The Degeneration of Video Game Culture

An Editorial By Figboy

I remember when video games used to be about games. You know, those cartridges or discs we slap into our gaming consoles that whisk us away to lands filled with adventure, strategy, mystery, even horror. The things that turn us into pro athletes or superheroes. Games. Electronic entertainment.

I’m sure you’re all thinking, “but Figboy, those games still do exist! I have a whole collection of them on my shelf!” And you’d be right. Yes, games are still being produced for our regular consumption, but you’d be hard pressed to hear much about them from the gaming media.

Over the past four years, since this current HD generation of gaming began, the gaming media has found it necessary to pervert their sites, magazines, and enthusiast blogs with “information” that is hardly relevent to anyone who has a passing interest in games.

Day after day, week after week, we are treated with sales numbers, software statistics, what exec at this company said to piss off that exec at this other company, and so on and so forth. What I’m trying to say is that gaming media is hardly ever about games anymore, and when it is, I get the feeling that it’s entirely accidental. I can feel a disappointment in the gaming media when they have to report on anything that isn’t console war this, and console war that.

I tend to shy away from console war topics on this site, because I don’t want to perpetuate the FUD and misinformation being thrown about the net, and like to keep this place polution free, but it’s gotten to the point where I can’t escape the shockingly ignorant perception that the modern day gamer has of gaming.

I’m 30 years old. I’ve been a gamer since 1985, when 5 year old Figboy first laid eyes on Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I’ve experienced first hand no less than 5 console generation evolutions, and over 20 different gaming consoles and handhelds. In short, I’ve been a fan of the gaming industry for a long long time, and I’ve noticed it’s trends, ebbs, and flows.

There were always fanboys, of course. They’ve been around since before time immemorial. However, the modern day fanboy is a very disturbing beast, and whenever he opens his mouth, or, more accurately, unleashes his fingers onto keyboard to spew whatever mindless vitriol he’s picked up on, I feel a great ripple of unease. Why? Because this fanboy isn’t wholly responsible for his current mindset and perceptions of the gaming world.

As stated before, the gaming media has been poisoned by, what, console loyalty? No, more truthfully, capitalism. Reporting on gaming news can be very, very lucrative…if the reporters in question tow the company line (whatever the company may be), or simply feed the trolls, so to speak, garnering hits for their site, thus bringing in more capital, advertising, and industry support.

Because of this symbiotic relationship between gaming media, game industry, and fanboy, we are “blessed” with many a damaging meme to gaming as a whole, such as, “PS3 has no games,” “Xbox is for shooters,” “Wii’s are for kids.” Oh, there are much more damaging epithets than those, but these are the most common misconceptions.

Because the gaming media is reporting on the gaming industry with such a cynical, often one-sided view, the current generation of gamers have taken on that same cynical, one-sided view of the gaming industry. Before I continue, I must explain that when I say “current generation,” of gamer, I’m specifically referring to gamers like my nephew, who is 16, and didn’t begin gaming until either this generation of gaming, or what I like to call, the “Halo Generation,” of last generation. Gamers that have been weaned on Xbox, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii’s. Who believe that if a game doesn’t have multi-player then it’s not worth a purchase, or that games like Ratchet and Clank are for kids because they feature “cartoony,” Pixar-like visuals.

This generation, more than any other, refuse to think and form an opinion of the gaming industry for themselves, and therefore rely on the gaming media, or metacritic to tell them what they should and shouldn’t support. When I was in my early gaming days, I too relied on magazines like Nintendo Power, EGM, Gamepro, etc, because, at the time, they were informative, relatively non-biased (even Nintendo Power, who was all things Mario and Nintendo, could admit that a game like Sonic the Hedgehog, from Sega, was a fantastic experience that all gamers should play), and covered nothing but the games. No industry shenanigans or sales numbers to be found.

But then again, back then, the gaming media was genuinely excited about video games. About it’s promise and potential as a form of entertainment for a new generation. These days, the gaming media views the industry through jaded, bitter eyes. In their minds, there is no innovation. There is no creativity. There is no fun. It’s all business, sales numbers, stock quotes, and if it doesn’t have a metacritic score of 90% or higher, or sell 8 million units on day one, the game is a failure and a flop.

This mentality has infected the gaming community as well. When arguing the virtues of a game like Fable 2, or Little Big Planet, many a gamer on the net these days are quick to throw out a metacritic score, or a review from incredibly pretentious and droll  game outlet Edge, or cite VGChartz and it’s often incorrect sales numbers in order to prove that said game is either a failure or a success.

Very few of the gaming community are actually discussing the games themselves these days. Forums like Neogaf are full of whiny, obnoxious, elitist snobs, waxing poetic about how dissappointed they are because this newly hyped game, which is awesome in the gameplay department, is a complete failure because it has a few anti-aliasing problems (jagged edges on character models or the environment for those that don’t know. games that feature high levels of anti-aliasing smooths out these edges; see, Killzone 2, or Mass Effect).

Even when a game is genuinely fun, say, Little Big Planet, or Ninja Gaiden 2, many a modern day gamer are quick to point out that, since the games didn’t sell 8 million units like Halo 3, or 4 million like Gears of War, those games are suddenly less enjoyable, and lack worth.

If it wasn’t for the gaming media placing such ridiculous emphasis on how vital it is that “the PS3 sell 140+ million units like the PS2,” or that “Halo 3 had a $30 million marketing campaign,” I sincerely believe that the gaming community wouldn’t give a rats ass about this stuff. Why does it matter to the end user in the first place? As a gamer, all I care about is whether or not there are some cool games coming out for the gaming platforms I own.

I do have my preferences, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a big Playstation 3 fan, but I have my Xbox 360 hooked up to the same HDTV as my PS3, and I’m positive that soon enough, I’ll have a Wii as well. I can enjoy Mass Effect and Fable 2 just as much as I enjoy Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Metal Gear Solid 4, and for different reasons.

I’m just as excited for Alan Wake and Mass Effect 2 as I am for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time. My enjoyment and anticipation in these games are not wrapped up in sales numbers, metacritic scores, or how much Kotaku and Joystiq hype or anti-hype the games.

Unfortunately, not many a gamer these days share that belief. Head on over to the aforementioned sites, or, of which I am a member, and you will see for yourself how the gaming media has shaped the perception of gaming, and the current generation consoles in a way that is both disgusting, and embarassing for our industry as a whole. They have twisted and skewed what is actually important for a gamer. It should be about the games, not anything else.

It’s not a wonder why the industry isn’t taken seriously by other forms of entertainment like Film, Music, and Television. Many gaming enthusiasts conduct themselves in such an immature, ignorant manner that, despite my love of the craft, has me agreeing with the outsider’s perception of us.

Instead of being armchair analysts and raging fanboys, we need to remember that we all have one thing in common, a genuine love for video games, and we can’t let the gaming press, which is damaged, in my opinion, beyond repair, influence and direct our thinking of our favorite pasttime.

Before I go, here’s some quick Protips for you:

The PS3 has games.

The Xbox 360 is not just for shooters.

The Wii is not just for kids (as evidenced by the, literally, millions of grown adults that have one hooked up to their TV).

Be people, not sheeple, and continue to express to the gaming media that their biased, bitter, jaded, and corrupting view of the gaming industry is doing more harm than good, and will not be tolerated any more. We can bring genuine fun back to gaming, even when we have our own preferences for consoles and game genres.

We don’t all like the same things, and we all don’t have to, but there’s absolutely no reason for the gaming community to be this angry, closeminded, and susceptible to such misinformation and FUD. The gaming media should be ashamed of themselves, and reevaluate exactly why they chose to report on gaming news in the first place.


2 Responses to “The Degeneration of Video Game Culture”

  1. Well said.

    Since (good) games are very immersive experiences, thickheaded fanboys don’t realize that when it comes down to the game experience itself, the platform becomes mostly irrelevant. When they recall their fondest gaming experiences, they do so within context of the GAME, not the platform.

    It’s always been about the GAMES but people lose sight of that fact and like livestock, they rally under the respective banners of Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, don the blinders and exclude everything else out of hand. It’s really quite immature and ludicrous.

    I agree that the kind of gaming media coverage that focuses on playing on, and playing up the drama and confrontation is counter-productive. But then naturally controversy and conflict is good for readership, good for drumming up those ad profits so, sadly, I don’t expect them to whistle a different tune any time soon.

    • i agree. the gaming media understands that its this “controversy” that nets them hits and therefore profit. it’s just a shame that the constant cynicism and negativity has trickled down into the gaming community, to the point that it’s all about sales numbers and metacritic scores, instead of the games themselves.

      because of this attitude, some truly excellent games crashed and burned. Heavenly Sword and Folklore are two of the best games of 2007, but they were slapped with 6/10 scores and worse because the media had a bone to pick with Sony and the PS3 back then (quite a few of them STILL do). the complaints they threw at those games to try and justify the score were the same exact complaints they ignored in games in the same genre (ie, Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and God of War ALL have very, very similar gameplay to Heavenly Sword, flaws and all, but those were overlooked for those games, and magnified for Heavenly Sword in their reviews).

      i seem to have a bee in my bonnet for the gaming media this generation, because their tactics and behavior disgust me. in all my years of gaming, i’ve never seen such obvious bias and one-sidedness . and it’s all because of money, and even some fanboyism on the part of the members of the gaming press also. they’re only human, and have their preferences like we all do, but when it comes to their jobs, which is to report on games with objectivity, they aren’t able to put those preferences aside and just report the news.

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