Friday, 25 January 2013

The culture of hate in gaming forums


2012 was something of an eye opener for me when it came to the online gaming community.  I am not sure where it was I first encountered this culture of hate, but I know it was within the last year or two.

But what do I mean by culture of hate?  What I mean is the way forum users have become far more aggressive and apathetic towards games they have bought.  Mass Effect 3 which generated a very heated response from fans after the ending was partially justified, but not to the degree in which players took their disapproval.  Making personal attacks through PM function towards other users and Bioware staff and creating facebook pages to ridicule Bioware was going way too far in my opinion.  But the hate didn't end there.  Today people still hold a grudge and the only reason they remain on the Bioware social network is to hate Bioware and it's products, all the while pretending to be fans who want the old days of Bioware to return.

This quite frankly is bullshit.  If you liked the past games of a company and they release one that may not be quite up to snuff compared, you wouldn't immediately hate everything about the game, the fans and the people who made it.  I didn't like Dynasty Warriors 6 but it doesn't mean I hang around the Koei Tecmo forums looking to shout at new users about how much the company sucks.

Mechwarrior Online is currently beset by "players" who do nothing more than bitch and moan about the current state of the game every day.  Players who want PGI to roll back the game an entire year, or are convinced that the game is hemorrhaging players every month despite the healthy player numbers seen online and regular influx of new members to fan sites and online twitch videos.  I feel sorry for these players who seem to just want to hate a game (that isn't even finished yet, it's in open beta) because of minor bugs, netcode issues or ECM.  The ECM argument alone has created more threads on the general section than the Mass effect 3 ending saga.

I imagine that even if PGI did fix the netcode, modify ECM to everyones liking and balance every weapon, these people would still bitch, because they have nothing better to do in their day.  Many players on forums seem to feel completely entitled to complain and expect the developers to answer their specific call and fix the issue personally.  Now I am not saying that forums used to be a haven, where players all got along and enjoyed discussing games, people still got angry and argued but more often than not criticism was constructive.  Players would discuss strategies and their favourite in game moments.

I guess this entitlement a lot of players feel today is down to the rapidly growing online community.  Consoles and mobile phones now being online add huge numbers of new voices to the crowd and with them more opinions.  Also a new belief that all computer games released should be perfect in every way has become increasingly popular.  Christ these people would have died of heart attacks had they played games like Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries back in the day.  Players these days expect perfection and seem personally offended when it has a slight blemish.

Let's look at the situation of the modern game developer.  They usually have a publisher like EA who will fund the majority of the project but expect the game to be in a launch state by a set date.  Sometimes the date can be pushed back if the publisher can be convinced of it's potential but more often than not, publishers want the game out by a set time to get out before other competing titles, or for the end of year Christmas buying period.  Developers then have to juggle the publishers wants with their own challenges.  If a new system is being used it takes time to get to grips with it.  Developing new graphics engines or tools can be expensive and time consuming and every time they have to alter or fix something it adds to the cost. 

After being a QA tester for a short time I saw how stressful it can be for the different teams to coordinate and to get material together for different press dates such as E3 or TGS.  I saw the cost of a single fix costing around £2000 because of the numerous departments that had to prioritise the new bug that was found and the extra hours people had to put in.  It is because of these factors that games developers become burnouts in a very short space of time and it doesn't help when after all of those missed dates and family time that was lost is shit on by a few pissed off players.

Of course players have a right to complain about certain aspects such as harsh DRM like that of Ubisoft or when a feature of a game causes mass crashes or deletes hours of saved data, but simply moaning at a developer because they haven't attained your version of acceptability is just arrogant and redundant.  Many players can enjoy the same title and not even find what you people find annoying to be a problem.  This new culture of online hate that seems have to become the norm on official gaming forums today has driven me away from being part of the community.  My opinion either has to be same as theirs or not at all since posting anything counter to their complaints is seen as trolling or trying to flame when it is simply a differing opinion.

As time goes on maybe this will become something of a blip on the radar as far online gaming communities go.  Not all are so bad obviously, but the majority suffer this in some form or another.  I have found fan sites to be a much better area for more constructive criticism and open discussion these days since you are actually talking about the game and it's mechanics and not about a single issue that has ruined your life, like some of these morons make them out to be.  Diablo 3 is the latest to suffer this as the forum has now become so toxic that employee's of the company are being moved to other projects to avoid the flak from players.

I know Diablo 3 didn't have the smoothest of launches and continues to suffer from issues, but honestly does a company like Blizzard who have been the darlings of the gaming community for so long, deserve such hate?  The cost of games has risen and yes this does give you a certain right to make your voice heard but not the right to act like a child and demand everything be done the way you want it and nothing more.  Be constructive with your feedback, be polite to the developer and other users and if you feel like the developers have let you down then simply show your dislike with your wallet.  Not buying their next game does far more than whining constantly and you have money for another game instead.  There is no need to lurk around the forums for months arguing and being a general annoyance when you no longer enjoy the game anyway is there?

Anyway I am off to play Mechwarrior Online with the people who enjoy the game and don't hang around the forums all day.  Thanks for reading.


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