I have this feeling, and I’ve had it for a while now, that people are finding less and less joy in gaming.
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I’m growing weary of this culture of outrage that we’re living in, where it seems like the only thing people enjoy anymore is being mad at shit. Recently it feels like every month we’re boycotting some new game developer for some new thing they did or said.
I’m not arguing that we, as a community of gamers, shouldn’t be speaking up about things; quite the opposite. Being vocal with our opinions is an important tool to communicate where the perceived boundaries of our customer loyalties lie (second only to voting with our wallets). An example I could readily point to would be Battlefront 2, where the discussion over how far EA could push microtransactions finally came to a head, and the outcry/negative PR was so cacophonous that not only EA, but many other developers were forced to step back and reevaluate the financial benefit of pushing that business model.
It has certainly seemed to me that, in the years since, many developers have been very gun shy or cautious in regards to microtransactions and loot boxes. Microtransactions might not be extinct, but I would argue there has been a definitive trend towards developers being explicit that they either don’t have microtransaction, or that the microtransactions are strictly cosmetic in nature.
Likewise, I’m not arguing that we should ignore it when a developer does something shitty, such as Blizzard’s heavy-handed reaction towards Blitzchung’s political statements on their stream. I think most of us would agree that China is hot garbage, an oppressive-regime front. Given their human rights violations and tendency to silence dissension, it’s natural to be less than thrilled at the prospect of a US game developer bending over backwards to appease them.
Whether Blizzard has the right to sanction/moderate player comments on their stream isn’t really at issue there; it’s not a free speech issue because it’s a privately-owned venue, and I have little doubt that if a Hearthstone player started chanting “Trump 2020”, there’d be a lot of complaints stateside about letting a gaming tournament get political. So I think most gamers understand the concept of Blizzard wanting to keep a gaming stream to, primarily, games.
But, the severity of Blizzard’s initial punishment, in the face of an infraction that should have warranted at most a warning or short-term ban from tournament play, makes it impossible not to view the punishment as Blizzard’s overall genuflection to China’s purse strings.
Through the press and public outrage that followed, I think it’s now been made clear to Blizzard (and in the process any other developers wrapped up in Chinese money) that even the appearance of allowing foreign money to dictate policy and procedure is going to be met with pushback. While their phoned-in apology at Blizzcon may not entirely reflect it, it would be naive to assume this will not inform the company decision-making process in the future.
All of this is to say that, speaking up and voicing opinion and, yes, even outrage can all serve a very valid purpose and bring about change. Which brings me to the primary point I wanted to make here, and that is this: Amidst all of the speaking out, and being upset, and righting perceived injustices… don’t let it drown out the concept of forgiveness.
I know that sounds super Jesus-y and shit, and I’m not trying to get preachy here, but bear with me a moment. Sometimes in reading comments, discussing these things with people across the internet, etc, I get the impression that some people are so invested, so addicted to the grudges they hold against developers, that they reach a place where absolutely no amount of apology, or reversal, or amends is going to ever be good enough. And I’m not trying to tell you that sometimes reaching that place isn’t justified, or that you should be willing to fork over cash to a company that keeps making decisions you don’t agree with.
But I do worry that we’re reaching a point (as a whole also, not strictly related to the gaming community) where nobody has a tolerance for mistakes anymore and we’re not giving each other a chance to grow. Get it right the first time, or you’re written off forever (a standard we only hold others to, of course, never ourselves). People make mistakes, and companies, as much as we’d like to envision them as just a board room of old white guys in suits twirling their mustaches, are made of people. Sometimes those people make decisions that are, in fact, simply from a place of “how can we fuck more money out of them” greed. But sometimes the mistakes are more complex than that.
Take No Man’s Sky, for example. Sean Murray famously overhyped and overpromised on that game’s premise, and as we all know, at launch it was about as fun and fully formed as diarrhea. It sucks that we all bought a game thinking it was one thing, and it wasn’t that thing. We had a right to be upset. But I don’t believe that the overhyping and overpromising came from any sort of malicious place; Sean was naive, and perhaps just overly excited about the game he envisioned, and his eyes got bigger than his development window.
This belief of mine is backed up by the fact that, despite the incredibly negative PR shitstorm surrounding the game’s launch, Hello Games put their heads down, got to work, and continued to try and meet the lofty goals everyone had for the game. They worked for years after the fact to add and expand the game for free, and have turned No Man’s Sky around. It is now an honest-to-goodness game, bigger and better than it was at launch.
Yet, a few months ago when I mentioned that NMS had made such an impressive comeback, I saw a lot of comments basically maintaining that Sean Murray should never be allowed to work in games again, before also dying slowly in a fire. In the face of the updates made to the game, “that’s not special, he should have finished it before launching in the first place” was a common sentiment. And… I agree, that is a valid argument. However, it’s not an argument that leaves any room for someone wanting to fix their mistakes, that wants to learn and be better moving forward.
I’m sure at this point some of you think I’m here with the goal of defending video game developers. To a point, perhaps. I do believe that if you’re going to voice dissatisfaction with a company/product, it should be with the goal of giving them a chance to improve and change. Because if it’s merely a matter of not liking a company’s game(s), the simplest and most effective answer is to not buy them. It doesn’t require a single word to be spoken. But if you’re posting rants and vocalizing outrage over something a company did wrong while also setting the bar for amends impossibly high, then you don’t care if anything changes; you’re just invested the act of being outraged over something.
So when I say “consider forgiveness”, it’s not with developers in mind but gamers and the community we’re all a part of. I think we could all stand to be less angry about this stuff, in the grand scheme of things. And if forgiveness doesn’t fit the bill, then at the very least the act of letting some stuff go could probably serve to make a lot of us happier. Spending less time clinging to past grievances. Like, yes, perhaps EA has pulled so many shitty little moves over the years that at this point it is justifiably impossible to give them the benefit of the doubt… that doesn’t mean you need to carry that frustration around with you all the time. It’s not doing you any good, especially if it’s souring your outlook on other games.
A couple of weeks ago when I was talking about being excited for the release of The Outer Worlds, some of the immediate discussion revolved around the bugginess of some of Obsidian’s earlier games, and how Outer Worlds would probably bomb and there’s no point in getting excited for games because they might suck.
“If you don’t let yourself get your hopes up, you won’t end up being disappointed.”
I just find that to be a terribly depressing viewpoint to walk around with, especially for a hobby that is basically a luxury. For me, video games have always been a source of fun and joy, and I do still get excited about game announcements and trailers, the same way I did pouring over the latest issue of EGM or GameSpot when I was a kid. Sure, that means that sometimes I’m let down when a game doesn’t deliver, but the world keeps on spinning and there are always new games on the horizon if the last one isn’t great. I’d still rather approach games with excitement and anticipation, and maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I’d love to see more of that enthusiasm in the community like we used to, instead of so much constant negativity.
This post won’t effect any sweeping changes in attitude. It probably fell on a lot of deaf ears the moment I suggested “don’t get so angry”, and I don’t have so wide a reach I can convince anyone to reconsider the way they carry their frustrations (or enough time and patience to address every single “But what about when THIS developer did THIS?!” variable I’ll likely see in the comments).
I wanted to say it, though, because I often make jokes about these “controversies” in gaming, but upon discussing them I guess I don’t come across as legitimately angry over them as some people feel I should be. And it’s because I just can’t walk around outraged all the time. At least not about this stuff. I don’t like when a game pushes microtransactions; it does feel greedy to me, and I won’t support it with my cash. But I can’t get mad about it in the same way I can get mad when I hear a pharmaceutical company is charging $1000 a pill for medicine people need or whatever.
And so I guess TL;DR… try to have some perspective on stuff, in the grand scheme of things. Outrage should be a tool, not the endgame. And try to let some things go. Life’s too short.
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