When playing a game, there’s no better feeling than the first time you enter a world, packed with exciting prospects and potentially a riveting lore.
From delving into the Dwarven ruins of Skyrim to felling the grotesque, nightmarish Lovecraftian monsters of Bloodborne, each game has the potential to captivate the player in its own unique way.
Although the key to a successful game boils down to an epic story or satisfying gameplay, what makes some of these games truly stand out is their communities. Skyrim currently has a strong modding community that has found ways to rejuvenate the game and add more dynamic opportunities. What also needs to be stressed is the people who have dedicated time and effort to provide guides and locations on the Dark souls 3 Wiki need a medal (the amount of times I got lost was unreal).
Unfortunately, life can’t always be sunshine and rainbows which means that for every good part of a community comes a bad side too. While you are reading this, someone somewhere is complaining on a Steam forum about how much they hate a certain developer or are ridiculing a game for having (or lacking) features that rub them the wrong way.
Most of the time it’s a frivolous endeavour that never really progresses past being a means to vent; in some cases however these feelings are reciprocated by others, leading to trial by electronic jury.
This effectively results in a virtual mob, rallying others to gather their pitchforks and fight for their cause in hopes that their cries will be heard pushing for change. Eventually this behaviour aggravates those who feel the opposite, who may also join forces to battle the other side. This results in a back and forth exchange which can at times regress to simple juvenile name calling, a bit like verbal trench warfare that becomes a battle of attrition rather than about who’s really in the right.
It’s an issue that is so frequent that people outside the discussion tend to shrug off these incidents as another arbitrary war between ‘haters’ and ‘fan boys’. Although both parties can be portrayed negatively, there are times when people will convey a reasonable or valid argument for their respective side. Then again, there have also been times when people have become so absorbed in a product or company that it reaches the point of Evangelism, disregarding all those who doubt or criticise what they love and in some cases issue death threats to their opposition.
This was evident with the recent controversy surrounding No Man’s Sky after it was released to mediocre reviews. Upset fans complained that in the build up to this project they were strung a web of promises that were never delivered or over hyped features that never truly captured the magic that was expected.
On Reddit you can find a compiled a list of all the promises/ features fans were sold on in the build up to the game’s release, only to see features either missing or overly simplified. For example, it was initially promised that ships could be retooled to homogenise ship play over the diverse class system. But we are not going to dwell on the idiosyncrasies of pre order culture. What’s important here is the reaction it sparked from its fans and critics alike.
Upon release, fans flooded Sean Murray’s twitter expressing their anger, stressing that this was not the game they paid for and that its price of £40 was way too overpriced for the product. The most notable expression of disappointment has been shown through Steam’s review system which currently has No Man’s Sky sitting on a mostly negative review with only 33% positive from 70,794 submitted reviews.
Whilst one might think this objectively means the game is bad, it could also be evidence of the fact of how united fans can respond when they feel cheated or wronged in any way, leaving bad reviews in spite. While they have every right to feel disappointed, it is also true that some individuals are overjoyed at its failures and that, to me, seems counter-productive.
By making posts that are deliberately created to antagonize and effectively kick consumers while they are down seems a juvenile, regressive approach to take when it could happen to them with a game they are excited for. Personally, rather than treating games that don’t appeal with vitriol or yearn for its demise, solace can be taken in the fact someone is enjoying the game and simply move on to a game that does appeal.
The Call of Duty franchise campaign is, in my opinion, lack lustre and contains over the top explosion scenes taken straight from a Michael Bay movie. Does this make the game inherently bad? No. The game has simple and reasonably fun gameplay that tends to gravitate towards a younger audience, effectively leading to the claim that the COD community is just ‘angry 12 year olds’.
This sadly leads to groups of people who play a similar or rival game (Battlefield in particular) to bicker and argue with COD fans, presumably to annoy them for kicks. COD fans do the same thing which creates factions within FPS genre.
The issue taken with these exchanges is that it actually accomplishes nothing and inadvertently creates a safety net for developers. The only way developers can review feedback is through their forums and if they are constantly coming across juvenile or outright threatening comments, these commenters can be disregarded as trolls. An issue with that can lead to genuine critique falling through the cracks, resulting in a lack of constructive criticism or direction for developers leading to less improvements in the next instalment.
This isn’t to say the developers are completely faultless, but disputes blowing out of proportion allow for the possibility that certain developers could then choose to allocate minimal resources to improving a game. Effectively, no criticism, no need to innovate.
Coherent comments that don’t come across as abusive, regarding issues with a game from a mechanical standpoint, have a higher probability of developers looking into these concerns.
The latest Bioshock remastered PC port is testament to this with numerous people voicing issues with the graphical settings being too linear or problems with the mouse’s sensitivity. Eventually the developers took notice and patched these issues, showing that voicing genuine concerns in a constructive manner can result in progress.
In the end, everybody is free to hate a game, but the dangers of attaching or immersing yourself in a product too much are clear. Passion and hype can later turn to spite, which can then breed reactions that are outright innapropriate, like sending death threats to developers – in particular to Jennifer Hepler whilst working for BioWare.
Threatening behaviour may not eminate from the majority of gamers, but they stand out, and allow the entire world of gaming to be stereotyped by certain characteristics. Such generalisations unfortunately simplify what is a very wide, diverse, complex and usually pretty balls to the walls amazing community.