The lights are on
For eight years, I’ve looked forward to attending E3 each summer. With its extravagant booths and surprising reveals, the annual conference is a fitting celebration of an industry that so many of us love. Between getting a first taste of next-gen consoles, great games, and exciting new experiences with technology such as the Oculus Rift, 2013 was my favorite E3 I’ve attended. Unfortunately, my excitement over the industry’s future was mixed with disappointment in the behavior of many gamers.
As Game Informer covered the press conferences, my job was to moderate the chat room in our Twitch-hosted live stream. Before Microsoft even took the stage, an avalanche of hate-filled comments sped past my eyes at a pace almost too fast to read.
Angry gamers were ready to pounce on Microsoft, and they spewed their hatred toward every piece of news coming out of the conference. “Micro$oft” (or the even less-clever “FailureSoft”) was a “piece of **** with no games,” and Dead Rising 3 “must have been running at 10 frames per second.” When publishers showcased shooters, the chatters quickly decried them as “more s***ty Call of Duty clones.” When Microsoft unveiled Project Spark and Sunset Overdrive, the participants complained about “all this kiddie ****” (despite the latter looking decidedly violent).
At first, I thought this overwhelming display of anger was a product of Microsoft’s unpopular and now-changed Xbox One policies. As the day went on and I moderated the chat for Ubisoft and EA’s pressers, I realized that this sentiment wasn’t confined to a single publisher or console. These gamers hated everything they saw.
I ended that day looking forward to gaming’s near future, but I couldn’t shake the negative chat room behavior from my mind. This industry revolves around games, which largely exist as a source of entertainment. Debate may rage over whether or not games are art, but I doubt many would question that fun is the driving factor behind many people’s love of the medium.
If we play games to have fun, where does all the vitriol come from? I’m asking this not as a naive defender of the industry; I understand that not everything is perfect. Every console has major and minor issues that frustrate me. I don’t like the 360’s d-pad and Microsoft’s focus on Kinect. I don’t like the Wii U’s lack of games and Nintendo’s archaic online offerings. I don’t like the constant need to update Sony platforms or the long trophy sync times. I don’t like having to worry about whether my PC can handle a certain game, or the high cost of upgrading.
Despite these annoyances, I don’t always think about them when I’m asked about a certain console. I think about how much I enjoy playing online with friends on Xbox 360, how much Uncharted 2 impresses me on PlayStation 3, and how perfect the platforming is in the Mario Galaxy games.
We saw some of this as early as SNES vs. Genesis, but these sentiments have been ratcheted up to ridiculous levels as console generations have progressed. A debate class in my junior high featured a heated PlayStation vs. Nintendo 64 argument. I saw someone in college in the 2000s wearing a “Friends don’t let friends play Xbox” shirt, and rolled my eyes at the fact that he felt strongly enough to have a shirt made. During a live stream of Metro: Last Light just a few months ago, our chat was overrun with PC fans viciously mocking the Xbox 360 version we were playing. I understand that not everyone can afford every system, so there’s a notion of hoping you’re making the right choice when it’s time to pull the wallet out. That said, I don’t understand why that translates into the vilification of the rival platforms.
This escalation of hatred is aided in no small part by the Internet. With the proliferation of comments sections and the advent of YouTube, we can all become our own version of the infamous pro-PS3 troll Chad Warden. Requiring no more than an iPhone, anyone is free to make a song about how much the PS3 sucks or record a webcam rant about how much they hate the Xbox 360. There’s a time and place for subjective criticism, but it seems silly to go out of your way purely in an effort to spew venom.
If you follow gaming news and industry events like E3, why go in with knives out? Every year brings us new game experiences and advances in technology. The industry is also reaching out to new gamers with accessible entry points like mobile and social gaming. Sure, your mom’s time with Words With Friends or Just Dance may differ wildly from your tense playthrough of The Last Of Us, but do we really need to mock any form of gaming different than your personal preferences?
In 25 years of playing games, I believe that the industry has never offered so much to so many. Senior citizen homes have Wii bowling tournaments. Young kids are flexing their creative muscles in Minecraft. Retro fans have seen great revivals of classic genres as downloadable offerings on consoles. Competitive gamers have a vast array of options for following and participating in e-sports. Legitimate virtual reality gaming appears to be on the horizon. Mobile gaming is constantly improving as developers experiment further with the touchscreen input.
It’s an amazing time to be a gamer. If the only reason you follow the industry is to complain about everything it has to offer, maybe you should reconsider why you play games. I’ll be over here having a blast.
Email the author Dan Ryckert, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.