on May 6, 2014
This week we’re talking about the ZeniMax vs. Oculus lawsuit, which is sort of being branded as Bethesda vs. Carmack simply because those names are more familiar to people. I hope you’re not coming in here with delusions of me being objective about this. A lumbering jerk corporation is suing a VR company I’m excited about and saying disparaging things about one of my personal heroes.
Still, people have asked what I thought, so here it is. I strongly suspect they already knew what I was going to say, they just wanted to hear me say it. We all know how this works.
I’m feeling pretty grateful today, so let me share some behind-the-scenes info: My original article title was the boring “ZeniMax vs. Oculus”, but I’ve made it clear to the folks at The Escapist that they’re free to re-title them if they like. That could come back to bite me someday if someone were to make a headline that landed me in some sort of controversy, but we’ve been doing this for years now and it’s worked out fine so far. In this case I think the new headline is vastly superior to the one I came up with.
The reason for this is that on a busy, multi-contributor sites like The Escapist, headlines really do matter. They probably matter more than the quality or topic of the writing when it comes to how many people actually read the dang thing. If the headline proposes a question, youNot YOU you, but you know what I mean. naturally want to click through to see the answer. I don’t have to worry about this on my site. If you’re here, you’re probably interested in my content. (Or lost.) But if you’re on The Escapist then you’re probably looking for “something interesting”. You’re foraging for entertainment, and having a juicy title is like a tree producing brightly colored fruit as a means of getting your attention. It just makes good sense. Text-only offerings like my column already have trouble getting noticed in an avalanche of multimedia content. I’m not bitter about that. It’s totally understandable and a natural result of the “journalism as entertainment” thing we have going on the internet. We can bitch about human nature all we want, but that’s probably not a useful way to attack the problem. Much better to just play the headline game, but make sure the content behind the headline is worth reading. I used to sneer at the “top 10 list” approach to producing content, but the problem wasn’t the numbered list, it was the content of the list. It’s completely possible to make a solid and interesting article that lists n thingsMental Floss is a goldmine for this sort of thing.. And in the long run, I suspect the interesting list will out-perform the shallow listThis is actually item #4 on the list of “Top ten reasons Shamus is an idealistic fool”.
Also: In going through four or five different editors at the Escapist, I’ve never once had anyone mess with my text. Nobody ever tried to “punch it up” or “add some spice”, which I know is a problem other freelancers have run into. This is the 170th column I’ve written for the site, and we’ve never had a disagreement over topic or tone. They’ve never spiked an article, and never pressured me to talk about a particular topic. On one or two occasions I might have needed to patch up a paragraph where I wasn’t clear enough, but in general the whole thing is smooth and professional. I realize I’m lucky in the regard and I’m grateful for it.
Also, I can’t help but read the title as “Is ZeniMax Being a Pantsless Troll in Its Claim Against Oculus?” Which makes me think of ZeniMax as Walter White, waving a gun around and generally looking like a crazy person. Which is fitting.