EA Worst Company in America

Oh come off it, seriously. EA the worst company in America? Are you sure? What about the companies that makes bombs and guns and that pizza with hotdog sausages in the crust? I'm pretty sure they're all worse than Electronic Arts, especially when they charge £17 for a medium Hawaiian.

In case you haven't seen the news, an online poll run by Consumerist has named EA the worst company in the US for the second year running. Probably because of the controversy around micro-transactions in Dead Space 3 and Real Racing, and the botched launch of Sim City, gamers voted EA worse than student loan company Sallie Mae, which in 2007 was sued for charging higher interest rates to black students; and Wal-Mart which due to limits on time and word count I don't have time to criticise in full. I recommend instead that you watch the entire film dedicated to covering the company's professional malpractice.

Entitlement

This reeks of gamer entitlement. In a restrained blog post, just ahead of the Consumerist poll being announced, EA COO Peter Moore said: "The complaints against us last year were our support of SOPA (not true), and that they didn't like the ending to Mass Effect 3...our audience lives on the Internet. No surprise that we drew more votes there" referencing, I think, a culture of enfranchised game players who believe it's their prerogative to have everything just so.

The Sim City launch was kind of a wash and, yeah, micro-transactions are a bit fiddly and insidious but...ugh...just shut up. "Lives on the internet" is right. When I think of the people who voted EA into the Consumerist "top spot" they're spoiled, bratty young men who think piracy is ok and that The Man - the game industry man, at least - is always trying to screw them out of their hard given-to dollars. They have a tiny worldview. The desktop that they spend so much time in front of is arranged just how they like it. In their heads, it only follows that computer games should be too.

They're not thinking; they're just angry. And they're not even angry at EA as a company, they're just angry at what EA did to them, specifically. They're like the guy who calls up Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 to say: "Hey, I got a question. If we're giving all these bankers big bonuses, I work 40 hours a week in a warehouse - where's my bonus?" They don't care about the bigger problem. They're just annoyed.

EA Named Worst Company Peter Moore
EA COO Peter Moore

And they're absolutely rampant in gaming. Games are, typically, an impassive medium - they encourage their audience to interact and partake. But what that does is create confusion among players who feel like because they can pick what hairstyle Commander Shepard wears they can also decide Mass Effect's plot, or how the company that makes Mass Effect should be run. Compared to films or books the games that entertain us are much more "ours"; not only do we buy them, we help, by playing them, to create them.

I think that's where this entitlement comes from. Because people have a hand in making their own experience of a game, they feel like they can claim ownership over that game or developer as a whole. That's why EA is at the top of that poll: It didn't do what XXXGAM3R4LIEFXXX wanted it to do.

EA's door

But spoiled gamers aside, I still don't get what EA did to be named worse than, I dunno, Lockheed Martin. The company's made some missteps certainly, but not in isolation. The Sim City snafu was predated by about a year when Diablo III, by Blizzard, failed to launch. And micro-transactions are no new evil, either. Temple Run, which is currently doing pretty ruddy well on the iPhone, is packed with them. I don't see why this is being laid at EA's door.

The horrible cynic in me (i.e. me) wonders if this is less related to EA's corporate practices and more to its activism around LGBT rights. But that couldn't be, could it? It couldn't be that hardcore gamers, the same hardcore gamers who sent Anita Sarkeesian death threats for wanting to discuss women in games and refused to play Metal Gear Solid 2 because Raiden was too much of a "fag" would actively go out of their way to besmirch a company that was vocally supportive of gay and trans people, could it? No, that's just silly.

Mass Effect 3 EA Worst Company
EA was forced to change the ending to Mass Effect 3 when gamers decided they didn't like it

Anyway, returning quickly to gamer entitlement, here's a snippet from the Consumerist's response to EA taking the award a second time:

"Fans of the first two games, who had invested large chunks of time and money, were left with an empty feeling after reaching the obviously rushed endgame...The reaction to ME 3 was so negative and so widely publicized, EA was compelled to release a slightly more satisfactory ending only a few months later."

I really don't see how being threatened and coerced into releasing a new ending for Mass Effect reflects badly on EA. If we could somehow get General Public Ltd. listed on the Nasdaq, well, at least next year EA would come second.