Earlier today, it was revealed the independent video game site Giant Bomb has been sold to CBS, owners of GameSpot. The two companies have a somewhat fractious history, since the former was founded by journalists who had previously worked for the latter, but were fired or resigned during a rather contentious period in 2007-08. Giant Bomb is generally regarded very positively in the gamer community, while I think it’s fair to say that GameSpot isn’t so much.
So when the news was released, of course, that same gamer community lost its collective mind.
Everyone who is a part of digital culture — which is increasingly synonymous with simply saying “everyone” — is a part of a number of different communities. We read and comment on blogs, we follow personal and corporate streams on Twitter or G+ or Facebook, we browse wikis and listen to podcasts and watch videos, oftentimes all at the same time. And with every click, we interact with a community. We invest, at the very least, our time and attention; we may also add to that our creativity, our loyalty, our hopes and even our sense of identity. But those communities — with very specific exceptions — do not belong to their members. They are businesses, and if they are not run with the sole intention of making money, that must, necessarily, be high on their list of priorities.
The members of the Giant Bomb community feel invested. A significant fraction feel, judging from the comments and forum threads on the topic, entitled. That’s unfortunate, because while Giant Bomb was an inclusive, community-oriented company — and may well continue to be so — they have to make the best, smartest decisions for the future of their brand, their content and their business. Sometimes, that will upset members of their community, who will respond with feelings of anger and betrayal. That’s unfortunate, but it’s also irrelevant; the right decision is still the right decision, and making the wrong decision on the say-so of users who feel entitled isn’t good for anyone.
My point is not that the guys at Giant Bomb did the right thing; it’s simply that, as members of their community, we can only choose how we are going to react to the news. I choose to believe that the intelligence and wit which made their website such an enjoyable part of my daily blog tour will still be in evidence, and will lead them to make smart, principled decisions, while still ensuring the long-term survival and success of their business. I’m not entitled to a say in how things work; I simply have the choice to accept the changes and give them a chance, or leave.
All of which is to say that if it all goes wrong, in this as in all things, I’d rather be disappointed than vindicated.