I’ve been mulling my thoughts on gamer entitlement over for a number of months now, originally prompted by some hideous comments I’d read in a forum by some trolling poster who was trying to pick a fight. I can’t even remember what the comment was exactly, just that is was a seriously derogatory remark about a game that hadn’t been released and that the poster hadn’t played. It got me thinking on why there’s an attitude out there from some individuals that causes them to berate and ridicule the hard work of developers and publishers, and is this limited to just the gaming communities (it isn’t). I’d put it to the back of my mind until this week when I saw the following via the Rockstar news page about the GTA Online launch:
This is by no means the worse comment on there (a lot of it is like reading Twitter messages created by caffeine injected gibbons on a type writer that only contains the K, U, C, !, N, I, F, and G keys), but it does demonstrate the attitude that comes up a lot: “angry about something not important and expects the world to stop and work on their issue”. Where does this come from? And why is it becoming more prevalent? What we’ve seen more than usual this week is fantastic: “I paid for a full game and it’s broken, I should get free stuff” along with the old classic: “They’ve known how many units have been sold and had two weeks to fix it, f’ you Rockstar!!!”.
We’ve just witnessed the biggest ever game release, which is likely to stand for the next couple of years, and Rockstar have said it’s sold beyond their estimates, why are people surprised that there are teething issues? How easy is it to add new servers to your facility to cope with additional demand? What is that demand? Is every one of the people who bought the game going to play online? Where does the money come from to buy and setup the servers? There are plenty of people out there saying “CoD doesn’t have these issues”, but it does. Every single year. And it gets the same level of people ragging on it too.
There have been other high profile instances of this level of grief over the last couple of years. Mass Effect 3 springs to mind first where the barrage of abuse caused the developers to actually alter the ending of their game that they’d spent hundreds of hours tweaking, honing and fine tuning, just so that the “fans” would be appeased. There was a lot of debate on whether they should have done this, I don’t know your opinion but I didn’t play the expanded endings, the original fit with the character story arc, even if it was a bit abrupt. Then there was the more recent death threats sent to the Treyarch team because they made some extremely minor changes to weapons in the Black Ops II multiplayer. When I say minor, we’re talking in the region of 0.2 of a second reduction in fire rate and 0.1 second reduction in reload time of a couple of weapons. There’s only one word that I can think of for this reaction, pathetic.
So why does this happen? What causes people to act in this way over what is really just an entertainment pastime? Each time an article comes up that touches on an issue like the CoD and Mass Effect examples the writer will tend to say that the gamers are a passionate bunch, but I don’t think that’s reason for what we see. We’ve all got opinions, we all get passionate about things we like, but we don’t all randomly threaten and abuse the people that make those things (unless I’m missing something big). I can only liken it to crowds in football where the mob mentality takes over during the length of the game, but that never changes the outcome of the game and the fans know this.
Forums and message boards are anonymous places, is this something that helps foster and bring the negative feelings and remarks to the surface? There was a TV experiment by Derren Brown called The Gameshow back in 2011 that brilliantly demonstrated that when you take away peoples identities within a group it’s easier for people to exhibit and engage in behaviours out of their usual character. The ability to post anonymous messages about anything you like can be quite tempting and there must be some sense of gratification or release that comes from it, otherwise why would it happen? What I can’t figure out is how does it get stopped? Is it something the gaming community tackles itself? There are some brilliant contributors out there who hit the trolls head on, but that sometimes just inflames the situation. Ignoring certain posters is a good tactic, but I’ve seen a number of instances where they just create a new account and start again. And the same problem lies with banning users from forums or message boards.
What really gets me with this though is that at the point where we’re really seeing gaming breakthrough as a mainstream entertainment form, and the sweaty/spotty/loser stigma for gamers is finally being dropped, the behaviours of a few are reinforcing a stereotype. A lot of work has been done by the publishers and manufacturers to reduce online gaming griefing (we’ve all be smack-talked by 12 year old kids, haven’t we?) but they can’t extend their reach to the individuals responsible for a lot of the vitriolic bile outside the games themselves. This sense of entitlement and feeling that just because you’ve bought a game you have the right to demand it’s changed to the way you want it is also something they can’t address. I respect Bioware for putting the effort in to add to the ending of Mass Effect 3, but I can’t help but think that action meant that other more interesting DLC was dropped because budgets and time frames needed to deliver it were used up. And I’m assuming the negative press also reduced the sales, with it appearing on PS Plus less than a year after release. When has a film ever been slated and the director’s gone and re-shot the ending? I can’t think of any examples, regardless of how poorly it was received.
So what’re your opinions on this? What ideas have you got? Or do we just accept that some people are unbalanced and are always going to make all us gamers look bad? Some constructive comments would be great, but if you’ve got to get something off your chest, at least make it funny.