Apr. 4th, 2012

jackscarab: (Default)
So.

Much could be said about a story with a headline which could be rendered as "Consumerist Readers Vote EA Worst Company in America," especially when that vote is Internet-based, and especially when the announcement came with this stinger:

"Traditionally, the Poo has been delivered on its little red pillow. But this year, we'll give EA three different color options for its pillow, though in the end it's still the same old Poo."

Yes, Mass Effect 3 had something to do with EA beating out companies like Bank of America for "worst," but the terrible ending of a major game trilogy is not enough to bring out over 160,000 voters.

Even if I'm wrong and it is, EA's practices of maintaining high prices and slicing out portions of completed games to be sold as DLC speak to what the article says in the beginning:

"... Consumerist readers ultimately decided that the type of greed exhibited by EA, which is supposed to be making the world a more fun place, is worse than Bank of America's avarice, which some would argue is the entire point of operating a bank."

Do not forget that this is a poll in which all participants were 1). online 2). Consumerist readers 3). who wanted to answer a poll. It is not a highly representative group.

The most important take-away from the poll, for me, is what Consumerist readers prioritize -- and that is not a bad thing. It is not indicative of immaturity, or entitlement, or whatever else. It's a matter of opinion on a very, very basic subject.

Let me try to explain...

The best book I ever read, Terry Pratchett's Nation, takes place mostly on a South Pacific island inhabited by indigenous peoples. The men and women have their own parts of the island, where they live and work and farm. Pratchett described their respective agricultural practices like this:

The Nation grew the big crops in the large field. That was where you found aharo, sugarcane, tabor, boomerang peas, and black corn. There men grew the things that made you live.

In the Place, the gardens of the women grew the things that made the living enjoyable, possible, and longer: spices and fruits and chewing roots. They had ways of making crops grow bigger or more tasty. They dug up or traded plants and brought them here, and knew the secrets of seeds and pods and things. They raised pink bananas here and rare plantains and yams, including the jumping yam. They also grew medicines here, and babies.

Now:

Imagine that one day both the men and the women, as sole stewards of their respective crops, demanded high prices for poor quality goods by unfair and aggravating practices. You buy something from both the men and the women. If both groups were equally greedy and slipshod, which one would sting you the most when you made your purchase? Toward whom would you feel the most resentment?

It is my hypothesis, perhaps unprovable, that the majority of the people who would resent the women would vote EA as "America's worst company" over Bank of America.

EA's services as a video game purveyor are not strictly necessary. They do not "make you live" in the same way as Bank of America's money-keeping, money-lending and mortgage-holding. For a very large number of people, however, video games make life "enjoyable, possible, and longer," and so EA's corporate squeeze is felt more tenderly.

Bank of America makes buying and owning a house a pricey, unfair, annoying process. EA makes enjoying a leading form of life-toleratingly good entertainment anywhere a pricey, unfair, annoying process. The result of the Consumerist poll is nothing but the space between what its online readers believe is more dastardly: greed in a major bank, or greed in a major entertainment company.

Do I agree with the result? Hell no, because EA never tricked people into homelessness, and because plenty of non-EA video games exist. But that doesn't mean I don't understand and sympathize with the winning voters.

Life is much lesser without the things which make it fun. The poll result is nothing but a statement to that effect.

Hopefully EA will take that as a reminder that they are stewards of something important for so many people.

April 2013

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