I’m a big fan of the gaming site Destructoid, it’s one of my favorite sites on the Web. Today, Allistair Pinsof posted something that I think is misrepresentative judging by the comments left on the post (and I don’t he did it intentionally, but rather the source material is oddly pieced together. You can find the post in question here.
The headline is “New THQ president wants an adult humor-free Saints Row,” but I think that’s reading too far into a comment THQ president Jason Rubin made to another site (Polygon/The Verge). And to be fair to Allistair, the Polygon piece makes it easy to make assumption the way it starts off with a similar theme. But it lacks context.
In the Destructoid piece, we get this quote from Jason Rubin:
“Why couldn’t that be a Red Dead Redemption or a Skyrim?” Rubin asked. “I look at that title and I say, ‘Who cares what it is and why it got to be what it is? From that team we can make something that isn’t embarrassing.”
Both Destructoid and Polygon immediately point out under that that Rubin isn’t embarrassed by the game (Allistair says Rubin isn’t embarrassed by the quality of the game, but rather finds the mature comedic presentation to be embarrassing).
Naturally, this has people jumping all over Jason Rubin about how he wants to destroy Saints Row and make it something that Saints Row isn’t. What the conversation needs, before jumping to assumptions, is context and this is where Brian Crecente at Polygon really dropped the ball.
What brought about the embarrassing comment? Well, if you read the entire article on Polygon, you’ll know exactly where it comes from. and it’s just a little ways down from the beginning but I think it’s how they should have started the article off as it provides all the context.
The relevant section is quoted, in it’s entirety below.
It’s about half way through our interview, one in which Rubin talks bluntly about past mistakes of THQ, of the problems he foresees for the company, of the challenges he and THQ face, that I broach the subject of Saints Row the Third.
I haven’t played the game, I confess to Rubin, because I wouldn’t want to be caught playing it by my wife or my son. It would be embarrassing.
While most reviews for the game were positive, Edge Magazine seems to have felt the same way when they gave the game a relatively low score in their review, calling the title a “fratboyish endorsement of crime and female degradation, devoid of any conscience or commentary.”
Saints Row the Third isn’t a bad game, but it’s not the sort I’d want to play, I tell Rubin. Then I ask him if he thinks that’s an issue.
“That’s why I am here,” he said, after saying he wants more from Volition, “because of what you just said.”
The quote about an embarrassment and Red Dead Redemption/Skyrim isn’t included in this part, but rather to start the post, even though it clearly would have be said during this portion of the interview. As you can see, it’s Brian Crecente who admits to Jason Rubin that he hasn’t played the game because he thinks it would be embarrassing if he got caught playing it by his wife or his son.
Jason is saying that the Volition team is talented enough to where they can make something that rivals a Red Dead Redemption, or a Skyrim, that guys like Crecente wouldn’t be embarrassed to play. Crecente even followed up immediately after the embarrassing part with an editor’s note pointing out that Rubin told him he loved Saints Row: The Third.
To that end, I agree completely with Jason; Volition could make something a lot better than a juvenile comedic Saints Row. There’s nothing wrong with being over the top, but when you start making games and including stuff just for the sake of trying to appeal to a young male age group that isn’t even old enough to purchase the game (and that’s all a giant purple dildo bat is; and no, beating someone with a dildo bat isn’t humorous).
But to reiterate, since I think Rubin is being unfairly attacked (not by Crecente or Allistair, but by general commenters around the gaming community), context matters. It was Crecente who was embarrassed by the game’s humor, Rubin was just pointing out that the team is talented enough to make a large open world game that people wouldn’t find embarrassing.