Gamer Privilege and Delusions of Self-Importance.
A lot of gamers, especially the ones who spend more time online than they do living in the real world, feel that they ought to be catered to hand and foot by game designers. This is probably because gaming in itself requires a horrendous amount of personal investment. Of course gamers want to be rewarded for their efforts.
Still, that isn’t an excuse to throw a toddleresque tantrum when a game doesn’t fit one’s standards. A game’s story doesn’t “suck” just because it did not end with your character living happily ever after (this is a common quibble about the ending of the Mass Effect series, and one of the most ridiculous complaints I have heard about the third game), nor does it suck because it has a female lead instead of a male lead, or because it has gay or lesbian characters.
If you still don’t believe that gamers can be snot-nosed babies, go on any article that talks about topics like gender or race in relation to games and gaming. Scroll down to the comments section, and you’re sure to see a glaring lack of comments that have something meaningful to return to the discussion. Let’s not forget, as well, how unkind the internet tends to be towards anybody that attempts to do an honest-to-god critique of anything in video games. ‘Nuff said.
Yes, our opinions matter. At the end of the day, though, they’re only opinions. Furthermore, if they are stupid ones, I hope I will not be the last one to tell you to sit down and shut up. Didn’t your mother teach you good manners? Didn’t anyone?
A Tendency to Settle for Less.
Tom Bissell alludes to this issue several times in his book Extra Lives. He states that video games often have sloppily written storylines in favor of pervasive gameplay, and that gamers seem to have the tendency to ignore very real flaws within their favorite titles if only because they’re content enough with the fact that they had fun playing the game. I think, though, that we should start working towards including a sense of taste as part of our criterion of fun.
Interestingly enough, this issue seems to go hand-in-hand with ridding ourselves of our need for exclusivity, and of our overblown sense of gamer’s privilege. Gamers tend to get incredibly defensive about their top picks, and reviewers have the tendency not to give incisive, critical reviews of games but choppy accounts that focus on why the game was fun for them, all on the premise of “well, it’s still fun because of blah blah blah.” We’re also too easily swayed by fan service, and then we get mad the moment somebody calls us out on it.
Game designers don’t need to know whether their game was “fun” or not, and simply leaving your criticism for a game at “it sucks” does not help either. They need to be told, in an intelligent fashion, what made their games good, what made them bad, and how they can improve their titles. Else, we’re going to keep seeing wonderful projects shelved all because game designers were convinced that it will not sell, or that it did not sell enough. We’re also going to keep seeing projects that had a lot of potential get ruined because their backers were afraid that the gamers would not react kindly to change.
Too often do we apologize for video games, telling ourselves that as long as we had a bit of fun, we can forgive just about anything. Too often do we turn a blind eye towards the rampant stupidity within our community, convincing ourselves that it’s only on the Internet and has no real bearing on what goes on in the real world. Too often are good video game ideas scrapped because game designers are convinced that they need to cater to the wishes of the so-called majority. Why do we have to be happy with how games and gamers are now when we can push towards what games and gamers could become?
We might just end up with better things.