Covering video games is my job, so I’m always steeped in some kind of feed, ticker, or news aggregate. The past few days have been especially frustrating due to the amount of Fallout 4 footage being leaked and shared. I can’t get away from it. Even on Facebook, it’s the topmost trending subject. I’m not sure why any true fan would want all these details and spoilers literally days before release. Pete Hines remarked on Twitter that it’s like watching someone else open your Christmas presents in November and I rather agree. More than that, though, it’s obscenely disrespectful, especially considering the fact that “fans” were bombarding Hines’ Twitter account with questions regarding leaked information they had uncovered, effectively rubbing it in his face. It seems strange to me that gamers are taking this in stride and that the leaked information and footage, instead of being ignored, is being promoted as compelling, breaking news.
Usually “leaks” aren’t a very big deal. Actually, leaks do make good headlines. Whenever we see leaks in the news it’s typically for a game or console that is at least months away from release. Information will take the form of hardware specs, pictures of a controller, details about framerates or resolutions, character designs, and things of that nature. What we’re dealing with here is something more invasive; more disruptive. Bethesda has worked very hard to control the flow of information regarding its game in such a way as to pique anticipation and make the most of launch day for fans. Multiple videos have been released detailing certain skills and perks, character creation and game footage have been showcased, and Bethesda has outlined new gameplay mechanics and features that we can look forward to on November 10.
This is all part of the experience. The footage that we’re given and the way in which Fallout 4 is marketed are just as much a part of development as coding and testing. When we condone and take part in the viewing and spreading of unauthorized, leaked footage before the game is available to consumers, we’re basically giving Bethesda the middle finger, saying, “Thanks for the hard work, but we’ve waited long enough.” There is a sick kind of audacity here that is sadly reflective of a widespread sense of entitlement that is prevalent among those who grew up in the information age. Whenever we want to hear a song, we can stream it from YouTube instead of buying it. If we really want to watch a movie or try out some software, the torrents are widely available. “Let’s plays” and “best of” videos show us every highlight from any game we might want to check out. Because we very rarely have to wait for anything, we feel as though we shouldn’t have to wait for anything.
Those of you who have already pre-ordered the game and have been checking out all of the leaked footage might not see a problem with it. After all, Bethesda is getting your money either way, so what’s wrong with giving that itch a little scratch and taking a peek at what’s coming your way? The problem with that is that you’re viewing Fallout 4 simply as an asset, something contributing to Bethesda’s bottom line, and not as a creative work of art; something that a team of people have poured their hearts and minds into for a very long time, deserving every right to decide exactly how and when it’s distributed, and how and when information is disseminated.
By usurping the right to distribute footage and details amongst ourselves before the game is released, we’ve split a wide chasm of trust that separates Bethesda from its fans. That same team that spent so much time creating this game for fans to enjoy now knows that the “fans” are prematurely spoiling the story for themselves and for others. Will this change the way that Bethesda thinks of its fans? It could, and it probably should. Will it change the way that its PR staff distributes review copies and supports journalists and sites like Cheat Code Central, even when we’re not the ones creating or supporting leaks? You bet it will. Supporting leakers now means you’re asking for less access to information and reviews before the next Fallout game, and that’s bad for everybody.