Gamers are More Divided Than Ever…And That’s a Good Thing

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Become enthralled by one thing long enough and regardless of whatever the thing itself may be, the same set of questions tends to present themselves when you began to look back on it.

While the questions are too varied to cover in full, a host of them will inevitably concern comparing that thing as it once was, to how the thing is now. When doing so it’s often essential to use your experience to properly separate the past as it actually occurred, and the past as you perceive it through the eyes of nostalgia.

That’s a distinction that’s been running through my mind recently as I look at how games have changed from both the day one origins of the medium, and from my personal start as a gamer, to where they are now. In doing so, it’s interesting to discover and distinguish the things that have actually changed, as opposed to the things that you heart tells you are different.

Specifically, lately I’ve been wondering if the gaming community really is more hostile to each other and divided than it has been ever before.

My heart tells me the answer is yes. After all, it seemed like the cultural divide among gamers when I was young didn’t extend far past Sega v.s. Nintendo. Now, though, we have issues like AAA v.s. indies, Digital Rights Management, the treatment of women in video games, the validity of YouTube gaming as a career, the ethics of micro-transactions, gaming as art, and many, many, more. All of those issues cause a nigh infinite series of divides among the gamers of the world, and that’s before you even get into the traditional Xbox, PS4, Wii U, and PC debates.

The question then is, are we really more divided as a gaming community than ever before? Is there really more of a hostile environment between gamers everywhere than there was back in the old days? Or instead, has this always been the case and its only the rapid speed the internet carries information and opinions at from all corners that causes the perception that there is more arguments than ever before?

Even when you approach that topic from an unbiased perspective, the answer will almost always be yes. Gamers are more divided and hostile than ever. The once popular idea of a community of gamers united against the rest of the world’s upturned noses at the very idea of gaming, has given way to a civil war with infighting on nearly every front. While you could argue if the embodiment of a gaming community with an “us against the world” mentality ever did truly exist at all, there’s little doubt that certainly isn’t the case now.

And you know what? In many ways we’re better off this way.

Well…Most of the Time Anyway

Oh sure from time to time I see a topic or viewpoint that I personally consider to be outlandish get very heated, and want to cite the always popular (yet rarely practical) “Can’t we all just get along?” belief, but for the most part I’ve come to accept the constant presence of various heated debates to be a good thing for gaming, and not a detriment.

The reason being is that complacency in any industry is never a good thing. No matter what else you can say against the average gamer, one this that’s for sure is that they are not a complacent lot. Not only are they quick to turn against something the moment it becomes a little too commonplace and comfortable, but they are always seeking out and confronting hot button issues without much in the way of fear hindering them. These may not always lead to the most sophisticated and intelligent debates mind you, but they are debates nonetheless.

It’s that constant stream of debate that ensures that developers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, websites, and anyone else on the creation side of the industry can never rest on their laurels. If there weren’t the dissension that exists on so many topics that we currently enjoy today, it’s possible that many of those in gaming wouldn’t feel the pressure (or even obligation) to create a variety of experiences that can cater to any number of personal tastes, preferences and beliefs.

There is a real passion behind many of the various viewpoints in the gaming world that is more and more leading to gamers from all walks of life getting creative and making something that perfectly represents their own particular set of thoughts. That not only serves as great entertainment for those that agree, but  fuel for those who do not to do the same and create something of their own in opposition.

Sure its a general attitude that doesn’t really lead to a perfect gaming world (and there are, perhaps, some topics we would be better off being unified on), but its never really been a perfect world has it? The one we have now, though where gaming is essentially forced to constantly mature, re-invent itself, and provide a variety of experiences precisely because the role and image of a gamer is no longer a caricature, but rather a group of  increasingly outspoken and discerning individuals is a pretty damn exciting one to live in, at least in lieu of perfection.

If there is one warning that all divided gamers need to heed though, its that we should all be careful to remember that at the end of the day, games are first and foremost meant for enjoyment and to be experienced. In that regard, it’s important to never be afraid to challenge your own views by actively seeking a variety of games in order to ensure that your beliefs (whatever they may be, on whatever topic or whatever style) are ones formed by trying all of the different experiences that games have to offer, and not limit yourself at all times to those that only serve your particular notions, thus undoing all of the good the current sometimes hostile and divided culture we enjoy as gamers is actually doing.

Is there a certain appeal to a utopian world where gamers come together to form a “Pleasantville” like community based on shared essential beliefs? Perhaps. But there’s also an appeal in a more gotham like gaming community where hostility and divided beliefs may rule the day, but they ultimately come together to form an impressive world that can only be forged from the fires of such a variety of passions.

Whether that’s your idea gaming world or not, it’s time we all stood back and appreciated the beauty and quality that world can so often lead to.

Question Their Quality, But Never Deny The Work Behind Popular YouTube Gamers

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I hate “The Big Bang Theory.” Understand that I don’t use hate often to describe something, but such is the case with that particular show. As an “out and proud” nerd such as it were, every time someone tells me that I must naturally love “The Big Bang Theory,” I tend to involuntarily cringe.

For the most part, I feel the way about many popular gaming YouTube personalities for largely the same reason. I find the quality of their content to be creatively cheap, and a bad image for the culture they have become the most vocal representatives of.

Of course please understand that isn’t meant as a blanket review of all gaming YouTube personalities. For instance, John Bain (better known by the handle TotalBiscuit), is one of  my most trusted gaming critics. For the most part though, the popular path to YouTube gaming fame of yelling at games and making cheap jokes along the way (let’s call it the PewDiePie effect) just doesn’t appeal to me, and quite honestly I don’t think it is meant to.

PewDiePie

It’s what has me somewhat conflicted about the recent YouTube content ID incident, which is threatening the livelihood, and in some cases very existence, of many of those YouTube personalities and their channels.

On one hand, I think that the literal implementation of archaic property and copyright laws that just don’t easily apply to video games is yet another in a shameful line of examples of the “world at large” not being sure exactly how to incorporate the medium properly into everyday life, business, and culture. I also do truly feel that these sanctions (many of which are completely bogus mind you) are just a taste of the world that is forming, in which the power and abilities of the individual is overshadowed almost entirely by that of the conglomerate, making it closer to impossible every day for that individual to shape their own fortune and make their own mark regardless of their current position in the world.

On the other hand, in terms of the content that we are potentially losing, I’m by and large unaffected. While there are some people hurt by this that I will miss, in the grand scheme of things from an entertainment perspective, I’m not ranking this occurrence with say the untimely cancellation of “Firefly.”

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Maybe you share that opinion. Maybe you don’t. To be honest, I don’t really care. That’s not because I don’t respect your right to have an opinion on that particular subject, but rather because I feel that subject is very much worthy of debate, and of differing opinions.

However, if your stance on this topic is one of joy because you feel that the role of YouTube personality shouldn’t be considered a real job, and that these people have been just coasting along off of a broken system, then I’m here to call you out for being wrong. On that subject, I leave no room for debate.

What you have to understand is this. The people who are potentially most affected by these policies (and the ones still to come) are the people who work hardest at what they do. They are not the ones that throw on a webcam, get a cheap mic, record their game play, and hastily throw it online with some poorly chosen metal music as bookends and call it a day. They are people who have learned genuine skills and talents, and have put forth 70-80 hours a week for years of their lives to get where they are today, which is a position to do what they love for a living.

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It’s true that many of them were using pre-existing content as the crux of their works, but since when was that a crime in and of itself? Many of those who are being harmed most by this had the proper permission to use the content they were featuring at the time they used it. To criticize them for doing so is not different that criticizing the “Mystery Science Theater” cast for just piggybacking off old movies, or to criticize “Siskel and Ebert” for just judging original works and making a living off of it. Hell, while you’re at it, you might as well damn every gaming website and blog who make their livings by reporting on the industry as opposed to solely creating original content.

Many people don’t do that, though. Why? What is the difference? Is it the YouTube format? Is that what makes people completely disregard the genuine hard work that went into these people getting to where they are at in life and instead dance on the grave of their dreams while its slowly being dug?

If so, that’s a real shame. Yes I admit the concept of a grown person essentially playing video games for a living doesn’t really qualify as the most practical, or certainly noble, of pursuits. However, it is what they love doing, and through a combination of ambition, luck, skill, ability, persistence, and most importantly hard work they found a way to use the very slim opening that YouTube afforded them, and turn it into a something they could not only live off of, but take pride in.

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There was a time when that kind of ambition and recklessness was admired and rewarded. It wasn’t always rewarded with financial gain mind you, but spiritually it was the kind of action treated with respect and looked upon for inspiration to make more of yourself and to retain the belief that with the right combination of work and passion you too could make something better for yourself, and maybe even achieve your dreams.

And now that same effort is being mocked. Maybe by only a minute portion of the jaded and uninformed (or possibly just the usual trolls), but even then that is too many. The idea that you are not a master of your own fate, and rather a slave to some idea of how things may be is a mental poison that is corrupting this world a little more each day and can in no way be tolerated by anyone with a shred of hope and life left in them.

Call out these YouTube personalities all you want for the quality of their work. Critique them, question them, or just ignore them entirely if you choose. But never, ever, deny those that truly deserve it respect for the work they put in to get where they are and their willingness to aim for something greater regardless of whether or not it was through traditional means.

Do that, and you might as well deny all of those born without a silver spoon in their mouth the right to eat.

Among the “GTA V” Multiplayer Celebration, A Nagging Worry Remains

Try and deny “GTA V” its applause for the recent full reveal of its online mode, and you’ll be left arms to your side amid an explosion of ovation that the announcement deserves. Ever since “GTA III,” gamers have dreamed of “GTA” online, and the reveal trailer showcases a mode that is everything you could possibly imagine and dreamed of when it comes to the concept, and then some.

However, there is a catch.

See, if you give any number of players guns and put them in an online world, their natural inclination will be to find each one another and shoot until those who are not them are dead. While that is certainly an element of the “GTA V” multiplayer experience (the trailer is largely focused on PvP confrontations) it’s clear that the better intentions of this mode are instead focused on group play and exploration of not only the landscape, but of the potential scenarios that can be created within it.

Simply put, asking a group of 16 (likely) strangers to jump into the “GTA” world and consider violence against each other to be a secondary measure, is asking a hell of a lot. Now that isn’t to say it’s impossible, or won’t occur after a period of time where everyone gets bored shooting each other, but it does mean the better and more exciting elements of this newish type of multiplayer design may not always be present in every session, and may only be accessible should you choose to form a tight bond with like minded players or just happen to get lucky and draw a server of those individuals randomly.

I’d like to believe that gamers will approach “GTA V” in a manner befitting the outside the box design the online element looks to provide, but there is a pessimistic urge honed by years of experience in online communities built off major release titles that makes me believe otherwise, and worries that a genuine effort to provide something truly great may be squandered by the very people it was built for.

I’m not that one standing sulkingly amidst the applause towards “GTA V’s” multiplayer mode, and in fact nurse sore hands from joining the commotion as feverishly as any, but the question no longer seems to be is Rockstar capable of delivering the type of online “GTA” world we’ve always wished for, but rather if the hordes of loyal fans capable of fully embracing it.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter “SimCity”

There’s a great line in a “Sopranos” episode where Tony confronts his long loved crush, and therapist, with the possibility that she may not have taken the chance to truly get to know him.

Forget the way Tony Soprano makes his way in the world. That’s to feed his children. There’s two Tony Sopranos…you’ve never seen that other one…That’s the one I want to show you

EA and Maxis must be relating to that quote now as it pertains to the new “SimCity,” because there are certainly two sides of the game. One is the game that critics have informed players is a brilliant mix of every great thing the series has become up until this point mixed with exciting new evolutions to the formula leading to a title every inch as great as it could be.

The other though is the one that the rest of the world is seeing. It’s the one that is causing the entire internet to roar in fury over the fact that they haven’t even gotten a chance to play the game yet due to server issues so encompassing, it can only be classified as an epidemic. Even if you’re lucky enough to log on to the game, you’ll most likely be booted in an instant for your audacity.

There is no greater example of this dynamic than the astounding difference between the critic review score (82) and the user review score (1.7) on metacritic.

The problem is so bad that Amazon (the world’s largest online retailer it’s worth saying) has refused to sell any more digital copies of the game until the matter is resolved, EA has decided to cut “non-essential” elements of the game to help server clog, and rumors abound that they were banning players that asked for a refund (though these are being denied).

It’s as if EA flipped the disaster option available in the game on in real life, and the name of the chosen catastrophe is “DRM,” as just like “Diablo III” you must be signed in to the internet at all times, even if playing by yourself, and just like that game, the server congestion this causes in unmanageable.

Companies say its a feture that will one day lead to better security in games, and unique social benefits. So far it has only led to catastrophic server issues that break games like Ivan Drago breaks opponents.

It must be stopped.

There can be no room for debate on this topic. Not for now anyway. Putting aside the absurd notion that a gamer can’t play the game they bought and installed without a high quality internet connection available at all times, the cases of “Diablo III” and “SimCity” show that any potential benefits this atrocity of an idea may yield are in no way able to be implemented safely yet.

Actually, let’s not put aside the absurd notion of the idea. Let’s hit it on the head, throw it in a bag, chain the bag, put the bag in the car, and drive the car in the ocean and never speak of it again. It’s a terrible concept that becomes insulting when you consider that the only real explanation of its current existence is that gamers will eventually get used to it.

Yeah well you get used to having your hand on a stove eventually, but you’ve still done permanent damage.

That’s what it boils down to. Even though gamers will one day be able to actually play the game they eagerly waited for and quickly snatched up, much like “Diablo III” and its sales records, “SimCity” will be a game forever tarnished by this incident, that no amount of figures or good will gestures will aid.

At the end of the day gamers just want to play this game, and EA and Maxis (oh who are we kidding, EA) have done the one thing that could prevent them from doing that, and seemingly did it knowingly, as there is no way they could not have seen something like this coming, considering the massive amount of pre-sale orders.

It’s a sick joke that a game years in development and all about effective planning, management, and creation, should be affected by problems that exhibit none of those ideas, and leaves what should be a world of thriving metropolises, into a nothing more than a large ghost town.

If Only They’d Known How Appropriate This Video Would Be

A New “Assassin’s Creed” or: When 3 and 4 Don’t Add Up

So before my mind spins out of control, let me make sure everyone is on the same page.

As previously rumored, there will be an “Assassin’s Creed IV”. It is officially called “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” and it sees you taking control of renowned pirate Captain Edward Kenway, who will be your assassin this evening.

In it, you’ll wield up to four guns, captain your own ship (complete with upgrades), spend almost half of the game at sea, lead daring attacks on enemy ships, survive storms, engage in multiplayer, meet historical pirate figures, somehow “play as yourself” in the new modern day segments, harpoon whales (which PETA is already having issues with), and fulfill your land lover duties in cities ranging from pirate havens to Havana, Cuba and 50 overall various locations.

One would assume you’ll also assassinate a templar or two, unless this series has decided that it’s now yo ho ho, a bottle of rum, and the pirates life for it.

Now how is all of this, and more, known in roughly just 24 hours’ time? Because Ubisoft told us of course. They released the details, concept art, and even a trailer, which, in typical “Assassin’s Creed” fashion, is jaw dropping.

Oh, and there is one other thing. It’s coming out this year. As in the 2013 calendar year.

Ubisoft is insisting though that this is not a quick cash in attempt, and instead a true continuation of the series. You may have gathered this by that spiffy IV in the title, which sources tell me usually numerically follows the III seen in the previous “Assasin’s Creed” game, thus confirming Ubi’s claims,but the real evidence comes from the fact that Ubisoft has reported this game has been in development since 2011.

Let’s go back to those numbers for a second shall we? “Assassin’s Creed III” came out in 2012, and “Assassin’s Creed IV” has been in development since 2011, also known as the same year  “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” came out.

That’s three “Assassin’s Creed” games in 3 years, not counting mobile ports, two of which are claiming to be full fledged sequels, all of which were logically at some point in the works at the same time, which even if they were being handled by different staff and teams, is a hell of a lot of different manpower spread thin over a short period of time on one franchise.

Something smells rotten here, and it’s not a case of scurvy.

I wouldn’t normally be upset at this much “Assassin’s Creed” but, “Assassin’s Creed III” is only a handful of months old, and the promotional blitzkrieg of advertisements that preceded it, as well as the amazing sales figures that it resulted in is still very fresh. I also remember buying into the hype, and buying the game as well.

What I especially can’t forget though is the distinct impression that I was playing half of a game. “Assassin’s Creed III” was filled with incomplete ideas and half assed execution to spare, chocking the life out of the things that made it genuinely impressive and creatively exciting. I remember the distinct feeling that I was playing a game that peaked early in the concept stages, and slacked off for the rest of its development time. For the life of me though, I couldn’t understand how it happened.

It’s all a little clearer now though, and a hell of a lot more disturbing. “Assassin’s Creed III” didn’t feel like the game it should have been, and now we’re already gearing up for “Assassin’s Creed IV.” So what was “Assassin’s Creed III” then?

Was it a preview of what was to come as the surprisingly expansive naval aspects suggested?

Was it an enhanced spin off masquerading as a full-fledged sequel for higher sales figures?

And what does that make “Assassin’s Creed IV”? Is it an apology? The true sequel all along? Or was it in fact originally the spinoff now taking the mantle as a sequel because it got the true development attention during all this time?

I hate to have to ask these questions, but when you’re dealing with such questionable practices what else could there be?

I’m left with nothing but questions as to why Ubisoft is releasing “Assassin’s Creed” installments like they are Madden titles. How can they release a clearly half finished “Assassin’s Creed III” and then expect everyone to keep a straight face while having to swallow a game that is at best an apology or the “real sequel”, and at worst a cash in attempt to milk both the massive user bases of the current gen consoles as well as attack the eager wallets of the soon to be early adopters of the next generation as well when this game hits PS4?

Like I said, none of this would matter had “Assassin’s Creed III” felt like everything it could be, and a game that got the full attention it deserved. It didn’t in either case.

So while, everything shown so far about “Assassin’s Creed IV” shows a great looking game, and is one that is certainly exciting based on early impressions alone, considering those were my exact feelings about “Assassin’s Creed III” , which only left me feeling half full, should I prepare to drop another $60 on “Assassin’s Creed IV” to chance filling that void?

Nah. At this rate I’ll just wait for “Assassin’s Creed V”, no doubt under way now and scheduled for 2014.

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