You’re probably wondering why there’s a picture at the top of the page of Zachary Quinto’s appearance on Conan O’Brien this week. Well, just bear with me. Many famous actors and directors often do a series of late night shows to promote a movie or some other piece of work. While these appearances often look like an interview (there’s an “interviewer” and an “interviewee”) and sound like an interview (interviewees reveal some “candid” detail about their project or themselves), it’s definitely not a real interview. Most if not all of the dialogue is written in advance, guests either pick or invent a juicy story about their life, and they all have nothing but wonderful things to say about those they worked with. It’s fiction in the guise of an interview in order to promote something, in the case of a late night show it’s usually a movie. So why is this all important? Well it seems I’ve found an example of this within the game industry after Blizzard released a video of “interviews” about Diablo III shifting support to consoles.
The video in question looks a lot like an interview and sounds a lot like the developers and other assorted people at Blizzard are answering some tough questions about their decision to move Diablo III to the PS4, but just like with Conan, it’s not a real interview. It’s just enough information to sound legitimate, but it’s clearly a little promotion aimed at nudging people into accepting their decision. It’s not like promotions are a bad thing and I don’t really have a specific problem with this one per se, but seeing as game consumers generally eat-up interviews with developers about upcoming projects, it’s become more important to differentiate between the real interviews and the promotional fluff.
I guess by nature every interview promotes something in a way, in this case it’s a game, but it really could be any other product or even a point of view. In Blizzard’s case the interview both promotes Diablo III and the point of view that moving the game to the console isn’t a bad thing, in fact if you’ve watched the video, it was almost divine intervention that the two should come together.
My problem with this whole approach is that an interview is generally a place where a person is asked questions and then gives answers. Also, the concept of an interview comes from journalism and may be perceived as being more open and truthful… which is exactly why they chose the format, it appears more truthful even though everyone knows what they are going to say ahead of time. The subject isn’t the problem, for all I know the game is ten times better with a controller in your hand, but using the mock interview format to tell me about it makes Blizzard seem more like an evil empire and less like the champions for consumers they claim to be.
They aren’t the only company in the game industry who hope to sway your opinion using this method. Many of Riot’s patch previews for LoL use a similar setup, with an in-house community manager “asking questions” to an in-house developer. It’s not a bad way to get information to players and it’s also a good way to soften the blow of any incoming nerfs. I’m not saying that they aren’t genuine, but more and more often we are seeing information sifted through promotional filters.
I’m not saying all interviews or even promotions are bad, but marketing something as a “Conversation with the Creators” when it’s anything but is a little disingenuous. My final thought? Consumers who haven’t already should begin learning to tell the difference between real information and fake promotional material.