There was once a time when gamers wanted to be taken seriously. We used to see articles calling for games to be considered art, and used to talk about a future in which games aren’t just seen as toys for children and immature adults. If our recent news, discussion topics and behavior are any indication though, that time has most certainly passed. Along with a veritable slough of fan media chock-full of inflated complaints, our most vocal and/or extreme elements are seemingly always ready to turn even the smallest of things into an issue. Year after year this has gone on, and lately it’s only gotten worse. Just look at the past few months: we’re currently lambasting a game over something as inconsequential as facial animations, we turned a single pose for one multiplayer game character into an issue simultaneously about sensitivity and censorship, and let’s not forget all the death threats sent to Hello Games for the routine action of delaying a game. Clearly, if we ever hope to be taken seriously as both a medium and community, then we need to start recognizing our faults and working to resolve them.
Even though games have been around for over 40 years now, the face of our community appears more juvenile than ever. Why is that? It might be because just about every molehill gets turned into a mountain these days. Take the controversy surrounding the “Over the Shoulder” pose for Overwatch’s Tracer for example. Basically, a small group took issue with it, sparked an incredibly heated debate over it, and Blizzard eventually removed it. That should have been the end of it, but instead we got an even more heated and nasty argument about censorship. While it’s important to have conversations about such topics, this was an ultimately small change that got blown way out of proportion.
We mustn’t forget about all the troubles surrounding No Man’s Sky either. If the removal of a victory pose from Overwatch should have been a minor thing, then the delay of No Man’s Sky should have been a non-issue. Except that it wasn’t. The biggest gaming controversy of 2016 was one created entirely by the overblown “fan” reaction to a standard industry practice. Instead of being met with a bit of the usual grumbling that normally accompanies a delay announcement, many “fans” of No Man’s Sky flung themselves into a fit. Along with all manner of internet fury, they sent out death threats. The first target was the journalist who broke the news, and then Hello Games itself after the delay was confirmed. Instead of the delay being the minor news point it should have been, it was turned into what amounted to the most visible and spectacular temper tantrum of the last several years, and was an utter embarrassment to the entire video game community.
Thankfully we haven’t had anything of that magnitude happen in 2017 (yet), but the year is still young and we’ve already found at least one otherwise inconsequential thing to blow out of proportion. The “controversy” surrounding the facial animations of Mass Effect: Andromeda is still going on two weeks after it started and still dominates the greater conversation surrounding the game. Now I’ll admit that I’m a Mass Effect fan, so maybe my own view is a bit colored here, but I have to say that this one baffles me. Yes, the animations aren’t very good. In fact, you could even call them bad. That said though, why are they even an issue? Facial animations are something that belongs in the footnote of a review, not sitting in the center of the conversation for over two weeks. The game has many other, more impactful, problems with it that we could be spending our time talking about, yet it’s the facial animations that so many people are hung up on. Some even went so far as to single out and relentlessly harass one female developer who may not have even worked on the game because of this.
Why is this happening? How can so many of us, our news outlets included, get so incredibly worked up over something that barely affects the game? Are we really such a juvenile and petty community that we’ll bury games, developers and even unrelated people over almost nothing? Aren’t we better than that? Well right now, all one would have to do to decide that we aren’t is to look at any conversation following any announcement for any game. How could we not look immature to outsiders if virtually everything generates anger and mudslinging?
So what do we do then? We are simply a collection of people that enjoy the same hobby, so there’s no real quick and easy solution here. However, I do believe that there are changes we can make as individuals that will help our community to continue to mature. The first change we can make: taking a moment to stop and think before reacting to something. Currently, we seem to be ruled by the knee-jerk reaction. Opinions and emotions flare up instantly with each piece of news that comes out. We get very excited quickly, we get very angry quickly, and lately our most outspoken elements have been getting very defensive and even abusive very quickly. Instead of instantly feeding into the latest frenzy, why not wait a beat to see what you really think and consider how the news actually affects you or the game you like? I think doing so would go a long way towards avoiding more fan-made controversies.
The other thing we could focus on is working to show respect. Just about everyone commenting about games or gaming news loves gaming too, so why not work to show a measure of respect for that? I say “work” because being respectful is most certainly not an effortless thing, and at times it can even be an incredibly difficult thing to do. However, if more of us were to work to show respect to our peers and the creators of the games we enjoy so much, we could potentially become a shining example of what an internet community should be rather than one of the more outspoken examples of what online communities typically are.
As we currently stand, video gaming still has some growing to do before it’ll be taken seriously as a medium like films, and we should be a part of that growth. Most gamers are absolutely content to quietly enjoy their hobby and influence games with their purchases, and that’s totally fine. However, that means it’s up to the rest of us here on the internet to counter-balance our most outspoken elements and change the very ugly and juvenile face that’s been created for our community. It’s not something we can change overnight, but it can be overcome if we each work to temper our reactions, work to show respect, and do our best to remember the positives even in the face of bad news. We certainly aren’t the only online community with a less-than-upstanding side to it, but that just means we have an opportunity to show the others that we can all be better.
What’s your take on the state of the gaming community? Is there anything about it you would like to see changed?