The recent issues surrounding gaming are rather frustrating. This conversation stems mostly from our recent Next Gen News podcast and an article written by Erik on extreme cases of gamer entitlement. The theme floating around is that there is a schism between the gaming media and consumers. I’m here to tell you that I’m still very much a consumer even though I write editorials and reviews for a website. Most of the games I play are purchased with my own money.
The problem I see with the “us vs. them” argument is that both sides have such major issues with how they operate. On the one hand, reviewers are forced to adhere to an imperfect system of giving numerical scores to games which are far too complex and personal to condense into a single number. On the other hand, we as consumers are falling into bad practices which undermine our own interests.
I hope this short list will help us gain some perspective and envision a future where the opinions of the player base influence the actions of publishers and developers in meaningful ways.
Research before you buy.
We all do this with other products. Video games should not be any different. What happens more often than not, is that people turn to scores to determine if a game is worth their purchase without looking into the content of the review. It is not only unfair to the developers of games, but to the consumers themselves. An arbitrary number assigned to a game that encompasses dozens of hours of experiences, can’t tell you much about the game itself. Dig deeper.
Actually read the reviews posted by writers and other consumers. You’ll get a better picture of what you’re getting yourself into when you see why those scores were assessed. If possible, look up what the person said about other games. You’ll often find a pattern with what the person likes and dislikes and get a better understanding of whether or not you would feel the same about the game given your tastes vs. theirs.
Write honest reviews.
There are numerous ways for consumers to get there own opinions up on the internet. Amazon is an easy example of a site with user reviews as the main source of feedback for products. If you are going to participate in this, I only ask that you do it in a meaningful manner.
Giving a game a 0 out of 10 is inexcusable. You might think you’re making a statement, but you’re only hurting the credibility of yourself and other fans. To receive a 0 means the game was broken and didn’t have an ounce of merit to begin with. If you just didn’t like certain aspects of the game, then say so. However, do so after looking back on the whole objectively. If you must give a score, be honest with yourself and with the people reading your review. Take into account the type of gamer you are and whether or not any enjoyment was derived from the experience. The only way to show game companies how we feel about their products is through clarity, candor and consistency.
When the average scores from reviews and consumers on sites like Metacritic have such large gaps, it tells us something. And no, I will not entertain the notion that publishers are handing all of us reviewers money for good scores. I have yet to receive a check or any sort of pressure from the persons above me to write anything other than my personal opinions about games. This is another topic in the writer vs. consumer issue. There are cases of sites doing business this way, but they are the extreme minority.
Hold yourself accountable.
Post to the web in a way that is similar to how you would address someone in person. I truly cannot stand the way people behave on the internet. There is a habit of hiding behind user names and avatars while berating other people and their products in offensive ways.
I love that there is so much passion surrounding the industry. But there is a difference between passion and emotion. If you are extremely angry, that’s okay. Take that anger and use it in a productive way. Please just think before you type. If emotions are running high, write what you feel into a document file and leave it there. Come back later and adjust the tone while keeping the main points the same.
A well thought out, mature post on a comment section, forum, or even someone’s Twitter account will go a long way. Those are the arguments that stick with someone and aren’t immediately dismissed. Cursing, typing in all caps, and even improper use of grammar will cause your point of view to be taken less seriously. I always opt for posting via my Facebook account for multiple reasons. I like to be updated when someone responds to my posts. It also makes it easier for me to be certain that what I’m saying at that moment is something I want to permanently exist on the web.
We don’t all have to agree on every game. We also don’t have to say only positive things about what we play. We do owe it to ourselves to conduct our discussions in a manner that can benefit us the most. Don’t let yourself act on impulse or extreme emotions. When you have something to say, make sure it’s clear and to the point and free of anything that would cause your opinion to be discarded prematurely. You’ll be doing yourself and gamers everywhere a favor.
We can take back the discourse and the industry itself if we make it clear to developers and publishers that we want quality products and services. We also want them to deliver on what they promise. Fighting amongst ourselves will never get us there.