The complain culture that has become rampant in the videogames community, and how it lends itself (often unknowingly to those contributing to it) to undermining our right to legitimate criticism, is a subject that I've been wanting to discuss for a while now.
For quite some time now we have been hearing reports and have often witnessed for ourselves, the comments made by the increasingly vocal majority of 'gamers' who post abusive and threatening messages to individuals in the videogame publishing and development profession, in a supposed attempt to show their "displeasure" towards a company or an individual for one reason or another. However as I'm sure you're all well aware, more often than not these comments are full of nothing but hateful and abusive personal attacks being made toward an individual and even their family, typically these comments are made up of hate mail, death threats, rape threats and even homophobic accusations made towards the recipients sexual preference (as if somehow that's relevant) needless to say these commenters 'gamers' as some would call them, come across as unstable, violent, angry sociopathsm spewing needless, unjustifiable abuse.
So what is it that these individuals, or companies for that matter, are doing to deserve such hate fuelled disdain? Well just about anything apparently. When Ninja Theory were approached by Capcom to reboot Devil may cry many 'gamers' apparently thought they were justified in sending hatemail to the small development team, you could argue Ninja Theory's poor PR and general bad attitude toward core DMC fans brought a lot of the hate on themselves, but then it begs the question, just who in the right mind sends death threats due to a videogame franchise getting a reboot? Also, not too long ago Gearbox received much hate mail for the hugely disappointing Aliens: Colonial Marines, after the news got out about the outsourcing of the game and the inner conflicts during development it was immediately apparent how and why A:CM ended up being such a disaster. But again an insane amount of venomous hate and personal attacks were made against Gearbox and Randy Pitchford (one of the five founding members of the Gearbox company) Following on a few months later, EA found themselves in the line of fire (not that they're ever far from it) Customers who had purchased EA's SimCity 2013 were having difficulties connecting to the servers, servers that were grossly unprepared for the inevitable traffic that would be passing through them during the launch of such a popular franchise, that EA themselves decided to restrict to being an online only game. Again, customers who got burned by the these companies have every right to be angry, hey, I was angry too, but the issue here is that the level of hate coming from the hateful vocal majority (and I honestly fear they are the majority) over shadowed any attempts made by the gamers who genuinely did want to get to the bottom of these issues, or just wanted to offer constructive criticism like any passionate gammer would.
It's of course natural to be angry at a company or individual who you feel has either ruined a franchise you enjoy, or created/offered a broken or below standard gaming experiance, but the level of hate directed toward them should never border on violent and/or abusive. If this keeps up any longer we then may loose our voice intirely, and who could blame a company or individual for ignoring gamers all together if the majority of comments they receive are hate filled and abusive?
We all know that certain publishers and developers bring much of the hate on to themselves, but a question I often ask myself is "what is the point of such personal threats and abuse that gets directed their way?" if it's purely to show displeasure then would not a well thought out competently put together comment, or constructive criticism be more appropriate? Heck, pretty much anything that could be viewed as "constructive criticism" would be preferable when compared to a straight up personal attack or threat to ones person or family. Also it's not like any of these pubs and devs have directly caused any of us excessive grief or personal harm, so why then make it so personal? Is it purely due to anonymity? Is the very fact these people can get away with it the only reason it's continued on for so long? Or are the people responsible really just hate fuelled, whiny, entitled gamers with nothing better to do than attempt to make someone's life a misery? I know I needn't tell anyone here that with the advent of social media and the ease of sharing ones thoughts and opinions openly, it has in turn allowed for more than a few colourful characters to force their opinions on others with no intention of taking anyone else's on board.
There is in all likelihood a myriad of reasons for why these people feel the need to spread such hate and abuse, but it's probably best not to dwell on why exactly that is, so as to avoid becoming hateful, bitter and resentful ourselves.
Instead I want to talk about the necessity of gamers lending "constructive criticism" as apposed to extroverts who complain for the sake of complaining, or who know only how to communicate through hate. If a developer or publisher does something we dislike then as passionate gamers we are obligated to offer constructive criticism where we can, but due to the shear amount of abusive complaints being thrown into the mix, the chance that any of our genuinely valid points will ever get through is often a hundred to one at best. We know this and sadly so do the publishers and developers too, that's if they haven't given up on us as a contributing community capable of offering constructive criticism all together (and honestly who could blame them if they did?) I'm going to mention Phil Fish in a positive light right now, but please hear me out before you start gathering stones to throw my way. Yes, the guy might not have been the most popular and well liked developer, and yes his eccentric outspokenness and overall bad attitude might not have helped matters, but he's still a human being who is entitled to a certain amount of respect, I honestly don't care how "passionate" anyone wants to argue gamers might be as some kind of justification for childish and/or abusive behaviour, the simple fact is, allowing ones passion to get the best of you is not a positive trait, even more so if you're allowing it to cause others emotional harm and grief.
Phill Fish is a talented developer who has unfortunately left the industry, now maybe this is simply a cry for attention (I honestly don't know anymore than anybody else here regarding the matter) or maybe all the hate finally got to him, either way it's safe to bet that if a developer you happened to be a fan of left the industry under similar circumstances it wouldn't be so funny now would it?.
I honestly don't see a way to stop the unnecessary hate people feel towards these publishers and developers, but the only way I see to prevent such abuse and threats from reaching them is to break the integral link between consumer and the creators themselves, this however would be a huge mistake if it were to happen, as this would mean that one of our key avenues for enabling us to help mold the industry into a more desirable shape would be no more. We need to be able to offer constructive criticism, we need to be able to communicate with developers and publishers, otherwise they will be left to shape the industry how they see fit, and as I'm sure I needn't tell any of you, that is an undesirable outcome which we must avoid.
But how can we avoid this, if we allow it to get to the point that publishers and developers are no longer willing to listen to gamer feed back because all they see is hate and abuse? Well as cliche as it sounds the best thing anyone of us can do is to start being a better example, if we want gamers to be taken seriously then we need to be taking our hobby seriously, and to not allow our knee jerk reactions to blatant attempts at instigation to hamper our need to be constructive and diplomatic. Ignore the trolls, disregard the fanboys and if you find yourself in a debate don't resort to childish insults or personal attacks. Once we can prove to the publishers, the developers and to ourselves that the gaming community isn't made up of childish, entitled, whinny gamers then maybe we might have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticising the industry itself.
I'll end with this. To anyone reading who has themselves sent hate mail or posted abusive comments to individuals in the videogame industry, understand this, in the long run you are hurting yourself and the gaming community and I urge you to stop. The videogame industry has already proven time and time again that it is a beast that prefers to dictate to us, what it that we want rather than allow us to be a part of the development and evolution of our hobby. To put it simply, if we offer reasons to be ignored then don't be surprised when we get just that.
Anyway, thanks for reading my blog, if you want to add something or disagree with any of my points then by all means post a comments.