If you watched this year’s The Game Awards, you will have witnessed Geoff Keighley hanging Konami out to dry for refusing to let Metal Gear Solid auteur Hideo Kojima attend the show. In addition to being perhaps the most naked insight we’ve received on the whole Kojima/Konami debacle, it was a raw truth of the kind so rare in this industry. Were The Game Awards not Keighley’s private endeavour, it is unlikely that his PR team would have allowed him to be so blunt. As we’ve recently seen, publishers tend not to appreciate exposure of their secrets. Konami might on be its way out of the video game industry, but it’s still refreshing to see Keighley call the company out so unreservedly.
Keighley’s frankness got me thinking: what the video game industry really needs is a watchdog agency. A group dedicated to monitoring and investigating the rights, regulations, and working conditions of all parties involved in the creation of video games. The movie industry in America has the MPAA, the organisation responsible for the film rating system that governs movies to this day. The music industry in Australia has ARIA, supporting artists big and small through intellectual property protection, royalty insurance, and awards exposure. Even journalism itself is subject to scrutiny by organisations like FAIR.
Fun fact: ESRB ratings are entirely voluntary at the retail level, meaning stores likes Gamestop don’t legally have to obey them.
The video games industry, though, receives no such oversight. All we have is people like Jack Thompson stereotyping games as violence simulators, and organisations like the ESRB examining the games themselves in oftentimes unrepresentative vertical slices. Designers and developers involved in the actual creation of the games have no one looking out for them in cases of rights abuse or employee mistreatment. As I mentioned earlier, Keighley’s comments regarding Kojima’s absence were quite literally the most we’d heard on the topic. Kojima’s contract with Konami undoubtedly prevents the man himself from speaking up, and it’s that kind of suppression of the ugly truth that hurts the people responsible for creating the games we so love.
Watchdog groups are far from perfect. They typically have little to no official power, are looked down upon by the industries they scrutinise, and frequently lack the resources and personnel to tackle the biggest and most deeply entrenched issues at hand. But for all their flaws, their purpose is one worth promoting. The video games industry could use a little more openness - just ask Kojima.