Sunday, July 28, 2013

Shatterblog!: The State of Games

I should warn everyone that this is an "opinion" piece which means A) I will rant some and B) you may also have opinions that either align or do not align with mine and I would be happy to hear them in the comments.

I keep seeing articles all over the internet about how awful gamers are, and I always feel a certain amount of personal offense. "Hey!" I think to myself "We're just like any other group. All these stereotypes are unfair." While stereotypes for gamers are in no way as bad as those facing other minority groups, it's impossible to deny that there are a lot of negative images associated with gamers. We are constantly assumed to be whiny, entitled, violent, overweight, unwashed, pre-sociopathic shut-ins. Sure, gaming is entering the main stream, but we still have a bad wrap.

But you know what? I see where it's coming from. Looking only at a few recent events you can see why people feel this way.

Exhibit A: David Vonderhaar

David Vonderhaar is a developer on Call of Duty: Black Ops II whose job is to make sure the game remains fair and balanced. After rolling out a patch and posting the patch notes on Twitter, Vonderhaar received countless threats of violence for "messing up" weapons by the gamers who claim to love the game. So many in fact that a community manager had to write an editorial asking for this to stop. Now I've had my favorite class or my favorite gun changed up or even nerfed before. I know it's frustrating and I know it can feel unfair. But think about it for a second. How unfair does it feel before the nerf when your class is outperforming someone else no matter what he does because of a buggy mechanic? I raided competitively in World of Warcraft for a while. There was a period where Rogues just did way too much damage. When they got balanced, or as Rogue players liked to say "ruined" it put them back to having to compete for the top DPS slot. That's fair. Skill and gear should be major deciding factors in top damage, not unbalanced mechanics.
You can actually see the blog post here and see exactly how the guns have been modified. It really doesn't seem that bad, but I don't play CoD so I wouldn't know. Still, lets assume these guns are now unusably bad. They're so unfairly underpowered that anyone using them will lose every game regardless of skill. Are two imaginary guns in a video game worth threatening bodily harm on a man and his family? It's absurd that the minority (and it is a minority) of gamers, who are threatening developers can be so loud. It's not okay. We love these games. We're passionate. But as Romeo and Juliet and game dev's Twitter feeds show, passion can be a bad thing. It's wrong to harass and threaten people for trying to do their jobs and ensure the quality of the product we want to enjoy. This kind of behavior has real consequences.

Exhibit B: Phil Fish

Speaking of consequences, let's take a look at another recent event: the cancelling of Fez II. Phil Fish is a guy everybody loves to hate. I'll be honest, I'm not his biggest fan. I think that his voting against Ed McMillen was a little rude (Obviously McMillen was hurt about it based on Judas in Binding of Isaac wearing a Fez) and I don't always agree with his very outspoken opinions. But people are insanely mean to him. Not everyone likes Fez but it's a good game. Anyone who has seen Indie Game: the Movie knows Phil put his heart and soul into that game, and he struggled to get it to be the quality he wanted. The multiple release delays of Fez netted Fish loads of death threats and insults. I may not be the man's biggest fan, but I respect a lot of what he's done. He cancelled Fez II due to the "long bloody campaign" and because he wants to "get out of games". A man who is incredibly passionate about gaming and game design is quitting and getting out of the business because of how the people who are supposed to love video games treated him. Obviously something is wrong with the gaming community. I took a look at Fish's blog post because I couldn't believe the man from Indie Game: the Movie who slaved over his project, his baby, would quit. Then I scrolled down and took a look at the comments.
We've got all kinds of negativity here, even racism towards him for being from Quebec. Who the hell is racist against Canadians? I could literally post 10 more screencaps just like that one, negative comments all in a row. Attacking Phil's personality, his work, telling him to kill himself, all manner of inappropriate sexual threats. Why would this man continue to make games for us? To the people who tell him to toughen up, how could anyone continue to work on something when all they get for their slavish work is hatred and threats? The fact that he managed to release Fez is a miracle. This is not okay. Those of us who really love games and support developers need to do something. We can't just sit back and say "Well I never threaten anyone" anymore. A game that many people were excited for is not going to be created because of how horribly the developer has been treated. Even if Phil Fish is the world's biggest asshole (SPOILER: he isn't) nobody deserves to be treated as less than human. It costs us nothing to leave a positive comment. To paraphrase Kevin Smith, artists give us all the things we love, from games to movies to books and absolutely everything in between. It takes so little to encourage the person who may someday writes the book that gets us through the death of a loved one, or makes the game that helps you bond with a friend who will one day be the best man at your wedding. Artists should be treated better than average, not worse. Game development is and art, these devs are people. We insult them, attack them, and buy used games to save a couple bucks while they get nothing out of it. Don't get me wrong, I love used games. The ability to trade games allows me to afford new games that support the devs. I'm not saying you should never buy another used game, or that GameStop is the devil, or that AAA games are inherently bad. We just all need to reconsider the way we reward the people who make our very favorite games. As always, sound off in the comments. I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'd love to hear you say it.

EDIT: During the writing of this article I got into it with some people on the Polytron comment board. This community needs a lot of work. I hope we treat devs and each other better soon.
EDIT 2: I should make it clear Fish responds with a lot of immature stuff, even telling one of his abusers to kill himself. That's shitty, but he's pushed to the edge. That excuses nothing, but I have trouble blaming the guy for getting mad after everything that's happened.

1 comment:

  1. why don't you compare your life to his and then kill yourself


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