The Gaming Industry Profits Off Our Rage

The Gaming Industry Profits Off Our Rage

In the past few months we have been caught in an incredible two sided argument over progressivism in gaming. Between Anita Sarkeesian, #GamerGate, and everyone else who comes out as for or against more equal representation of women and minorities in games, forums continue to blow up with arguments about whether or not certain games are glorifying violence against women, whether or not certain games should change their character designs, whether or not games are flat out racist or homophobic, and so on.

But while both sides of this argument continue to rage on, trying to win, sometimes through acceptable means like civil discourse, other times through less acceptable means like death threats, doxxing, and falsifying information, someone has already won the day. That someone isn’t either of the sides in the argument, but rather game developers and publishers who stand to profit off our rage.

As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Essentially, even if a product is the subject of a scandal, its name is still spread to the public. In a more benign sense, this means that hating a game actually helps that game to thrive. Every time we see a “ Call of Duty needs to die” article, for example, it is only really solidifying Call of Duty ’s place as the king of first person shooters. You see, even though the article paints Call of Duty in a negative light, people want to see for themselves. They want to know what all the fuss is about, which creates greater sales for Activision, which creates this love hate cycle that only helps them prosper.

Call of Duty isn’t actually trying to attract negative press. It’s just existing and people hate on it for one reason or another. But this isn’t always the case. MattPat from Game Theory recently released a video showing other franchises that purposefully use scandal to drum up publicity. Hatred , everyone’s favorite scandal du jour, was brought up as a game that tried to make people angry; a relatively simple game that, frankly, we wouldn’t have looked at twice if it weren’t for the scandal surrounding it. But Hatred isn’t anything new. Grand Theft Auto was taking advantage of this very same scandal buzz when it first came out for the PC and PS1.

Now combine this with the theory of thought germs that I talked about in a previous article. Remember that the thoughts in an argument seek to self-replicate, just like a living organism. Combine this with outrage over a game or series of games and what do we get? Self-perpetuating, self-replicating, self-distributing advertisement.

The Gaming Industry Profits Off Our Rage

Here’s a practical example of how all this can go down. Anita Sarkeesian uses a Hitman game as an example in one of her videos. Responsible supporters and opponents of her position then need to experience that same Hitman game to participate in the discussion. Not everyone will do so, but a certain portion on both sides will go out of their way to purchase the game, just so they can talk about it. These people then start spreading the argument amongst themselves, with “look at this social injustice” on one side and “Anita Sarkeesian doesn’t know what she is talking about” on the other. Both of these sides are spreading an example using a Hitman game, which again will cause a certain portion of their population to buy said game. This will continue until someone makes a supportive or counter argument using an example from another game. “But what about Bayonetta ,” they say. Now both sides of the argument start spreading this example, which once again will make a certain portion of both sides purchase the game. This loop continues, spreading wider as it does, generating sales revenue all the while.

Hilariously, this means that the best financial strategy is to make a game that is both progressive and not progressive at the same time. Essentially, the best games give people something to argue about. The new Tomb Raider is a good example. One group of people calls it a truly progressive portrayal of female empowerment, another group calls it disgusting torture porn of a helpless protagonist, yet a third group says that her popularity is tied to strong lesbian overtones, and yet more people say the game’s success has absolutely nothing to do with any of these issues.  Yet articles about the game continue to be written, far after the game released, and each article spurs sales a little bit. Heck, this article is one of them!

Game popularity is, itself, also a thought germ, and as I said in my previous article, anger spreads thought germs most effectively. So this really makes you wonder whether or not games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto would be as popular as they are now if it weren’t for their original scandals. Regardless, we have plenty of scandal to go around, and it only increases by the day, and as we decide to fight for things that we believe are important ethical and moral principles, game developers and publishers are watching on the sidelines, riding our outrage right to the bank.

What do you think? Do you think that the gaming industry is profiting off our rage? Rage it out in the comments.

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