Players Make Play For Nothing

An insightful post by David Fono about community-based content generation in ARGs and MMOs:

A couple of posts got me thinking about the issue of player generated content recently. Tony Walsh writes generally about players as storytellers as a trend in multiplayer games. Meanwhile (well, a few months ago), Brian Clark writes about his plans for Eldritch Errors, which include a panoply of media products (book, comics, films, etc.) based on the events which are currently unfolding in the immersive narrative. Brian talks about the players of the game as effectively “starring” in the retellings, or at least being largely responsible for their eventual content. Of course, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Most of the creative sweat is being put in by the professional writers, designers, etc. behind the property. But it does represent a significant shift from the way games and entertainment generally is developed — it’s becoming a collaborative process, and the lines between the producer and the consumer are being blurred.

I’m pretty much a fan of this. And superficially, it’s all well and good. But there are some quandaries you get into when a significant portion of your content is materially attributable to an unpaid, uncredited player base. Specifically: Why aren’t they being paid? Why aren’t they being credited? Are the players being taken advantage of? If so, why do they let it happen? And if not, what safeguards can we put in place to avoid declining the slippery slope into outright exploitation? (Mobile Fono)