Ever since the speedy evolution of social media and information sharing, it’s quite easy for quick thoughts someone has to go out into the world. This is no less prevalent in the Gaming community, where a game’s quality can be revealed before the game even releases. As such, most discussions have morphed, and malformed, from something healthy into something more menacing. A game’s success hinges on not only it’s actual quality, but its overall image in the community. It’s not uncommon now for a developer to say one thing or a single glitch to be shown to send the entire Internet into a tirade of ethics. Most of the community is of the same mind, dismissing a game on moral grounds rather than quality grounds. Ironically, being quite analytical, I find myself in the minority of not minding any sort of controversy that comes out. For a long time I wondered, but I now have the answer of why game controversies don’t bother me, and probably never will.
I think the most prevalent point to mention about me is that I’m a rather apathetic person. If something bad happens to me or I get tricked, I usually spend about 5 minutes mulling over it and then I quickly forget it. The Internet isn’t so forgiving, bringing up topics years prior to best suit their needs. What we’re talking about here is an interactive experience, and I’ve always just seen it as that. In simpler terms, it’s just a game. Now games can take on a higher-caliber story or some sort of inner meaning, but it should never extend beyond that. I’ve always found the concept of putting video games on a tall moral pedestal quite silly. Even more so to get seriously angry at a game’s shortcomings. If I play a game and like it, then I’ll keep playing it. If I play a game and I don’t like it, then I’ll put it down. In my critiques, I’ll certainly label what was wrong and what needed to be fixed, but that’s in the form of critique. My enjoyment factor and critical factor are completely separated from each other. This tends to lead to a lot of me liking games that are bad, but it doesn’t really matter so long as I can recognize fully what I’m playing. Unfortunately, everyone else doesn’t seem to share the sentiment.
If a game is bad, or if people say it’s bad, then it’s not just a bad game. It’s a sacrilegious statement to the entire game community and gaming as a whole. Games are apparently no longer allowed to be mediocre or okay, they have to be perfect and match up to overzealous hype that the Internet itself generates, and if they don’t, the game and the developer are eternally damned to Internet scrutiny. This sort of thing is extremely toxic to critical thinking. Games with a AAA sticker on them come under fire constantly for not being as good as people imagine. Take for instance the game Re:Core. Yes the game has arduous loading times and butt-ugly textures, but as a game it seemed pretty alright to me. The problem is that the game got smacked with 2’s and 3’s in reception. In my head, a 2/10 game is a game with, maybe, a single enjoyable factor and is broken on every other front. The same thing happened with The Order: 1886, which got equally low scores while the game’s only real troubles was a short play time and awkward story direction. Unfortunately, both of these games were hyped, and as you know, games with hype generated are not allowed to fall short in any circumstance. This of course doesn’t always apply, and some AAA releases get fairly average scores of 7 and 8. But again, if it’s advertised as an incredible game, a 7 or 8 score just doesn’t cut it, and the Internet absorbs the game’s base issues with nothing more than buzz words that circulate for years. Because advertising that makes its product look good and might bend the truth a bit is just ludicrous.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the discussions were actual discussions. I love the Assassin’s Creed series, and if someone had educated problems with the series, such as the gargantuan open-world aspects, the overall overemphasis on backstory, or even the frequently shifting focus on stealth, then I could have a great discussion. However, what I get most of the time is a backwash of arguments focusing only on the series’ fluctuating quality control. Yes, it is a problem, but most of the time I look past it and focus on what I can enjoy. Unfortunately, this is the extent of most criticism on the games. AC: Unity was mocked and abhorred for a statement a random developer made about not including playable female characters for the sake of saving effort. The Internet made a huge to-do about diversity and female role inclusion, but ignored that Elise de la Serre in the game is undoubtedly the strongest female character in the series, even stronger than Evie in Syndicate. People cheer whenever a AAA game mentions female character inclusion at a press conference, but people forget that years prior, Call of Duty: Ghosts did the same thing and was scoffed at for putting an emphasis on it. I don’t mind getting critique about games that I like, but when most criticisms include over-analysis on one aspect while ignoring other key components, it becomes as interesting as talking to a wall. I never criticize a game that I haven’t played through entirely, except for special circumstances where the game literally wouldn’t let me, because I, as a critic, need the entire picture. But with how quick information can spread, most people never care enough to get the entire idea. I can’t really blame anyone, because I myself am also subject to that, but it’s hard to find an intelligent discussion that lacks any sort of animosity as a result.
What comes next is an act I cannot tolerate, and that is insulting the developers as people. A game may be the worst piece of software ever imaginable, but that’s an issue with the game, not the person who made it. Life is Strange is one of the worst story-driven games I’ve ever played, but I have no problem with the developer Dontnod. They put out a game that they were confident in, and put the time and effort into making the game as good as they could. Even when they announced they were making another game that followed the story-focused structure of Life is Strange, I wasn’t mad, I just hoped that they would make it better. Insulting a developer on a moral level based on a game’s quality is nothing short of childish conjecture. I don’t know what happened during development, and most people don’t either, so people assuming a developer’s stance as a person is appalling. Doing this sort of judgement turns game coverage into nothing more than those trash magazines you see in the supermarket. I don’t care about the development process to Mighty No. 9, I don’t care what happened during the making of Destiny, if the game holds up well enough, that’s all I care about.
Most of this animosity boils down to an argument of ethics. When advertisement makes its game look too good, the developers are held accountable. It goes back and forth for months on what a game should be and how it should be better in the eyes of public image. But at the end of the day, what really happened is that people spent their money on a product they didn’t know well enough about. A lot of this can be traced back to game coverage itself being so forgiving during previews but thrash the games once they come out. But, simply put, people end up throwing money at something they don’t fully know about, and that’s the consumer’s fault. Exorbitant advertisement and glowing pre-release praise is par for the course, but as soon as you put your money down to buy it, it’s your fault. It’s almost ironic how blind both pre-release hype and post-release rage can be. If I got suckered into buying a game that sucked, then I’m fully okay with accepting responsibility for my mistake. I didn’t research well enough, and now I’m stuck with a game that I don’t like. Shifting the blame to a higher calling of morality is just silly, and critically analyzing it on moral grounds is in direct opposition to what a critique should be. Not a single drop of advertisement matters in a game’s quality, and assuming so is going to lead you into a lot of shallow judgement that will end up hurting you in the long run. Games can be fun, but games can also be bad. The problem is that making it a higher purpose to purge any games with any issue in quality makes the whole community and industry as a whole incredibly toxic. This is probably why I end up making more articles on Anime, because Gaming just isn’t fun to talk about anymore if it always ends up in rage.