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Are Gamers Too Spoiled?

Do we live our lives through constant complaints and negativity, rather than enjoying the wonders that modern gaming has brought us?

Jim Sterling is a rather controversial figure in Games Media. In fact, the couple of times I've heard him, I've found him to be a royal a*shole. He gave the original Assassin's Creed a 3?

But he has written a piece on Game Front today that is brilliant. (hat tip to Dan Amrich, who has had his own run-ins with Sterling as well)

Entitled "We, the Spoiled Gamer," he talks about how so many gamers seem to only see the negatives in gaming today.

"If you ask the right person,  2010 sucked for gamers. Ask someone else, and 2009 was dreadful. There are those who might even go so far as to claim that the past two decades have been awful, that things were better back in the 8-bit days, before endless sequels and first-person-shooters took over the market. And as I sit here, fresh off feeling disappointed that the 3DS has up to five hours of battery life with which to display amazing looking, three-dimensional interactive entertainment without the need for special glasses, I have to ask myself a question … why the hell do we always find something to b*tch about?

I have to agree with the fantastic comedian Louis CK when he says that we live in an age of amazing technology, wasted on a*sholes. I saw a YouTube video of a new iPhone App that converts foreign words on signposts to their English counterparts, in real-time. You hold the camera up to, say, a Spanish signpost, and the image displayed on your screen instantly renders it in English — no scanning, no photography, just an immediate translation. The comments on that video, however, were full of people grumbling about it because some of the words weren’t 100% accurate. As a person who regularly reminds himself to be amazed by the genuinely amazing — lest I forget just how good I have it — this comment thread was depressing to say the least. Instant cynicism and disregard for something our parents would never have dreamed up at our age, simply because a few words are wrong. It’s like complaining about a speck of dust on the Sphinx. It’s the God d*mn Sphinx! Who’s looking at a blemish when you have a gigantic sand cat staring down at you?"

He's right, I think, at least to an extent. Whether you consider the Console Wars (Why can't you just be happy with your PS3 rather than getting into a fight with somebody who likes the 360? Or vice versa?) or the constant degrading of any game almost as soon as it's announced. The Activision flamewars (which Sterling has done his best to keep going, but nobody's perfect) that jump onto minor quotes taken out of context. I'm sure you can name many others. In fact, Sperling does:

"I recently sat and read a bunch of posts where people were criticizing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game isn’t even out yet, but because Bethesda hasn’t made a big deal out of mod support, and because the story’s initial premise wasn’t instantly Lord of the Rings, people are readying themselves for a bad game. Bethesda just confirmed to Game Informer that if you drop a sword in the game, an NPC child might pick it up and try to give it back to you. A child might return your own sword to you! That is amazing! Be humble, be meek, and be grateful! "

I haven't been reading all of the articles on Skyrim, so I've missed these complainers. But this is the type of thing that we gamers are much too cynical about. We hardly know anything about Skyrim's story, and we're already blasting it? All the people blasting Black Ops before it came out, much the same thing. Sure, now that it's out, you can criticize the story or the game, but to outright say it *will* suck as soon as it's announced? Good Lord!

Note, there is a difference between somebody like Demon saying that all the previous Treyarch games have sucked, so he's not going to waste his money on this one, and somebody else loudly proclaiming to the entire world that Black Ops is going to suck based on a couple of gameplay trailers and Treyarch's history of "bad games." Demon doesn't go all over place shouting from the rooftops that the game is going to be horrible and nobody should buy it. He just says, flat out, "I'm not buying it."

The 3DS battery situation? Sure, 5 hours of battery life really kind of sucks if you're taking it on, say, a car ride. But it's 3D! Without glasses!!! It's a technological achievement! Initial offerings of any cool technology always come with problems like this. They've created this marvelous system. The next step in the evolution of the process will be improving the battery. The battery in the iPhone 3GS is *really* horrible. The iPhone 4? Much better.

The same thing happens in other media as well, but for some reason, gaming is just that much more prominent in this respect. I don't know why that is. Sure, there were some good games back in the old days. Classics that people still go back to and play.

But people who feel the way Jim mentions are living in the past and too cynical for their own good.

"There are those who hate the state of the modern games industry, and these chaps too are part of the spoiled generation. I mean, really? Life was better back when music had to cut out to make way for sound effects? When challenge in games consisted of throwing endless waves of enemies at you because anything approaching workable AI didn’t exist and titles were too small for complex strategies? We live in an age of high-definition videogames, where technological innovation has allowed for sound effects and music to pipe in through all corners of our living rooms, and games are longer, bigger, more ambitious, and more complicated than ever before. If you plucked your younger self from the 1980′s and sat him in front of a PlayStation 3, he would literally go insane. "

At the end of the article, Jim kind of hurts his point by saying "it's ok to complain" without actually singling out what he's talking about. But what I think he means is that he's not saying you can't criticize a game, or a system, or gaming in general. Sure, go right ahead! But do so keeping in mind that we live in a world of gaming where things are commonplace now that were unimaginable even 10 years ago, much less 20. Believe it or not, we actually have it pretty good in the gaming world today. Yes, there are some hiccups, some bad things or things that could be changed. Suggestions are always needed if things are going to improve even more. 

But thinking about the positives in gaming, even once in a while, can't be anything but a good thing.

Can it?

*Edit* somehow, I didn't notice it's Jim *Sterling* (no P) and there's no "e" in Amrich.

See what happens when you are writing fast on a lunch break, guys? Let that be a lesson to you.

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