Video Games: The Toxic Side

Do you play video games? Well then, what do you call yourself? What do you call others who don't play the same style games you play?

This “Us and Them” topic is one that has sparked an ongoing discussion. It often dissolves into toxic chaos. So, I'm going to try jumping into the pool since I've got pretty tough skin. Any forum that has tried to cover the question of what a “gamer”, “real gamer” or “true gamer” is, has had its share of ugly exchanges. It's no wonder then that there are many people out there who would love to play some of the available video games but don't out of fear of shaming or unwarranted attack.

This is not the world I imagined when I was playing the first Pacman machines in the wild. I was in junior high and everyone would spend every hour possible at the local arcades. We all had our favorite titles and no one shamed me for playing Centipede or Tempest too much. We all just got along and we knew that our love for the arcades constantly launched new video games. The day the consoles overtook the arcades was tough. We all had a console be we still loved the arcade. Consoles were more cost effective for the industry so they won the battle. We all went home and started playing alone. Later, when the Internet opened up for video games, we were able to meet up again and find new players on other continents. At first it was great but then competitive nature coupled with a general loss of social skills combined into the perfect storm.

No Gamer Identity

Today we have no gamer identity or culture because no one can agree on what it should look like. Whenever someone raises their head out of their foxhole and attempts to open a dialogue, it never fails that those who are "quick to judge" or trolls hijack the conversation and it has to be shut down. There are hundreds of examples of this but one I recently fell upon from six years ago over on GiantBomb.com looked like it showed promise. Initially, there were the usual mean-spirited or uneducated comments, but for the most part the participants were attempting to figure out what it meant to be a gamer. However, by page two of the thread, it fell apart into a toxic barrage of elitism and the thread was shut down.

Why is this? In the immortal words of Rodney King: “ Why can't we all just get along?” Why does everything have to be war fought with napalm?

It shouldn't matter if you play FPS or survival or even puzzle titles. And, it shouldn't matter if you are a casual player or hardcore. Whether you are an extreme COD player or your mom plays Bejeweled, you both play video games. Now, are your interests different? Sure! But, your dedication may be similar. (Trust me, we've seen some stressed out people who couldn't get into their Facebook game accounts that make the hardcore COD people look like hobbyists.)

Here are a few of the better comments from that GiantBomb forum:

  • “Would you not call a football player who only plays football, an athlete?”
  • “If you enjoy playing video games and play them when you get a chance to...and you use free time to play a little, then you are a "gamer" ”
  • “games are diverse because people are diverse”
  • “People who attack game developers or other gamers because they don't agree with something, are slowing killing the industry.”

The Dreaded Gate-Keepers

The first players to a new game build up their skill and knowledge of that game, then some become elitist and grow frustrated with the newbies' low skill level. They begin to attack and drive away the fresh blood, keeping “their precious” for themselves. Those fresh players who were turned away by the elite gate-keepers grow weary of their poor attitude and walk away. Therefore the gaming industry is losing new potential players to a few elite who are not going to make up for the dollars they have cost the industry. If I were a game development company, I would be working hard to weed out  these self-proclaimed gate-keepers and many do. I have been seeing a rise in the number of Twitter accounts held by game developers who are working to clean up the terrain; although, it isn't their job.

Video Game Subcultures Need to Stand Together

The community (loose as it is) needs to push back against the mob. Gaming subcultures need to stand together against toxic, hyper-entitled attacks wherever they pop up. You don't need to scream back either, just use logic...it trips them up or confuses them so badly, they eventually retreat. Most importantly though, stand together. If you are a Doom player but you see an Overwatch player getting hounded mercilessly, defend their right to play the games they want to play.

I've already given you a little window to my age so you might understand why I am a little retro in the games I choose to play. I still want to play Mass Effect II and currently I am playing something called Spirits of Xanadu which is a first-person adventure game. I really like the game. It is a big puzzle full of these nasty little flying  robots that keep killing me. And don't get me started on the flying Kabuki masks.... The thing is, some gamers would look at these old school style games and think I wasn't worthy of being included in the gaming universe. However, I don't care, I just continue to play what I want even though I can't always play when I want.

So, what are your thoughts on taming the “Wild West” mentality of gaming just a little? I'm not saying that we need to go “Tipper Gore” on everyone, just start banding together a little more, despite our differences. If you manage a forum, you don't have to censor their comments just block them until they can give you a rational response...not a hate cliché sundae.

Use logic, not hate.


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