CVG had a broad and probing chat with Activision lieutenant Eric Hirshberg recently, in which the topic of conversation eventually turned to Treyarch spokesdev David Vonderhaar. Vonderhaar announced a teeny Black Ops 2 balance tweak in July that prompted much consternation among his community – up to and including, sadly, personal threats.
“I love that we have a passionate audience, people who are engaged and opinionated, that’s a gift for people being creative,” said Hirshberg in his first public words on the response. “But some people took things way too far, and threats of physical violence is absurd and I obviously do not accept it.”
“Call of Duty is a game that 40 million people will play this month,” he mused. “First off, anything that 40 million people will do is going to result in maybe a few behaving in way that you wish they wouldn’t.
“I think David handled himself with wonderful grace, and I think anyone in the industry who has been through something similar – myself included – can sympathise and relate. We are, in the end, in this business with our fans. I just feel some people need to get things into perspective a little better.”
Hirshberg objected to the idea that developers could do anything meaningful to counter threats in the future, however.
“I don’t know what [making a stand] looks like, or how it could even be done, when you have this mass of ways to connect and huge communities attached to digital ecosystems,” said the CEO of Publishing.
“Being a creative person is an exhausting way to make a living,” he added. “You earn every dollar when you are making something for a living, because you put all of yourself into it. And then you put your creation out there to be judged.
“The amount of time and passion that goes into these games is dramatic. These guys kill themselves for their work, and it’s not like we don’t want to hear from people if they have negative things to say about our games, because we always want to make things better.
“So on one hand I think developers have to be ready to receive the praise and critiques, but at the same time I feel some fans need perspective.”
It’s that potent mix of anonymity and passion that we’re all so overfamiliar with. Overfamiliar doesn’t have to mean accepted, though. Is there something to do be done?