Turning Away From Controversy

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?

Lede image by Flickr user John McCarthy (CC)

10 Comments Add yours

  1. duckofindeed says:

    I definitely agree that the gaming community needs to change. More than likely, most of us are not starting any trouble. Unfortunately, it’s the outspoken few who think outrage and death threats are acceptable that make us gamers look bad. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about our games; it’s just a problem when people perceive a negative aspect of a game as almost a personal insult. The rest of us just need to lead by example, so to speak, and show that this kind of behavior will no longer be tolerated.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hundstrasse says:

    I’m reading more and more of these types of posts… And whilst it’s great that we can put a spotlight on these types of issues, and hopefully say “this isn’t the gaming community that I want”, it’s also really upsetting because you’re (hopefully) preaching to the choir here.

    I’m not shy in mentioning that gaming is a pastime that i will defend and that it has some of the most amazing pockets of community online, I will also go pretty quiet and sheepish if I’m asked about the more vocal, abusive, and nasty elements. The truth is that most gamers are like me, we hate (I don’t use the word lightly) these elements in the community, but aren’t willing to stick out our necks to do anything about it… Unfortunately that just makes us silently complicit in their behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You make a good point. Many of would rather see this stuff go away on its own without getting involved ourselves, lest we invite the wrath of those outspoken elements.

      We would like to just enjoy our games and enjoy talking about them. That’s what engaging in a hobby is about. Still, we need to do our best to condemn this behavior when it comes to light and focus on doing better ourselves. Hopefully, it’ll help our general community become more positive, and that would (hopefully) reach those outspoken people in a way that posts like this one never could.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hype and hysteria sell. And in a world full of fast-paced media, the loudest voices with the most flashy headlines turn heads. And, because many people want to be in the “in” crowd, many will follow along. I also think technology has made it easier to be surrounded by people who simply agree with you, so you *can* be unreasonable toward others because you can cut them out of your life if you really want, and still have plenty of people to talk to.

    I mentioned a long time ago what I’d like to see in the gaming awards, and it applies to the game community as well. I think the people in the public eye set an example (not just the corporations, but the average Joes on YouTube and on website that folks look up to and respect), people may fall in line a bit. But as long as our awards show features our worst stereotypes proudly, I don’t think we can expect a change. If the ones in the public eye won’t lead the charge, who will?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      A very good point. You’re right, popular people in the community function as thought leaders of a sort. We all need to work towards a better community, but it would definitely be easier if those popular voices would help lead the charge.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Imtiaz Ahmed says:

    good write up on a pretty important topic. I agree this behaviour needs to change. Yes there are things we will dislike but there are civilized ways to disagree on things. I’m going to use my wife and I as an example, there’s a lot we agree on, obviously :p but there are things we disagree on and it doesn’t mean each of those disagreements has to be a fight, we can respectfully state our opinions, and discuss it peacefully.

    I will say I don’t think this is a problem with just gaming, it’s the internet culture as a whole. Going through youtube vids of some of my favourites, again I understand not everyone will like the same music as me or be fans of that band, but comments are usually plagued with, my band is better than your band, or i’m a better drummer etc. It’s pretty bad everywhere

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Definitely true. Internet culture itself is pretty toxic. Still, things can only change one step at a time. I’m thinking the gaming community has an opportunity to become a shining example of what internet culture should be. We just need to step up and work towards making respectful and civilized behavior the norm.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree as well. It’s more than a problem behind gamers, but it seems to be more prolific with gamers. In the age of keyboard warriors, many are quick to offer knee-jerk reactions to a thing rather than marinating on a choice. With the example of MEA, instead of jumping to a conclusion about the game I decided to play it for a bit. Of course, there are much bigger issues with the game like the buggy nature of it right now and perhaps some fans like me are not happy with the inability to change their character outside of presets….but I think we all need to take a deep breath before we share our opinion about something you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. duckofindeed says:

      People definitely have a habit of reacting before they have had a chance to calm down or gather further information. And even then, we have to stop seeing problems with our games as cause for anger. No one likes when a game we’ve been excited for doesn’t meet expectations, but it happens. Often enough, a game exceeds our expectations (as was the case with Breath of the Wild), but those successful games usually gain far less dramatic reactions. Anger is a more powerful emotion than happiness, it would seem.

      Liked by 1 person

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