Games are wonderful because we can get as much as we want out of them depending on how much we put into them. This is true from both a mechanical and artistic standpoint. Just because I’m not well-read on Nietzsche doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Persona 4 , and just because I’m terrible at online shooters doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy competing against my friends – although I’m sure by becoming more well read or brushing up on these skills could help enhance my overall enjoyment.
I don’t care how good you are at video games. As long as you enjoy what you’re playing, then why should I ruin your experience by reminding you of how terrible you are? However, not everyone feels the same as I do. Just take a look at Polygon’s footage of DOOM and look at how some have responded. Yikes! Admittedly, I think I could have put on a better performance than Polygon did. I’m not sure what happened, nor am I a content strategist or an editor of a gaming website. If I was in their shoes, my first instinct would have been to give the game to someone who is familiar with first-person shooters when showing it off before a live audience. Just sayin’.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about this now considering how apathetic I am towards the competency one has for a video game. This is why: people are arguing again about the competency of games journalists if they’re not even good at video games.
Polygon has become an easy target as of late. I noticed such vitriol during the #GamerGate movement, have noticed people taking the piss out of them since then (although I wouldn’t be surprised if this has been going on since the site’s inception). Polygon’s performance of DOOM does not help its credibility in the eyes of its detractors. To some, this blunder is one of the many signs of the incompetence of games media.
I don’t think it’s necessary for games journalists to be the best at video games. They don’t even need to be that good at every video game because, well, no one will be automatically good at every game. It takes time to become proficient in just one game. If you’re familiar with a genre, then you’ll have a better chance of quickly and subconsciously recognizing its schemas and then adapting to the controls.
I’m not sure what that Polygon’s employee’s excuse is, but I know from experience that journalists rarely have time to dedicate to mastering one game, and they rarely need to. Here are a few of the qualities I look for when I decide to follow a games journalist or blogger:
- Has working general or specialized knowledge
- Is passionate about the industry while withholding bias
- Offers valuable insight or a unique perspective
- Is capable of telling a compelling story
At the bottom of the list is how good he or she is at video games.
In that regard, I agree with most of Garrett Martin’s piece, The ‘Git Gud’ Mentality is Why People Don’t Take Games Seriously , mostly because he brings up an excellent point: Polygon is not just writing for the hardcore gamers, which is why they write stories that might appeal to those with a casual interest in the medium. They’re supposed to be communicators interested in telling stories.
I’m a bit hesitant to agree with him that the “git gud” mentality is ruining the medium because, well, the medium appeals to both the creative and analytical sides of the brain. You can analyze a game for the most logical way to beat a boss Dark Souls III or analyze the philosophy behind it. When playing in front of an audience – when you put yourself out on the internet – people will judge you for the former – aka, your competency. I can sympathize with players who are ridiculed, because I’ve endured similar insults as a writer. But if I quit everything that a detractor tells me to, then there would be nothing left for me to do except curl up into the fetal position and die. If you haven’t been gaming for a while, then you might think it’s not worth enduring such abuse, but the competitive spirit has always been a part of gaming – we could certainly use a bit more e-sportsmanship.
Actually, that bit about the death threats is a pretty big one, but it’s mostly indicative of what I think is the biggest problem: nobody knows how to have respectable discourse on the internet. We cherry-pick our opponents’ statements and place them on memes used to ridicule them, ignoring the context surrounding those words. This isn’t unique to games, but the divide between games media and their detractors can’t be ignored. By all means, scrutinize everything piece of games journalism you read online, but calling someone out for not being good at DOOM is just reaching for the low-hanging fruit.
Still, Polygon could have saved themselves a headache had they gone with someone good.