The situation at 38 Studios is obviously terrible. Bad for the video game industry, bad for the MMOG genre and (likely) bad for the taxpayers of Rhode Island. The saga is far from over, yet most outlets – even an article on LoreHound – have placed most of the blame on Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox pitcher. To be frank, it’s unfair.
For starters, the man knew his role. He didn’t think he’d be the game designer, producer or programmer. To this point, 38 Studios was filled with highly-experienced and successful people at the upper management levels and experienced creators at lower levels. He began the company because he’s a fan of the lush worlds, storytelling and gameplay that MMOGs offer. Essentially, he did what most gamers would do with a large quantity of disposable income, try to fund the creation of the experience of their dreams.
Barring a crazy angel investor, that dream has been shattered, but Schilling is taking far more flak than he rightfully deserves. First off, he didn’t doom the company. There was little inappropriate spending – such as almost 1.5 million dollars on the lore alone – but, according to employees, the company did not spend lavishly on everyday things. Second, he’s become a scapegoat, an easy target to point at by insiders and outsiders due to his previous fame, and let’s face it, lack of industry experience. Employees have stated that the Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, has done exactly that, hoping to save his own political career in the face of his state owing over $100 million (due in the future) in the event of complete collapse to a loan he championed.
Lastly, Schilling was heavily invested in the company’s success. It wasn’t an aspiration, a hobby or a ridiculous second career for the retired pitcher. It was his new career. He was leveraged numerous ways, not just by his reputation, time and passion, but financially. According to reports, Schilling is in the company for around $50 million, nearly half of what he earned during his career in the MLB. No small amount even for an all-star pitcher. And let’s not forget that he’s out of a job now too.
For a Yankee fan, I feel dirty defending the guy, but someone has to. He invested himself, including his financial future, in a product he believed completely viable. An admirable, highly American aspiration. The company he co-founded was then staffed up with competent employees and toiled away at a product that has impressed everyone that’s seen it.
The major mistake was funding. Not being able to find it, then turning to a politician that has used both the ups and downs to his advantage. The downs and recent genre trouble ultimately ending any chance at receiving a stay of execution.