Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Worst Kind Of People?

Are gamers the worst kind of people?

Here's what Chris Kemp thinks...

Gamers have a pretty bad reputation across the board. Outside the gaming community, the daywalkers think of us as fat, lonely virgins, or anti-social geeks who would rather play with circuit boards than rugby balls. For ticks in the “pros” column, we’re usually agreed upon to be good with computers/electronics (mostly true) and possess Russell-Crowe-esque mathematics abilities (not true – I’m the guy who was stumped by a geometry problem with more than one shape in it).

Within the gaming community however, I’m not sure our reputation is that much better. If you asked a gamer if they think “gamers” in general are “nice people”, I think they may be hard pressed to honestly say yes – I know I would. Anyone who has had interaction online with fellow gamers in an even remotely competitive environment, would have had multiple encounters with people so obnoxious they could not possibly exist outside the anonymity of the internet.  For every really awesome, chilled, well-mannered gamer out there, there seems to be another who never misses an opportunity to complain, insult someone or tell you why he’s actually the greatest player in the world, despite his 0.3 kill-death-ratio.

Of course I spend a ton of time playing multiplayer online games, so none of this is particularly surprising or new to me. What I have been thinking about lately is not just gamers’ behavior within the confines of the game, but outside of it. Within a game I can acknowledge that tempers can get a little flared, egos can get bruised and the fiercely competitive amongst us can get a little aggressive. Obviously what that has to do with my mother, my sexual preferences and the various STDs I supposedly have I’m not entirely sure, but I’m going to chalk it all up to that anyway. 

Yet lately, and also not so lately, there’s been a lot in the news about “mistakes” companies have made, and the backlash that has followed. I often read these articles with a small measure of awe – awe at how video game companies today are pandering to their tantrum-throwing, outlandish customers. It feels like the whole gaming community has become a herd of whiny children moaning that the Ferrari Enzo they got for Christmas is red and they wanted the yellow one. 

Although everybody knows it’s pimping in pink.

Just recently, we saw the Nintendo 3DS take a huge price slash, in the wake of Nintendo themselves taking a big quarterly hit in the profits. Anticipating that maybe early adopters would be upset by this since the console has only been out for about six months; Nintendo has offered people who have already bought the console TWENTY free games. Twenty. This clearly wasn’t enough, as Nintendo have now had to issue an apology to fans who may feel “betrayed” by this price cut.

Why does nobody feel “betrayed” when they’re unboxing their new iPhone 3 in front of the TV and see an advertisement for “soon to be released” iPhone 4? Year after year Steve Jobs adds half an inch to a screen and a USB port or something, gives every Apple consumer the finger and takes his Lear Jet to the tropics to plan which 2-year-old feature he’s going to add to the next model, which will no doubt be out in six months. I’ve never seen hordes of Apple buyers with torches and pitchforks, demanding free copies of Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies or whatever people play on Apple products. 

My point is – Nintendo doesn’t have to give you free games, they don’t have to give you anything at all. People lower prices all the time, especially when investors are abandoning ship like they just realized Leonard DiCaprio is on board and its 1912. Nowhere else do you see this overblown sense of entitlement – the thought of a company giving away enormous amounts of free product as an “apology” for LOWERING their prices is so absurd it’s actually laugh-out-loud funny when you stop and think about it.

Now 33% cheaper! We’re really, really sorry about that.

Before the Nintendo fiasco of 2011, we had the Playstation Network fiasco of 2011. Now, granted, a lot of sensitive information was stolen, and when you give your information to a company like Sony you do so with what you would think is a reasonable expectation that they’ll keep it safe. That being said, the people who hacked Sony, stole your information and posted it on the internet got far less hate for it than Sony themselves. After trying desperately to stabilize their servers and spending millions on damage control, Sony then had to get on their knees and grovel for gamer forgiveness. Their offering of five games was spat upon and laughed at. These weren’t crappy games either, they were good titles, and all that 99% of people lost was hours spent on the PSN.I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now – Sony would have gotten less hate if they’d offered nothing at all. A vast majority of gamers saw the five free games offer as an opportunity to pounce on how inadequate it was.

Then of course every time a game company makes a decision regarding a game without taking an internet poll first, they get crucified. What the hell do you mean there’s no multiplayer/LAN/free DLC/Facebook integration? Of course then the mass boycotts are staged and petitions are created, and “like, everybody” refuses to buy a game – like Modern Warfare 2 when they took out dedicated servers, and the enormous gamer boycott brought Activision to their knees. Oh, no wait, it was insanely successful, made Activision another couple of billion or so and bought Kotick another island mansion. For once I actually have to praise Activision – for not bending to the will of the chorus of angry nerds vowing their destruction. They had an idea they wanted to implement and they did it how they wanted to do it, regardless of how many tantrums were thrown. Of course, they were wrong and “IW Net” was awful, but the principle is there. 

Just because they’re trolls, doesn’t mean they can’t be right.

The most baffling whiners however are the ones that are so hypocritical they’ve actually become self-righteous. Every time a game announces its DLC measures, it is immediately “boycotted” and labeled “oppressive”. While this sometimes may actually be true, the real irony is that those complaining the loudest are the same people who were just going to pirate the damn thing anyway. The best part is, those people actually seem to genuinely feel hard done by, it’s like that sense of entitlement in the community has become so powerful that pirates have started to sincerely feel it themselves.

Game companies the world over need to put a stop to this. The fact is, you don’t have to fold to every unreasonable demand the community makes. It’s important to listen to the good ideas, take heed of the constructive criticism and be in touch with what your customers want. As long as you’re making a good product, you’re not going to lose customers over it. Every overblown massive outcry I can recall has had very little effect on sales – Modern Warfare 2 being a good example, lack of LAN in Starcraft 2 being another. Companies don’t need to be giving away enormous game bundles every time the community gets upset – make apologies if mistakes have been made, and give compensation when it’s actually necessary.

As gamers we have some serious attitude adjustments in order. It seems every day gaming becomes less and less about actually having fun – and it’s the gamers that are doing it. The community has become a mass of whining, sniveling brats and I think its high-time Daddy fetches the cane. Spare the rod, spoil the child.

1 comment:

  1. That was both interesting and disturbing to read. And sadly, from what I am seeing on the internet, not far from the truth.

    I remember when the term "gamer" only applied to people that played table top RPGs and combat sims (you know, the kind that actually required you to physically socialize), like Dungeons and Dragons, and Battle Tech. These players started the geek/nerd gamer stereotype, but never, to my knowledge, pulled any stunts like today's gamers have. The game companies made mistakes with their publications, but most of them still made money (TSR/WoC), and some didn't. Some even had their licensing pulled for rumored ridiculous reasons (FASA), but that's another story.