Last week, we explored the problem of hype in the games industry, and how impossible promises are driving some players away from the mainstream when they fail to be fulfilled. This week, we’re going to look at the other side – the expectations players have of their games, and the reactions we sometimes have when things go wrong.
Plenty of games have earned the pre-emptive accolade of game of the year. Spore was held in great esteem before release by players convinced it was the everything-simulator which would let their wildest dreams come true. In the end, it turned out as a fairly average approximation of Flow, Cubivore, The Sims, Total War and Civilization without doing any of the best parts of those games.
But mediocrity does not exist in the minds of the gaming audience. There is no room for reasoned, balanced views or considerations. It is appallingly common for players to either stick rigidly to permanent defence of everything they enjoy as the best game ever made, or slate anything that remotely disappoints as the work of Satan himself.
I’ll ask you to consider when the last time was you bought a game expecting good things only for it to turn out actually bad. Not just lacking or buggy or slightly dull, but out and out awful. It’s been a while for most of us. But to hear the response to Destiny, or Watch Dogs, or Ryse: Son of Rome, you’d be led to think two things. Firstly that publishers were abominably unscrupulous and deliberately putting out awful games. Secondly that people who play games must be utterly mad or stupid to keep buying them.
But neither is really true. On point one, the publishers do have a great many problems, one of which is time constraints. Sadly, this often results in games being rushed out before finished, leading to bugs and missing features. It’s annoying but it always happens and very rarely does it completely ruin an experience.
The average response to a disappointment has become so hyperbolic and ridiculous that it reflects badly on the constituency of players as a whole. What surprise is it to anyone that the general image of gamers is a whining mob who will never be pleased by anything.
But it works inversely, too – woe betide those who fail to give a widely-liked game enough respect. The hatred poured upon Jeff Gerstmann when he gave The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess a score of 8.8/10 – in all other cases an excellent score – was legendary, and featured such delightful quotes as “F U JEFF U UGLY FAT PIECE OF $HIT GO F’in FALL OFF A BRIDGE AND DIE” and “Jeff G is on a one-man mission to kill the Wii”. But it’s also happened closer to home – I was accused of clickbaiting and not understanding the game after I deemed the PS Vita re-release of Final Fantasy X to be a decent game with significant flaws.
There is no sense being angry if a person does not share your view on a game, whether that’s positive or negative. It does not and should not affect your views on the game in any meaningful way.
So keep some perspective, please – not fulfilling your wildest dreams does not make a game awful, nor the developers or publishers scam artists. Nor does failing to appreciate something you like mean a reviewer is a shill or unprofessional. A mature response to a disappointing game is not rage, it’s calm reflection and an analysis of what went wrong and why. The proper way to react to a negative review of something you like is to ignore it and continue to play the game, or at very most write your own review explaining why you think it’s good.
If we want our medium to be taken seriously as an art form, we need to be seen as a community of artists and critics, which can give feedback seriously and improve. Rage is no solution to anything – and it must not be allowed to take over.
Do you think there’s a problem with gamers’ reactions to events in the industry, or is this just as common in other fields as well? Whatever you think, get in touch in the comments.