So I'm at a point in my life where I get, on a regular basis, three simple questions: What colleges are you looking at? What do you think you're going to study? What are you going to do afterwards? The first two are relatively easy. I've pretty much narrowed down where I'd like to go to school, and I want to major in English. But I don't like to answer the last one and usually come up with something vague and misleading like, I want to be a writer. Someone might then say, Do you mean you want to write books? I would reply, No, I want to be a journalist, and I leave with the inquirer with an impression that I want to write for some newspaper about recent disasters, political scandals, celebrity gossip, or sports.
I'm embarrassed to say I want to write about video games for a living.
That is ultimately because I'm afraid people won't take me seriously and will judge that it's not a proper contribution to society for me. There are a few reasons for the idea. One is that I believe people might think it a self-indulgent, childlike fantasy to play games and get paid, and at low points, I sometimes even believe that. Another is the fact that most people think games are just fun toys for teenage boys and are not in the same league as established media such as books and films. The last reason can be illustrated by some recent nonsense going on.
So I have no interest in being a developer. I don't believe I have the creative talents nor would I ever have the programming skills to make games. However, I don't particularly want my career to be associated with people who have violent verbal cataclysms when a virtual gun is patched in an attempt to make a game fairer.
If you believe that this is just some freak case involving a terrible community within a terrible game and that this kind of abuse is only towards developers, have you BEEN on gamespot.com? I'm not saying our community is bad (I'll talk more of it later), but if you've glanced at the comments section of a review of a major game, you've seen widespread, unwarranted hate of the game, the review, or most commonly, the reviewer: WHOEVER REVIEWED THIS IS A COMPLETE IDIOT. GameSpot's Tom Mc Shea and his review scores that frequently dissent from the Metacritic average are an easy target for overly impassioned gamers (which is putting it nicely), as is any review really, since it's impossible to please everybody with a single opinion. Kevin VanOrd said just that and more in his insightful blog shortly after reviewing Star Wars: The Old Republic.
There's even a show on GameSpot highlighting horrible, often abusive comments on the site. While I adore a hilarious Feedbackula episode and Johnny Chiodini's attempts to satirize and ridicule the ridiculous, I feel like it possibly harbors more stupidity and hate from the commenters. The users who post the garbage that's featured most likely aren't ashamed of what they've written but are proud to be the stars of the show.
At any rate, gamers' out of control use of ad hominem, death threats, racial slurs, and misogyny, all while the English language weeps in the corner, are obviously terrible for games. How can the world at large respect games when it's so easy to see immature sociopaths surrounding them? Frankly, they probably shouldn't. The contrast between the severity of some of the threats and the triviality of the causes is not only embarrassing, but also pretty scary.
Then Nonsense #2 happens. If you're unfamiliar with all the details, you should check out Patrick Klepek's excellent article about it, which covers some of what I'm about to discuss.
So back in grade school (were talking at about 5th grade here), I remember a lesson in which we learned about writing business letters (because 11-year-olds write so very many business letters), specifically requests for refunds. Our teacher told us that if we were ever to write a letter to a company about a remote-controlled helicopter we ordered that was broken upon delivery, we must write a polite and explanatory letter in order to receive a refund or a replacement. Some of the class thought a more threatening approach would be more effective. Of course our teacher said that companies would either ignore these types of letters or file a lawsuit.
So here not only do we have fans who can't get past a 5th grade concept, but professionals in the game industry, both journalist and developer, reduced to petty name-calling and suggestions of suicide, all over quotes about a story. "Yeah, Uncle Joe, I totally want to get into the video game business!"
Now I don't like Phil Fish, or at least, the things he says. I don't like his attitude about Japanese games, his attitude about PC games, or his attitude in general on Twitter as evidenced here. Also, I believe the controversy with the FEZ patch was a mess on both Microsoft's and Fish's parts. Fish releasing a broken game, Microsoft letting Fish release a broken game, Microsoft demanding money for a patch, Fish refusing to patch; a catastrophe!
Regardless, FEZ is an ambitious, interesting game (though I've never played it), and it's sad to see its sequel canceled for such arbitrary nonsense.
I feel like so many words have already been written about Internet hate regarding sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that we might be asking too much of a barbaric race to, you know, be nice. "Welcome to the Internet," one might say. This tweet from GameSpot's own Martin Gaston sums up the state of gamer culture pretty well:
bloody hell the games industry is depressing, and twitter is depressing, and everybody seems to hate each other. what a mess.Martin Gaston (@squidmania) July 29, 2013
But that's just too cynical of me. After all, I found great friends online at a time when I had scarce in the so-called "real" world. Just yesterday, I had a great experience in Journey in which my companion stayed with me to the end and even made sure to show me some of the game's secrets. He or she sent me a thank-you message for sharing the journey with me and a friend request on PSN. And how can we forget the endless outpouring of compassion during the passing of Ryan Davis?
So here's to you, all the people I've enjoyed talking to on GameSpot, in unions or on blogs, and to all the gamers who've graciously helped me out in co-op games (most recently Journey and Dark Souls), and to all those in the industry, both writers and developers, who put up with the hate in order to give gamers awesome content. You've all made following games for the past four short years an unforgettable delight.
But what can we do about the haters that ruin our passion? Can we ignore them? Should we ignore them? I really dont know. But maybe part of the problem is the number of sane people out there who stay mute in fear and exasperation of the dreaded comments sections. I think it may be time to get more vocal. I dont mean writing blogs like this that don't change the way a single troll thinks, but participating more in the content sites like GameSpot put out. I'm going to try to think of something meaningful to comment for the majority of videos and articles I consume here. It may not be a real solution, but in numbers, maybe there's hope in drowning out some of the hate.