mardi 16 septembre 2014

The Gamer Problem

During the last generation of consoles, I started following gaming news more intently than ever before. I subscribed to many gaming websites, podcasts and even two magazines, participated on gaming-related forums mainly on GameSpot and reddit, started following a slew of gaming channels/websites on Youtube and Facebook, etc. In other words, I dove in the gamer community/culture like never before.

The gaming community is extremely big. Bigger than it has ever been and it's growing by the minute. I've been entertained by the immense creativity of many and by the sheer madness of others. I've enjoyed some passionate discussions on forums and read the most interesting and/or hilarious comments on Youtube. I've read thoughtful letters in magazines and listened to heated debates which swayed my opinions in many ways. I've learned a truck-load about the gaming industry as a whole, the relationship between developers and publishers, how critics tend to analyse games, the meaning of terms like DRM, Third-Party, DLC, Indie, etc. I know also a lot more about gamers in general, how they react to certain companies and genres, how they interact with each other, which games they tend to venerate or hate and how they feel about basically everything gaming-related.

And that's where it started to fall apart for me.

First off all, the amount of hatred generated in gaming circles is staggering. Hatred towards certain publishers (mainly EA and Activision, but not a single one is safe), hatred towards the gamers who own that "other system" or towards the company itself, hatred towards anyone who doesn't adore whichever game/genre/franchise you love with a passion, hatred towards developers for delaying an otherwise-unfinished product, hatred basically towards anyone who doesn't think exactly like you do.

It's mind-blowing. It has become a problem to the point where I'm genuinely surprised whenever I read some love or positivity in forums and/or comments. I'm aware there are people who like to write anything just to piss off others - the so-called trolls - but it's only a fraction of the gaming population.

I've read some of the most spiteful, degrading and inhuman stuff on the Internet for video games. People wishing death, painful sickness and generally horrible things upon others for reasons such as delaying a game a few months. I've read some people on forums who received threats of bodily-harm in their private inbox because they had a different opinion of whether or not a game was good. On this very blog I received a comment which was basically "awful blog, kill urself" (Side note : I gladly accept criticism, let's just be constructive and not suggest suicide). And, obviously, we've all heard of the multiple death and rape threats developers, critics, journalists, publishers receive on public media (mainly twitter), of all places.

I mean, are you fucking serious? Really?

I know "Internet hate" is a phenomenom which has repercussions well beyond the small-but-growing world of video games. I'm a basketball and football fan, and man, the hatred in there is immense. Towards teams, players, journalists, leagues, managers, agents, commissionners, owners, etc. Hatred knows no bound in sports. I get that you don't like the rival team, but wishing painful death upon the whole coaching staff might not be the sanest thing you can do. You might not agree with this national writer, but don't go insulting his whole family whom you've never met and will likely never do. "Internet hate" is prevalent everywhere where religion is mentioned, where politics have a role to play, where movies are discussed, where journalists abound, where religion is debated, etc. Basically everywhere. But this is a gaming blog, so we'll stick to gaming.

The second problem of gamer is closely connected to the first. It has happened quite often that people will display hatred whenever they feel they're owned something. Gamers have an IMMENSE sense of entitlement. If a game is delayed, many will completely go beserk and claim that the company owes them the game or something. Which makes absolutely no sense ; since you haven't bought it, you aren't owed anything. Or when a "weaker" month of PS+ free games come around, thousands will claim that Sony owes them better games than those. Which, again, makes no sense at all. You subscribe to a service which promises two free games per month. It never says anywhere that the two games offered will be $100'000'000-budget games or that you will even like them. If you don't like the games offered, then unsubscribe or simply don't "buy" them. It's really not that hard.

I feel that people need to understand the notion of "voting with you wallet". I've read countless gamers rejecting an game because of the amount of content it proposes. That's fine. If you don't like what the game offers, don't buy it. Simple. The game isn't worth 60 or 70$ for you? Don't buy it. If you buy a game and feel like it's not enough, you can voice your opinion saying that the game isn't as complete or vast as you thought, but not that the developer/publisher owes you anything. YOU chose to buy the freaking game. Live with the consequences. Give it a low score on your blog, don't buy the sequel or whatever, but nobody owes you anything.

Finally, the constant whining in video game-related media is impossible to ignore. It seems like every single gaming-related post, forum, video, comment or other is filled with negativity. Nobody is ever satisfied with anything. That game is too short, too long, controls are too complex, graphics suck, the colors are weird, not enough guns, too many guns, killing someone isn't satisfying, too much gore, not enough gore, not realistic enough, "too" realistic, whatever.

Look, I understand the concept of "not settling for less" and "striving to be better". I'm all for it. It's disappointing when a game fails to meet expectations. However, there's a way to voice our opinion as gamers without sounding like whiny kids. Constructive criticism is what we should aim for as gamers, especially adult gamers. There's a difference between saying "Tis gaem sux ballz" and pointing out what you found lacking or unsatisfying like a normal, rational human. It doesn't help anyone to be overly negative and critical if you're not being constructive and coherent.

And that is the main reason why, instead of spending a few hours per week on gaming websites, I now try to spend less than 30 minutes, if not 15 minutes, per week. And it's a shame because I know I'm missing out on some good stuff and some great people to meet.

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