannot be found on the Booty from your lots/sims. (Story, Tumblr)
  • 21. Paid for custom content is ridiculous… If you're going to create something for your game, either share it freely or keep it to yourself. A creative person should be thanked for their work, not paid. At least not if they're making money off someone else's success. There are many gifted modders who put much more time in their project(s) and share freely, consider [name] or [name], or the many creators over at [site]. (Lady E, interview)
  • 22. Fantastic. Of course a lot of the content is still rubbish and I hope there will continue to be a way to filter by quality (i.e. keep featured artists or whatever they are). I feel like a war has finally ended… I will refrain from judgement on TSR unless anything proves to be awry, but it is certainly good (from where I'm standing) that they have adopted an ad-supported model. (Gutter, modding forum) I wouldn't be at all surprised if this paved the way for some EA/TSR involvement with CC along for TS4… Apparently this move has been in the planning for a while, so it could be that EA indicated that while they tend to turn a blind eye to paysites, they can hardly be seen to be partnering with one! (Jonesy, modding forum)
  • 23. Basically, they’re taking the excitement/influence of the loudest enthusiasts and using it as a marketing tool (Comic artist, EA forum)
  • 24. I don't use CC due to being part of [name] forum and they do not support CC as it can ruin your game. They do allow Mods but not in Challenges and so I don't use them. (1326) No, not all custom content is bad, but how do you know good content from bad? The only way to know is to stick it in your game. It's always a gamble... Thus, our stance is, as it always has been, that 3rd party custom content is bad. We don't encourage it, and if asked, we don't recommend it. Taking any other stance is what would be irresponsible. (Hak, hints and tips forum) The reason that I don't use it is, because I got some bad CC and had those deformed sims. It creeped me out pretty bad so I play without CC. (blacky73, EA forum)
  • 25. I can't stand the people who seem to whine about every expansion and stuff pack, as if only their opinion matters and EA has betrayed them by releasing something that they aren't excited about. I was hyped for the Katy Perry stuff pack, and it annoyed me that so many people were saying it shouldn't be released at all simply because THEY didn't want it. (1623) I prefer playing the game as the creators intended, bugs and everything. (Cris, interview)
  • 26.  EA (as opposed to Maxis/Will Wright) framed as corporate, profit-oriented, anti-consumer.  Range of myths about EA and other sites appropriated and recirculated throughout communities.  Users positioned as superior – morally, creatively and technically  Piracy ‘justified’ in different ways but usually framed as resistance to EA.  Prominence of ‘UGC should be free’ discourses – partly due to EA TOU and ownership.  EA seen as ‘playing favourites’ – becoming one of those VIPS is seen as fans being appropriated by EA.  Resistance to UGC through fear and/or respect for EA.
  • 27. References Flanagan, M.and Nissenbaum, H.(2008). Design Heuristics for Activist Games' in Y B Kafai et al (Eds) Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming (pp. 265-280). Cambridge: MIT. Gee, J.P. and Hayes, E. (2010). Women and Gaming: The Sims and 21st Century Learning. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. Jewitt and Yar (2013) ‘Consuming the illegal: Situating piracy in everyday experience’, Convergence, 19(1) 3-8. Laukkanen, T (2005), Modding Scenes, University of Tampere. Lindgren and Linde (2012) 2012) The subpolitics of online piracy: A Swedish case study , Convergence: 18( 2) 143-164.
  • 28. References Moore, P (2013), ‘We can do better’, EA News, April 5. Morran, C (2013), ‘EA Makes Worst Company in America History,’ Consumerist, April 9. Postigo, H (2010), ‘Modding to the Big Leagues’, First Monday, 5 (3). Schreier, J (2012), ‘Worst Company on America EA says Haliburton must be relieved…’, Kotaku. Sihvonen, T. (2011). Players Unleashed! Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.