Indie game dev, Videogame writer, Game enthusiast, Guitarist,


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Gamer rage: Verbal abuse vs constructive criticism.

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.

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darthv721737d ago

good blog. i will say its easier to join the mob mentality of like minded people rather than stand alone and face the music.

The amount of hatred and animosity just between regular gamers is not helping things either. so they will, in turn, take their frustration with whatever the subject may be and focus it towards something else. They just want to get in for the ride, maybe, not so much the cause.

As someone of my age it sickens me to think that my kids are playing with others that have this anonymity complex. where just because we dont know who they are means its okay for others to act out in such abusive ways.

i grew up with gaming as a release from the mundane. it was meant to be fun and entertaining and yet so many get wrapped up like it IS their life now. The insults from one to another are not needed, warranted or in any way justified over a game (or choice of console for that matter). If you think about it....really think about it...we are all in the same hobby for the same reason.

We like games. Differences of opinions are natural but taking those differences and turning them into threats of violence and/or abusive words is most definitely not.

zerocrossing1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

It seems we all tend to focus more on what sets us apart instead of what brings us together. The thing about that is this kind of behaviour is actually being encouraged by the mainstream media outlets who go about purposefully fanning the flames of this ridiculous console war nonsense, not to mention encouraging petty arguments regarding what game or hardware is superior when in fact it often just comes down to personal preference regardless of stats or content.

I don't expect people will magically mature after reading this blog, I only hope some people will at least realise the damage they are doing by contributing to all the needless hate that gives gamers a bad name.

Sarick1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

People sometimes troll or become destructive critics because they have insecurities. Most of the time these people are overly enthusiastic or lack the discipline to be mature and constructive.

The underlying issue is the insecurities and deep down fears that some gamers have. IMHO, I'd hate to see one company monopolize the gaming industry. It'd be very disheartening just thinking If one or more anti-customer standards take a foot hold in the gaming ecosystem.

Gamers need to remain vigilant and constructive. Look at it this way. Lets just assume what might have happened If people didn't stand up and the anti-consumer DRM changes went through unchallenged. Think about how that would've affected us as gamers. We'd lose most of the amenities we had and eventually lose more as people became complacent.

Some people just don't have the control to be constructive. Deep down some of these people are entitlest while others are apologist. You need to understand that not everyone has the capacity to express themselves in the best mature fashion. This is why there will always be trash talk from hypercritical people. Their sub-consious emotions and insecurities overrule the ability to be both mature and constructive.

One person used to tell me. "logic isn't logical" when I said or did something stupid that lacked common sense. This is how I see people who are immature or destructive critics. I more or less try and ignore these guys because emotionally and mentally most of them just can't help themselves.

zerocrossing1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

I agree with pretty much everything you've said, but first of all I just want to stress one thing. This blog is in no way encouraging people (not) to complain, like I said above we need to let pubs/devs know when they are making mistakes. The back peddling MS are doing right now is testament to the collective pull the gamer community's constructive criticism has, however whiny, abusive comments that offer no help or constructive criticism at all are completely pointless, and sadly these are the comments that pubs and devs are seeing more of these days.

If it's truly the cases that these complainer gamers aren't capable of anything but violent non constructive comments, then they'd be much better off not commenting at all and letting the people in the gamer community who are capable fix these issues for them, instead of ruining all our chances of that by making all gamers appear to be the same as they are potentially leaving us to be collectively ignored all together.

I know that's asking a bit much, too much probably, but it would be best for all concerned, all things considered.


Point taken, and thanks for the complimentary insight.

Sarick1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

"I just want to stress one thing. This blog is in no way encouraging people (not) to complain"

I understand fully what you're trying to convey. I agree people need to complain in a constructive mature way. My comment was directed towards the reason why some of those people may be reacting inappropriately when doing so.

I never once thought you wanted people to just shut up and deal with it. I simply wanted to add something to the assist the blog from a social stand point. I attempted to explain what might be a controlling factor in the deep down reasons for the destructive attitudes of some people.

zerocrossing1737d ago

Thanks, and I understand that too, I just thought I would stress my point just in case anyone got the wrong idea.

I appreciate your added insight regarding the potentially cause for what is likely the reason a great many gamers become overly abusive commenters. The more info we share the more well rounded are views become so, thanks for that.

stuna11737d ago

All I can say is that was a well thought out written piece! Also a Thank You is in order, because sometimes at some point we all forget the integral role we play in the industry.

Our mannerisms can perhaps affect the next stars in the gaming or any industry for that matter. We as muture individuals, need to do just that! Be mature.

Don't get me wrong, I like to have fun commenting on the blogs, but I also realise there are also lines that just shouldn't be crossed.

zerocrossing1737d ago

Thanks, I tried to make my points as clear as possible.

We have a genuine issue when it comes immaturity in the gamer community, very likely due to the fact we have so many young members, but it's import for those who are mature to setting better examples.

-Gespenst-1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

So many gamers are just super-reactionary. They don't consider the arguments being put forward, they just get angry and deploy whatever ingrained opinion they have that they don't like having challenged even if it's just totally wrong. You see it when people just give one word replies like "stupid liberal" or "mangina, white knight etc." and you just know right away that no critical thought has gone into what they're saying at all. It's just a knee-jerk reaction- a little mantra they've implanted in their heads so they don't have to think.

Then you've got the entitled crowd. God there's a lot of entitlement in the gaming community. Just these people who think a developer owes them something. The way I see it, when you buy a game, you made that choice. You give these devs your money, they give you a game in return. You get, in most cases, your money's worth. It's not a long-term investment. You got what you were owed when you paid your money and recieved a game, it's a singular transaction. And guess what? If you're informed enough as a consumer, and a game mightn't be worth your money, then you don't have to buy it! You can choose not to buy it! Simple as that.

You're right though, as long as a majority of the gaming community act like spoiled children throwing their toys out of the pram, they'll continue to be seen as idiotic by developers, and we'll continue to be offered games that are an insult to our intelligence. This of course is another aspect atop the whole triple-A thing you've discussed. Basically, I think it boils down to the industry being, well, too much of an 'industry'. Creativity needs to take priority over profit. Gamers need to learn not to be entitled, but to merely be open to new, unique, and experimental experiences; and developers and publishers need to see the eternal value of creativity over something so ephemeral and vacuous as profit. It just needs to be about sharing all our creations and learning from each other. There's room for critique in there too of course. I wouldn't suggest a dulling of critical faculties, and to be honest, a smarter medium means smarter people involved in it, meaning a more sophisticated community in general with more important, and insightful criticisms and complaints to level at games. As opposed to the juvenile whining we see and hear so much of these days.

stuna11737d ago

I have to agree! We all have our place in the industry, market what have you.

As consumers we have to do away with that self-entitlement crap, because we have the responsibility of being informed, and researching what it is we buy! If it doesn't meet those standards, we have the option of not buying. What's so easy for us to forget is, if no purchase has been made, there is no obligation.

But when we support entities in the industry they also have responsibility to their supporters, meaning some type of purchase has been made. Quality, Support and ease of use, stand out to me for something I purchase.

SideShort1737d ago

It is extremely sad, honestly. I almost hate looking at the comment section of any article for this reason. What really gets me is that people, who have no stake in a company, complaining like they own 50% of Microsoft's stock. Seriously, you're not trading the companies stock, and you're not invested in them. You're a consumer. Pick your console, and consume. What legitimate reason is there to ever want the competition to fail, if you're not in the game?

I remember reading about the "Gamer's Bill of Rights"

Now the Gamer's BoR has to be the most stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Is there a toothpaste buyer's bill of rights? how about a Golfer's bill of rights? where every golf club has to meet a CONSUMER's uneducated expectations. I hate the term fanboy, but is apparent. If you're not making games, if you're not invested in the company, why does the product you dislike matter to you when you've seemingly already decided on the better product?

Sarick1737d ago (Edited 1737d ago )

Look at it this way. You don't need stock or ownership of the company to have a vested interest in it. Sure as a customer you have no real rights to tell a developer how to run their business.

The one thing that people fail to recognize is customer loyalty.

You build loyalty by…

1. keeping touch with customers using email marketing, thank you cards and more.

2. treating your team well so they treat your customers well.

3. showing that you care and remembering what they like and don’t like.

4. You build it by rewarding them for choosing you over your competitors.

5. You build it by truly giving a damn about them and figuring out how to make them more success, happy and joyful.

People on the other side realize this and make a big stink about it. Their intentions are to create drama. In some cases this drama becomes FREE beneficial advertising. In other times it can be used as a weapon against rival competitors.

For the most part the insecurites of the complainers are from a love/hate relationship. They may feel entitled for selfish reasons. Their goal is to attract as much attention to their gaze as possible.

Like me:

"IMHO, I'd hate to see one company monopolize the gaming industry. It'd be very disheartening just thinking If one or more anti-customer standards take a foot hold in the gaming ecosystem."

I will stand up and bring attention to a problem if I feel it could change the entire market in such a way that leaves no alternative routes. I will try to be as objective and mature as possible but everyone is different.

Just look at my blog about copy protected game saves. Think about Microsoft windows 8. Sure people can vote with their money but obviously word of mouth has a lot of power. If a company has an ego that bleeds Anti-consumer "It's the future DEAL WITH IT!"

If The product or service is a widely supported standard the company or developer may have the power to set the pace of the market in the wrong direction.

Without customers complaining not only will it hurt the customers who will eventually be forced to upgrade also, the company itself won't be aware of the customers candid feelings.

I remember hearing this a while back.

"People complain because they care."

Like it or not every single gamer is invested in the hobby. If suddenly we was forced to pay for all our games on a metered subscription after buying the disc most of us would freak. If all industry leaders or your government adopted that standard most people would want to restart the Selim witch trails against them. I'd be one of them.

You see even though I don't own a developer or company I DO want to protect the gaming ecosystem. If a company or organization gets an inflated ego and tries to tell me what we want then we become less then customers. We become sheep that pays them money for things we have to accept.

Sure I can choose not to buy something but there is an underlying issue that they can leverage. They can exploit our hobby against us at some point.

I forget this quote originated from but it's sort of true. I think it came out of the gaming industry. If someone wants something bad enough they'll pay almost anything to get it. From a logical standpoint of an addicted gamer I never want something like that to become a reality.

I hope you understand my long rants. :P

-Gespenst-1736d ago

@Sarick: I feel like maybe you ascribe a little bit too much "care" to the idea of consumer loyalty.

"You build it by truly giving a damn about them and figuring out how to make them more success, happy and joyful."

Really? When it boils down to it, this desire to make people happy that you cite is highly conditional. At the center of it is the profit motive. You make them happy in order that you generate profit, it's not making people happy purely for the sake of it. It's the industrial mentality.

I also think that perhaps you're giving a bit too much importance to what is a luxury and a hobby of the first world. Hobbies can't really be allowed to eclipse more serious issues. This manifests itself within the actual gaming community when you see and hear people complaining about what a dev did and didn't put in their games, instead of how their games impact culture, and what message those games send out, not to mention actual business practices that are dubious. (in the latter case, think of little people pay attention to Capcom basically enslaving their employees, instead focusing on what was wrong with Resident Evil 6)

You're right to complain, of course, about digital licensing and subscription based ownership, but not, I'd argue, at the level of hobby. It seems to me that what you should really be criticising in that instance, is corporate hegemony- of corporate entities assuming too much power and control in society, and basically just exploiting people. It becomes at that point not a mere materialistic inconvenience, but a fundamental human rights issue. I suppose my point is that we CAN complain and criticise games, but not for materialistic, entitled reasons. This is kind of role as consumers, we have to be critics too. If we only complain about gameplay features though, we're not really being critical. Such complaints are accounted for in any game's production, they ultimately don't mean much- games haven't changed much since they first emerged. Advertisement does a lot of the work when it comes to making us think we want something anyhow. The bottom line is that we just can't allow merely materialist preoccupations distract us from what's truly important, and you're right, "If someone wants something bad enough they'll pay almost anything to get it" is something that we should take great care to not allow become a reality. You have to critique beyond the games themselves to ensure this.

Sarick1736d ago (Edited 1736d ago )

As I stated.

"I will stand up and bring attention to a problem if I feel it could change the entire market in such a way that leaves no alternative routes. I will try to be as objective and mature as possible but everyone is different."

This entails most of your argument about the "care" relationship. Sure there are atrocities when employers valuate human rights. The comments I made aren't about human rights or on that level.

My comments in response to the mentality behind the people who are hypercritical and the possible reasons for their extremist reactions.

People are fickle, there are people who are emotionally attached to socks. The gaming community is huge. When you have any community of large numbers somewhere a few eccentrics will always exist. On the internet because of the false sense sense of anonymity these people WILL come out of the wood work. It's just that much easier.

If someone is slightly unstable and their hobby happens to be gaming they can take things like games to a serious level. It's no longer that simple to explain away. To these people gaming might be extremely SERIOUS in nature. They "care" a lot about it. Even though it's unnatural it can't be explained away as there are varying levels of personalities.

I was told a story once about AD&D in my high school. I never knew about role playing until I got to high school.

When I was in school they had clubs and one of them was Imagination Exploration. I bought a couple of AD&D basic books and brought them to the club meet one day. I was told from that point it was against school policy to have those books on the premises.

I went around and investigated why AD&D was excluded. Someone told me a story about a player who was blue bolted by a DM. (This is character annihilation where the DM rips up the character data sheets.) Anyway, this player was emotionally unstable.

The story go's this role player gamer stood up on a stage at the middle of a school event and demanded that his character was restored or he'd kill himself. After that event parents and schools made rules to exclude that on school grounds across the state.

I don't know if this story is real or faked but it exemplifies the mentality of some gamers that this blog may or may not represent.

That's the type of care I mention however, I say care on multiple degrees some even a bit extreme. Everything I've said comes back to the underlying love/hate relationships, the mental state of those discussed and the false anonymity of the internet.

It's just not that simple to assume that everyone is under the same moral/mental standards as yourself.

On a final not my original comment was towards SideShort. Anyway, I'm out of bubbles so I can't respond publicly on N4G to future comments. My sincere apologies.

zerocrossing1737d ago

Excellent points and very well said.

The only thing I can really add here is that the bloated budgets seemingly required by law to create AAA games (apparently the only games some people are willing to buy) has put a chokehold on creativity in mainstream gaming. It's much easier for publishers to offer gamers that which they know they want instead of taking chances, but funny enough it's often the companies that take chances who end up creating the new IP or game mechanic that these bigger businesses then go on to copy and exploit for personal gain.

There are a great many original games I've played from smaller developers (especially from Japanese and indie devs) that get passed over for not having that "AAA appeal" but are more often than not full of more originality and charm than these generic, half arssed attempts at low brow, Hollywood style entertainment that we often get from most AAA games, and because we get these simplistic, formulaic games that don't attempt to challenge you intellectually or your thoughts and beliefs, we end up having childish debates over simple meaningless things like "what console are you getting BF4 on?" or "is it OK for weed to be in GTA V?" instead of "what message was that game trying to convey" or "do we need to kill in games or are devs just too lazy to come up with new gameplay mechanics"

Anyway, again great points, bubs up.

INehalemEXI1737d ago

I get to excitable , and might curse so I dont game with a mic a lot.

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