Don't Say Anything About Anything. Ever.

While it may not have been a breach of the NDA he obviously was held to, 3D artist Josh Robinson was fired from Sony for comments he posted on his blog. Click to read the interview with the ex-employee. What did he say that got him the axe? What everyone else is saying: that everyone he has spoken with in the development community says that the Xbox 360 is far easier to develop for than Sony's Playstation 3. Well... duh. Nevermind the fact that as of the CES show last month, Sony still had empty PS3 consoles due to the internal hardware having not been finalized yet (something that would probably aid developers in making games), but he even had other Sony employees proof the article before posting.

Did I knowingly break NDA? I absolutely did not. I would never do that and I would never want to hurt Sony Online. Did I dance in the grey area by even opening my mouth? Yes I did and I was fired for it. So I guess the new rule for me is, don’t ever say anything at all about anything. Ever...ever.

Those of us who deal with Non-Disclosure Agreements regularly can find ourselves at times struggling with what can be said and what can't be. Usually, this is because positive statements are often allowed, if not encouraged. Also, because it can be very hard to devote 10 or 12, and sometimes even 16 to 20 hours a day on a project and then eliminate that part of your life from your everyday conversation with family and friends. Case in point, I was working on-site on a strategy guide and was told that "if [I] told anyone about the story in the game, [my] body would wash up on a beach". So here I was working night and day 1200 miles from my wife for two weeks and couldn't answer the simple "how was your day" when she called at night. Factor in the fact that every shmuck has their own blog these days (Exhibit A: me) and has several different aliases for various message boards, it can be all too easy to make a slip of the keyboard and type something you shouldn't even be mentioning.

And, although the "wash up on a beach" comment was particularly lame (especially considering that particular game went on to set records for in-store-returns), it was far from an isolated incident. I can't even tell you how many times I've been working on-site and was not allowed to even let that company's employees see the game. It's one thing to not trust an independent contractor like myself, but their own nine-to-fivers? Or in the gaming industry's case, their own ten-to-midnighters?

And this is the lesson that Mr. Robinson and everyone of us in the industry needs to remember. The powers at be trust nobody when it comes to unreleased product. The gaming industry is fueld by hype. Much of the hype is purchased and controlled in the "gaming press", but an even larger part of the hype machine is powered by gamers and their incredible ability to persuade other gamers through the online community. And few things stoke that fire like a negative comment from a developer or other industry insider.

Had Mr. Robinson have raved about a particular level he was designing in an as-of-yet unanounced game, he would have probably been reprimanded and put on probation, but not fired. But because he said something negative -- even though it's a surprise to nobody -- he got fired. And that's the way it goes when image is everything.

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