The game community is at once fantastic and insane. Sometimes Insanely fantastic but in this case the more negative connotation applies. For one, if it wasn’t for the online communities I wouldn’t be here today to tell you about how terrible the game community is. Funny how that works.
Now that’s not what I’m actually going on about in my article but I’ve noticed something interesting about game journalism in relation to its community in comparison to other journalists and their communities. It’s that game journalists seem more ready to attack their readers on their mistakes and idiocy than others.
I’m not saying that the game community is the only one with a stupid vocal minority. Those very loud few are the bane of all societies from sports to politics. The only reason why the foolish are brought to the forefront is because news pays more attention to the punk rocker who kills 3 people with an ax then they do with the punk rocker who organizes a charity to help former drug addicts. Point is sensationalism is nothing new.
Let’s take the whole DmC debacle for instance. The majority of gamers probably doesn’t really care or have no feelings on the matter but of course what we all know about the new DmC reboot in terms of news is how studio Ninja Theory received death threat from fans over Dante’s new look. Now let’s look at what some journalists say about the matter. Destructoid’s Jim Sterling wrote ”
“The rage over DmC has been utterly pathetic. While I don’t begrudge anybody the opportunity to be concerned about it, the sheer depths of lunacy that some people have sunk to are shocking, to say the very least. This level of outrage would be stupid even if these nutters had played the game, but it’s not even out yet. And we wonder why gamers are still portrayed as psychopathic manchildren on TV!”
In response to the new trailer released over the past week Gamesradar’s David Houghton wrote
“Really people let it go, you have nothing left to moan about…Seriously people, how much more Devil May Cry do you want it? Everything in this trailer screams “‘Yes sir, this is authentic Devil May Cry”‘. Honestly, I could dye my own hair a different colour tomorrow, but it wouldn’t make me any less right about this“.
These are of course more opinionated news outlets from certain individuals with the reputation of a more vocal approach to journalism but my sentiments remain fairly the same. That overall games journalists are by far much stronger critics of their own communities than well…the critics of the game community. Corporate news outlets may shy away from alienating their readership with outright hostilites but the more independent of websites seem to have no problem calling out those in a community that might be upset about such trivial things.
Even articles that have good intentions fall into this trap of “Better than thou” mentality. When trying to defend eSports from a dirge of criticism denouncing the activity Michael “Zechs” Radford of esfiworld wrote this:
“There are several ways to deal with negative attention. There’s the sabre-rattling, knight-in-shining-armour attitude of someone like commentator Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham. If you want to score points with 15 year-old forum posters on Team Liquid while increasing your own massively inflated sense of self-importance, this is the approach for you. You could take the similar, but slightly more subtle approach of Rod “Slasher” Breslau, one of the hosts of “Live on Three” and Major League Gaming employee. Write an informative column and get it published on the site that criticised e-sports in the first place. This is perhaps slightly more useful, while equally reputation-enhancing, a good choice for the more reserved egoist. Or, you could take the grown up approach: ignore it, silently thank them for the attention (cliché number three: no publicity is bad publicity), and remember to never again visit the site in question.”
Yes, Mr. Radford is giving advice on how to act in response to negativity. Let me say that again. He is giving you advice on how to behave. Or you can take the grown up approach is what he actually said but by doing so he’s implying that it is the road less taken, that those who don’t are neither mature nor sophisticated.
And the saddest thing is that they are justified (to an extent) for their words.
The question is now why that would be? Why would journalists attack their readership in this manner? My guess is simply embarrassment. Even today gaming is fighting an increasingly desperate battle for mainstream recognition. Just because games like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto have gained household recognition doesn’t make games like Persona or Katamari Damacy are any more recognizable to the average person. In comparison, films that were arguably very indie such as Reservoir Dogs or Clerks have gained such mainstream recognition that they have somehow lost indie status. Likewise the name Shigeru Miyamoto, a big name in the industry and gaming as a whole, is probably less recognized around the world than someone like David Lynch one of the more cultish directors.
So it’s when stories that do reach the stream of public consciousness perpetuate the idea that gamers are willing to kill their parents for their games or a very tragic view of how homophobic video game fans might be it makes all of us look very, very bad.
Journalists have always taken up the mantle as defenders of public opinion. Film critics are usually the first to attack the film industry, as the music critics will attack the music industry, and of course game critics will attack the game industry. But the game journalists fight a two front war in which they must defend gamers from the less than savory tactics of the video game corporations they must also defend their community from the public eye.
Almost as if a parent were chastising their child for public misbehavior and embarrassment so too have journalists somehow taken it upon themselves the parental role in this relationship.
Even as I write this my subconscious is seeping into this article. The journalists must do this and must protect from that. Let’s look at it from the other point of view and you’ll see the same thing I see as a community member. When we look to our right and we see a good friend who likes games and has a pretty good head on his shoulder we know why we love being what we are. We look to the left and see another fellow who you might not always agree with but a pretty decent person nonetheless. Then we look a little further down the line and what do we see? A person demanding they change the look of a character because it doesn’t suit their personal tastes (Race, Gender, …Fashion), a person who denies homophobia or misogyny as serious issues plaguing gaming, some twelve year old who got a M rated game for his birthday. How do we dispel these associations with these individuals? How do we separate ourselves from these vocal embarrassments? Well I suppose we can prove the public wrong, start charities, build homes for the homeless. But who will report on these actions? Not CNN, Not MSNBC, definitely not FOX but Kotaku, IGN, Destructoid, Gamesradar. Like it or not we may have actions but no voice. Or alternately, the only action that are given a voice are loud and obnoxious and sometimes bigoted.
So we’re given a voice. It’s not your voice, it’s not my voice but it’s the voice that we’re left with because it’s either our journalists or their journalists. And I have a problem with that because at this point we also give them the power to lecture us, to speak for us, to be the parents to our adolescence.
I can play Devil’s advocate all day long. I can defend aesthetics and character design as part of a game’s overall existence, I will not defend homophobia or bigotry so we’ll move on, I can defend video games as a sport, hell I’ll be willing to defend video games as a nutritional substitute for fiber if I have to. But we won’t be on the next cover of Sports Illustrated, Fine Cuisine, Travel + Leisure. We’re too busy being scrutinized by Time magazine, Child Psychology Monthly, Newsweek.
But maybe I’m over exaggerating. It’s perfectly natural to point out and criticize stupidity when it’s so pronounced. If that was the case then why am I writing this article? Why is this person writing this blog? Why this discussion? (Note: The last article doesn’t explicitly relate itself to my cause but the sentence “Metacritic itself isn’t the problem, but people who slavishly believe an aggregate score — or indeed, any numerical value absent of context” is just critical enough, however true it might be, to warrant inclusion as evidence). Point is if it were so natural why are we confused by it?
So maybe these journalists have a right to be judgmental. To become a counter argument to the loud obnoxious, visible group and to be a beacon in which more sensible gamers can align themselves with. Maybe we fucked up and somehow along the path to independence lost a certain right of self-representation. There are big questions here about the relationship about who we want to represent us and how we allow these voices to treat us or what they can say about us. All I know is when an industry tries to change its audience by continuously pointing out its faults then something is seriously wrong.
[All images belong to their respective creators. If anything is yours please contact me]
[For the sake of argument I've made some generalizations to better suit my article. Because I'm the one writing and I want to (hopefully) be right that's why.]