Guided Drafting Assignment
The Jimquisition — “The Poison of Pre-Order Culture” by Jim Sterling
The source I chose was a video from the Jimquisiton series hosted and written by renowned video game reviewer and video game culture celebrity Jim Sterling. The subject content of the video was the negative impact of pre-order and downloadable content culture on the video games industry as it stands today. This “pre-order culture” can be defined as the encouraging efforts of companies such as developers and retailers involved in the sale of video games regarding making a pre-purchase of a game before launch. This usually entails offering up a small sum to go towards the game before release in order to secure a copy as well as gain access to exclusive content or extra merchandise that cannot be attained any other way. The impact of this “pre-order” culture is something generally taken as a large aid to the corporate agenda in the niche of interactive media. In order to explain this phenomenon and its effects, Jim takes the approach of referencing one game in particular he finds to be a shining example of the ludicrousness of it, Alien: Isolation. After explaining the example, Sterling moves on to a broader criticism of pre-order culture as a whole. On the whole, the source appears fairly credible and useful in terms of presenting the negative case on the topic. However, the rhetoric does suffer more than a small amount of issues.
In the video, Jim begins by mentioning an earlier Alien title, Aliens: Colonial Marines. This game is infamous for having been a large subject of a push for pre-orders, and having been resolved as a flop and a disappointment. He moves on to discuss the new promising title in the series, Alien: Isolation. While in a visual media format, and therefore not exactly full of citations, the information presented is generally considerable as common knowledge, and is very easily verifiable through any number of press releases, articles, or official YouTube sources. All of the factual claims made regarding the setup of the DLC and the chronology of its release are accurate. That being said, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Jim Sterling, again, is a well-respected expert in the field of the video gaming industry. Sterling has garnered a massive following, having previously been a very popular writer for The Escapist magazine. Many consider him an authority on all gaming culture subjects, and have come to take for granted his consideration of facts and resounding effects of controversy.
However, a level of knowledge and conviction to the truth of a subject of such caliber rarely comes without a healthy amount of conviction. It’s just so with Mr. Sterling, as his arguments against what he calls the “pre-order hungry, content flaying triple A industry” are saturated with distaste. While many of his points border on ad hominem attacks on responsible corporations and developers, the subjectivity is more of that of a consumer standpoint. Meaning that, while not being wholly objective, in terms of a source for someone like myself- the source is more than fair in its examination of the phenomenon. The examination itself, however, leaves a bit to be desired. Almost half of the video is spent attacking the bonus content process of Alien: Isolation specifically, while the rest presents a slightly wider examination of the effects that setting a precedent like this will and does have. Again, the source doesn’t have great scope- but it is a fantastic look into the bitter consumer aspect of today’s pre-order culture. And whether acutely focused or not, this controversy is something that has been and will remain relevant for a while yet.
Obviously, Sterling’s goal is to convey the negative impact of pre-order culture on today’s gaming industry. He opens his argument with the slight mention of Aliens: Colonial Marines, and then moves on to his main example of Alien: Isolation, after which he examines the role of pre-orders by pointing out the myriad ways they further the corporate agenda of game industry giants. While there is the unspoken appeal to authority in Jim’s videos being plastered with “The Escapist presents”, the majority of his appeals are to emotion, or ethos, as his impassioned rhetoric leads him to prolific profanity, as well as ridicule of those aforementioned giants. Opening lines such as “this is the triple A video game industry, where decency and dignity are sold separately”, and “What kind of Alien game withholds Sigourney fucking Weaver for DLC? An Alien game made in today’s pre-order hungry, content flaying triple A industry, apparently”. These opening remarks segue into Sterling’s commentary on the “Nostoromo” DLC/pre-order content for Alien: Isolation.
Sterling claims that because Alien: Isolation is an Alien game, the “Nostromo” content, which features stories, cast, and characters from the original Alien film, should come included with the main game. Citing the content’s inclusion of actors Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, and Ian Holm, Sterling states that “This is a perfect example of how desperate and pathetic pre-order culture has become”. However, Alien: Isolation is not based on the stories, does not include the characters, and does not take place in the same setting of the original Alien film. Sterling claims that this is an Alien game that sells the cast of Alien separately, but again, this is misleading. Alien: Isolation is an “Alien game” in the sense that it takes place in the Alien universe. The same was the case with Aliens: Colonial Marines, as well as the number of film sequels that Alien spawned that share the titular word “alien”, e.g. Aliens, Alien 3, etc. While these film sequels and games took place in the same universe as the original Alien, not all of them shared the same characters- and none of them shared the same story. That is because an “alien” title is something that takes place in the xenomorph’s shared universe. It is not an expectancy to see levels incorporating the characters and story of the original title in a video game published in the same universe 35 years later. So the claim that Alien: Isolation is an Alien game in the sense that it’s based on the film in which the events surrounding Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the Nostromo, as Jim Sterling implies, is false.
Sterling later states that the content of the DLC being separate from the main title is like a Die Hard game withholding Bruce Willis. However, this is a false analogy. Die Hard is an episodic series that features the same character during different periods of the same story. Segments of his life. It’s expected of a sequel entry into the “Die Hard” universe to feature this character and a continuance of his story. In the case of Alien: Isolation, however, it isn’t an entry into the continued narrative of the main Alien series featuring Sigourney Weaver, but rather a unique story set within the same universe as Alien. The main storyline of Alien: Isolation features a new protagonist (Ripley’s daughter) in a different setting entirely from the Alien films (both temporally and physically). Thus, saying that Alien: Isolation should be expected to include the cast of the original Alien film as part of its main content solely because they bear the same name is akin to saying something like Marvel’s Iron Man is cheating you out of content it should include by not featuring the Hulk as a playable character, due to his having been featured in Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk game.
Jim Sterling’s Jimquisition series is a well-established and respected forum of video game culture. The video features a great perspective on the consumer side of pre-order culture, and is well supported by examples in the industry today. While having a couple of weak arguments, the source rallies a general dislike of pre-order culture via its appeals to emotion. All in all, as a source regarding the evils of pre-order culture, the video could be adequate in certain applications, if only as a demonstration of the spite felt by consumers in regards to the corporate service of pre-ordering.