Gaming is something that I absolutely love and adore, it has been with me since I was a 2-year-old little boy who first discovered the Nintendo Entertainment System that my mom brought home for my father. I spent countless hours playing that Super Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge, trying desperately to beat my high scores or finish the game in record speed. There was no slowing down as I grew up and continued on through the generations of console gaming; Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Playstation, Xbox…it just went on and on. However, gaming today is a much bigger juggernaut than it was back when I first started out, it is the same but different in so many core aspects. Today’s gaming media, the entitled and single-minded gaming community, and even the very games we play contribute to what I feel is becoming a toxic environment.
Gaming journalism is something that I am innately passionate about, it is something that I can pride myself on as I love both gaming and writing. Moreover, putting these two things together with an ambitious goal of being the best within my field has lead me to develop my craft into something that I am excited to do. I am filled to the brim with satisfaction as I click the “publish” button and allow what I have written to be posted to the website, free for the masses to read and be inspired…but that is no longer the case with most of today’s gaming journalists. I have found that the “pride” I was speaking of is no longer present, rather, it is a hindrance to give quality over quantity when your check depends on advertisement revenue and the availability of upcoming game review assets are dependent on your page views.
Reputable websites I use to love – Kotaku, IGN, and Eventhubs – are now ridden with loads of clickbait articles, trivial news, and thoughtless posts that are more opinion than they are factual. They are igniters of flame wars who supply ammunition to the console fanboys who see it their job to blatantly talk about anyone who chooses a different system to play on than their favorite. They do so by adhering to some of the same policies I have seen news stations live by during elections; promote your favorite while slandering the opposition (While this is not always true with consoles, you will find that some of them highly favor some companies compared to others). Moreover, we also have gaming journalist like Patricia Hernandez who effectively make it their job to create articles that have borderline offensive titles and spew ignorance out for the populace at large to be shocked and enraged by, all for the purpose of possibly gaining more page views and shares due to its content.
Even people I have worked with before are not immune to the idiocy that is obtained through wanting the benefits garnered by high page views. I have left video game websites due to low expectancy of the people who actually are in charge of the writers, mainly on the “we want it and we want it now” agenda. I have seen my fellow writers spew opinionated pieces of garbage upon the screen and be praised for it, be upset and combative over critiques and suggestions, even going so far as to quit when they are told “you can do better than this”. Writing is not something a person without a backbone should do; the people who read will not be nearly as merciful. Within the eyes of those who do not care about the integrity of their business, anything is fine as long as they are getting word of mouth, “as long as people are talking, it is all right”.
We have people like Anita Sarkeesian who did not know anything about video games to begin with who is now making it big within the media industry by exploiting the female aspect. We have the Zoe Quinn incident which showed how some journalist are even willing to give favorable reviews in exchange for something extra, something that I am sure has many gamers saying, “They paid for that review”. People are skeptical about who they can and cannot trust in the gaming media for a reason. All of these things combined makes me wonder if there is any merit to doing what I am doing if standards are not put into place to ensure quality, but this is the real world and money trumps everything.
The gaming community as a whole right now is not helping itself within the least bit. This could have been simply because internet access and message boards were few-and-far between when I was a teenager (not everyone had access to a DSL or Cable connection yet), but people really loved gaming. You had people who did think one console was better than others, but you did not have people who segregated each other based on which console they swore allegiance to. In today’s modern era, every single gaming community has a rule against “console fanboys”; this goes against extreme enthusiasts for Nintendo, PC, Microsoft, and Sony particularly. People will literally go out of their way in an attempt to make people feel bad, calling them “PC Nerds”, “Sony Ponies”, “X-Twats” and many other horrible things due to the fact that their system varies.
Gamers should be proud to call themselves a gamer no matter what system that they happen to play on. If someone can only afford a single system because of their income, life situations, or other reasons, they should not be ostracized by those whom think themselves superior because of their own preference. I had no idea that so many people were actually within this mentality until I took note of many Twitch chats, Gaming communities (forums and Facebook), and various other social media. At its core, this community is pretty vain when it comes to how they see themselves as gamers.
The competitive community is something new and exciting, where people can get paid to professionally play at tournaments streaming live to thousands of players all around the world. These come with official sponsorships and fame, but they have also shown some of the worst sides of gaming; winning by any means necessary. Cheating and hacking are rampant problems within the community as a whole, but people have spread this modus operandi to in-person competitions as well. Using drugs such as Adderall was so common in eSports that the Electronic Sports League “ESL”, chose it necessary to actually ban doping from competitive play. Not to mention there have been various instances of people getting caught with 3rd party software within their computers to do things like aim-assist and wall hacking at LAN tournaments. Consoles are not safe either, as within the fighting game community many have been kicked out of tournaments for controller and arcade stick modification; using things such as turbo and auto-combo macros in order to successfully link together moves or perform single-button combos. While I am glad that there are rules in place to discourage such dishonesty, the fact that people would go to these lengths to see themselves in the winner’s circle is truly disheartening.
Even worse, and the crème de la crème is that games that we play now are beginning to become the same; all style and graphical feats without much in the way of ingenuity or substance. Games are now judged by many for their graphical fidelity as the most “awe” inspiring aspect rather than their game play. If it came down to it, you will find more gamers will buy a game with superior graphics and so-so game play compared to a game with impressive game play and mediocre visuals. However, when it comes down to games that choose to go with an original artistic direction versus the photorealistic route, such as Borderlands or OVERWATCH, you will find that gamers focus on game play near exclusively; ridiculous. Even if this is something that is more akin to the community than the developers on what to prioritize, they happen to be guilty of giving us broken games that are in need of day one patches and misleading trailers.
In another article I previously wrote for the GamerHolics website, I happened to talk about trailers and how they are misleading gamers. How games are a bug-ridden, glitch-filled mess which seems like they did not prioritize their programming over creating post-launch downloadable content and inventive ways to “nickel-and-dime” us to death with micro transactions. Creating deadlines rather than announcing when a game is finally ready has many masterpieces devolving into ugly finger painting of a would-be amateur. This basically boils down to the same problem that gaming websites and media around it have, profit comes before anything else and you need to acquire it by any means necessary. As long as the initial purchases are there and a majority of profit is gained, they can continue to milk the fans with micro transactions and post-launch downloadable content.
It is very hard to think that certain companies care about their fans and the content they are receiving rather than the bottom line. Exclusive pre-order incentives to make sure people are getting the game on launch, announcing DLC months before a game ever releases along with a day one “Season pass”, and faulty experiences represented by misleading trailers. On the other hand, we have companies like Nintendo that are often praised for their commitment to excellence and innovation despite what their sales look like in comparison to other companies; well done.
All-in-all, I am still gaming. I love those who take their time to create impressive worlds to immerse ourselves in, I love those websites and journalists who are devoted to giving their 100%, and I absolutely adore communities that make gaming a pleasantly social environment. However, with those seeming more rare than common, I often ask myself has the term “gamer” grown to mean something else. If that flower that was blooming with so much potential had to grow thorns and mutate to survive the environment it lives in because those around it cared not to nurture it enough to keep its harmonious state. My interest for games has been waning as the years past, and as gaming becomes more mainstream, so too are the trends from greatness to mediocrity. I am a gamer, but we will see if that continues to remain.