Every once in a while, a community has to take a hard look at itself. And today, it's gamers' turn.
Let's face it. We hate everything.
Remember the time Square Enix tried to make a linear Final Fantasy game? Hated it. What about all the effort SEGA put into making Sonic work in 3D? Boy, did we hate that. DRM systems that make sure we pay for games before playing? Don't even go there. Heck, even those blockbuster action games that most of us spend all our time with—some people hate those, too. If a game is artsy, it's pretentious; if it involves shooting, it's just playing to the lowest common denominator; if there's a scantily clad woman in it, it's sexist; and if it's casual, it's insubstantial. No matter what they give us, we're not happy.
All this wouldn't be so bad—every effort to entertain people is bound to have its detractors. And for everyone who hates a given game or feature, there's usually someone who likes it. But when we gamers hate something, we don't just mention it to a few friends. No, we take to the Internet forums, write bad reviews on retail websites of games we haven't even played, and vent our frustration by throwing slurs at innocent players in online multiplayer games. Sometimes we even pirate games as a way to tell the industry what we think.
So, first things first: What makes us so cranky?
One reason might be that games are more expensive than most other forms of entertainment. When you see a bad movie, it's not such a big deal, but it's intensely frustrating to spend $60 on a game and then find out that the developers tried to make a Final Fantasy game that's structured like Gears of War. So we whine.
Another reason is that sometimes, things the game industry does are worth hating. I'm no fan of gamers who take games without paying for them—more on that in a second—but it's unfair when the industry punishes paying customers with DRM techniques that make games more inconvenient. It's also been infuriating to watch some companies, most notably EA, disable features on their games so that people who buy used copies have to pay more. And as I mentioned in a Weekly Rant last month, many games these days are released in a half-completed state.
But another reason seems to be that many gamers—not all of us, obviously, but more of us than we'd like to admit—are just bratty, entitled, immature people. Before you come at me with pitchforks—which, by the way, would prove my point—let me explain.
When indie developers offered a "pay what you want" deal for the Humble Indie Bundle, more than a quarter of the people who downloaded it didn't pay anything. As other writers have noted, this is a truly remarkable glimpse into many gamers' psyches. The developers weren't big corporations, there was no DRM, and downloading the games used bandwidth the developers had to pay for. Still, many gamers felt no compunction to contribute. This would seem to suggest that much of the time, we're not whining because we have legitimate grievances; we're whining because no matter what we get, we feel entitled to more.
Yes, it's a minority of gamers who act this way—but it's a sizable minority, and it contributes to the overall low quality of discourse in the gaming community. Any time you look to the forums to figure out what people think of a given issue, you find at least as much sniping as you find reasoned argument.
What's the point of this rant? Certainly, I'm not trying to tell gamers to stop having opinions—a game critic myself, I'm hardly in a position to make such an argument. But what I will argue is this: Before unloading on a new game, trend, or piece of hardware, you should take a deep breath. Think about it for an hour. You might change your mind—and if you don't, the extra time will let you develop your arguments and figure out what's really bothering you.
The gaming world could use more calm debate, and fewer crabby outbursts.
Date: February 13, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*