Despite the fact that it’s 2017, it’s still not unheard of to listen to people talk about gamers in offensively stereotypical terms. You’ve heard these people before – those who seem to assume that we’re all male, that we’re all young adults, that were all socially awkward, etc. As offensive and as factually incorrect as it may be those stereotypes still persist, sometimes even among gamers themselves. One of the more common ideas thrown about is the thought that all gamers are overly entitled nerds who nitpick every last detail of a game and are never happy unless the game is literally perfect.
I’ll give a full confession here: I am one of the guilty parties. Whenever I get excited for a newly released title I’ll find myself gravitating toward its relevant fan forums or subreddits. There I will usually find supposed fans of the franchise ripping the game to shreds over details that feel (to me) inconsequential. I’ve never been one to care about the technical quality of the graphics, or how well the dialog system was implemented, or if physics engine provided a NASA-precise simulation. When I see these complaints posted online I find myself sitting back in disbelief and thinking “the game is fun… isn’t that all that really matters?”
It’s at that moment that I hopefully get off my high horse and correct myself. The game might be fun FOR ME, but it was clearly lacking for these other gamers. I have to remind myself that video games are an incredibly sophisticated product, equal parts art and engineering. Every gamer appreciates games for a different reason, finds them fun for different reasons. Sure, I may not personally notice if a game is employing the latest HDR rendering techniques, but for another gamer that might be top on their list of expectations for a new title. Just because I might not give a glowing green mushroom about dialog doesn’t mean that another gamer wasn’t eagerly looking forward to reading how her favorite characters interact.
In short, I need to constantly realize and remember that I’m not the only gamer in the world, and that I don’t speak for the entire community. Everyone comes to gaming to experience different things, and I have no right to be the sole judge of quality for these other people.
When you step back and think about it, I think that may be the real problem and the reason why we’ve gained such an unsavory reputation for being entitled. So many of us get so wrapped up in what WE consider a good game that we forget other gamers might be working from a different playbook. We get offended when other gamers don’t care about quite the same things and pretty soon flame-wars erupt.
I’m not convinced that it’s necessarily a bad thing though. I mean yes, clearly, if you’re berating and insulting someone for having a different set of standards than you, that’s a problem. However, the core of that interaction – the debate and discussion about what we as individuals want out of our games – can be extremely enlightening and beneficial.
If we took a less combative stance when discussing our games, I think it could be an enriching experience for everyone. By framing the conversation as an exchange of ideas and values instead of as a fight between wrong vs. right, both sides stand to learn a lot more about their shared community and would likely cultivate a deeper personal appreciation for the art form that we all enjoy.
If this is starting to sound too hippy-dippy, I apologize. However, I think there’s a lot of value to be had here. When you’re discussing a new title with a fellow gamer you should absolutely give your opinions on it for better or worse. However, when your comrade offers a dissenting view, even if it’s one you’re wholeheartedly against, don’t fight it. Instead, take an interest – ask him to elaborate on how he came to that idea. Start a conversation, not an argument.
One of the coolest things about the modern gaming landscape is how huge and diverse the fandom has become. We need to remember to take advantage of our huge community and make a more enjoyable experience for all of us instead of retreating into our respective niches and fighting amongst ourselves. After all, as countless gamers have shown me on various forums, dialog matters.