Recently there’s been a virus in the gaming community, an element that has ruined every aspect of the world we nerds, outsiders, otakus and loners hang out in, the unsavoury group of which I speak are the ‘gamers’. Now there’s been a certain crew trying to reclaim that word. As if we’re some sort of put down upon minority that (after years of slavery, abuse, racial hatred or religious hatred) need to reclaim the word to take away its cruel bastardisation that ‘the man’ put into it. No, we don’t need to do that, ‘reclaiming’ gamer is in no way a required act by anyone except those who for some reason need to be like British tabloid newspapers and have some sort of campaign on the go every two minutes.
In recent weeks we’ve had accusations of indie developer sexual dalliances outside of relationships with people in authority, corruption in the gaming press, a higher than usual rate of console warring, accusations of corruptions in indie game awards and an amazing amount of unsolicited abuse going towards the people who make these electronic toys that we play. And why has all of this happened? Why has the ‘community’ turned on itself?
I haven’t spoken about this stuff on the site or on any of PixelBedlam’s, or my own, social media accounts. Why? Because I have a lot of friends and colleagues who don’t dive that deeply into the gaming world, if at all, and to talk about the rampant abuse on voice chat in games, comment threads or abuse of developers or journalists would make us look like what we are, a bunch of nerdy children whining incessantly about how this developer lied about something, this console is better than that one or this game gets a higher resolution. And the final reason I haven’t mentioned it before is, why does my opinion matter, why does a ‘hobbyist writer’, as someone once called me, get to have an opinion on anything. And that’s just it, I don’t, and that’s why I’m not here to comment on the specifics of issues, but the mentality of the people behind the angry gamer side.
The problem is that this hatred and anger should have died out years ago, most people who grew up in the 90’s were part of the original flame wars, the Sega vs Nintendo campaign. Kids on playgrounds around the world picking a side and extolling the virtues of Sonic or Mario, then some weirdo would pipe up about the Amiga and everyone would feel awkward.
Originally, in the golden era of the 90’s, the console wars were caused by a simple fact, money. Most families could only afford one console, they were either a Sega or a Nintendo household, that is if the family could afford either of them to start with. For the child that got just one console they had to justify their purchase of, for example, the SNES over the Mega Drive (Genesis for out NTSC friends). You wouldn’t want your parents spending £150 on your console, or even with your own money, only to be told that your choice of a SNES was a mistake; instead you go on the attack enthusiastically defending a console manufacturer that doesn’t care about you. Kids kept this momentum going into the next couple of generations, the PS2 vs Xbox vs Gamecube vs Dreamcast was a particularly fractious time amongst hardcore gaming friends.
As these gaming teens grew up most did away with their flame war heritage and moved onto more important things like blindly following a sports team and decrying their rivals there. Neither of these are things I’ve personally experienced, I was lucky to be born with older siblings who gamed and owned numerous consoles, also I was lucky enough to be born into a family that didn’t give a crap about football.
My point is that this flame war mentality stayed with people into their adulthood. I refuse to believe that all of these people sending abusive tweets, or just being an arse, are kids acting up. The majority have got to be old enough to know what they’re doing. But what does it matter? Well ignoring the fact that these are humans that these messages are being sent to on twitter, in email, in forums and in voice chat in online gaming, it is also bleeding into other areas, and the outside world is starting to notice.
Recently comment sections have been overrun with what comes worryingly close to hate crimes. The amazingly popular Youtube ‘star’ PewDiePie turned off comments on his videos. MCV, the gaming news site, has also closed down the ability to add comments to their pieces. All of this is a reaction to the sheer amount of hate and anger being levied to everyone in a few lines of text. It’s easy to see this being the way to go for all media outlets before too long, or at least a harsher ban hammer being brandished. People go on and start arguments about things not even connected to the content involved, all over we are being shown anonymous anger from a certain sect of our little community.
We as gamers, are very protective of our little community, the problem is like real communities there are sub-sections. You get the consumers of games, the consumers of the press, the press and the developers. There’s overlap between all of these cliques, that’s going to happen, people like people, not me exactly, but I hear others do. We like to keep our troubles in-house, we like to self-regulate and certain crews like to take to vigilante justice to deal with ‘our’ problems. There in lies an issue, who decides what a problem is. Anonymity is generally perceived to be the problem here, people hiding behind their username taking on the world at large, but I think it is even simpler than that. Some people are bell-ends. We don’t use that as an excuse, but we do use that as a starting point, some people are bell-ends who think they’re doing good-by trying to weed out what they see as ‘the problem with gaming’. Unfortunately they are the problem.
This anger within our community has ruined the fun. We are, generally, adults who play with beeping toys, we are people who like to talk about games, we are people who like to hang out with like-minded individuals. Now though Twitter is getting harder and harder to keep up with, if it’s not the #gamergate folk being a bit offensive then it’s the devs and press getting high and mighty. The amount of sunshine pouring out of both camp’s arses would be powerful enough to power a trillion roof top solar panels.
The main reason everything is annoying me about angry gamers though? Other than Twitter being unbearably smug (again, both sides), other than comment sections being a hive of villainy and scum, other than chat over multiplayer games being so painfully homophobic and tedious, other than having to see truly awful websites pop up from people within #gamergate. Above all of that the biggest annoyance is Adam Baldwin, the man who played Jayne in Firefly and Casey in Chuck, two amazing shows, well thanks to #Gamergate and all of these recent issues I’ve discovered he has questionable attitude to same sex marriage and quite aggressive in how he sends his followers after people, including encouraging the sharing of a female developer’s personal information and nude photos. And now, thanks to all that, I can’t go back and re-watch those great series. Good job ‘gamers’, good job.