The Gaming Press Don’t Pay Attention (A response to Dave Cook)

I don’t often get annoyed at articles anymore.  Really, I don’t.  Dumb shit on the Internet is a dime a dozen.  And dumb shit on Vice, an online publication, is even cheaper.  These people are such pathetic click-baiters.  Although, it could be worse.  They could be Salon or Jezebel.  I have taken umbridge with this publication before, and I have no doubt that I will do so again.  But in the interest of listening to opinions that are not my own, let’s actually give one of their authors a whirl.  His name is Dave Cook, and he believes that us entitled gamers don’t realize how good we have it and are spoiled rotten.  Here’s a link to his article, now let’s talk about it.

The games industry is a wonderful place that constantly pushes boundaries, delivers fresh new ideas and innovates wildly on a yearly basis.

Oh yes, like the yearly Call of Duty clones, or the yearly Assassin’s Creed clones.  Or maybe we could talk about how Nintendo is utterly-averse to trying new things, exploiting their franchises and nostalgia to death.  That’s what you’re talking about, right?

So it’s always confused me to see a clutch of gamers mouthing off about the hobby, constantly, as if it were some burnt-out car by the side of a forgotten road—a wreck beyond repair, of little use to anyone, and quickly losing relevance. I don’t get it.

Dude, you don’t get it.  We don’t mouth off about it like it’s some wreck.  The problem is that we see problems in this industry, and if they don’t get fixed now, they are going to wreck it.  Problems like Nintendo’s inability to get with the times, or the cookie-cutter sequels to games, or the broken games that get released before they’re done.  That is the stuff that we have a problem with.  And these are legit problems.  What’s more, they have the power to sink this industry.  We are one or two disaster AAA game releases away from a crash.  Yeah, it’s serious shit.

It could be better, sure, but it’s not exactly the Third World, is it? “Oh no, Bloodborne load times are slightly longer than the norm—quick friends, make haste to the forums and social networks to complain about how Sony owes us something more!” Give me a break. Now, I know what some of you must be thinking, so no: I’m not saying all gamers are like this. Repeat: Not. All. Gamers. Are. Like. This.

If I had a nickel for all the times that a pro-SJW article began by saying that not all people are like that, before they go in full-force to try and make it seem like all of us are like that, I’d be a rich man.

But let’s rewind and put things into perspective a little here. On one hand you have players who love putting this industry to the sword for no justifiable reason, and on the other you have the retro fanatics who harp on about how modern games are terrible when compared to what they played as kids. Opinions are personal of course, but if you really want to make a case for how damn good you all have it today, you only need to go back to the 1980s and early 90s.

Can you cite a specific example of what you’re talking about?  For real, what do you mean, “putting the industry to the sword”?  We’re critical of it, sure.  And yeah, there are a lot of people who like retro games.  Why do you think the Yookah Laylee and Bloodstained Kickstarter campaigns were successful.  It’s because people wanted to see classic style games made by classic style gamemakers.  That’s not a bad thing.  Retro comes and goes, in every artistic medium.  I can already see where you’re going to go with this.  You’re going to talk about how games now look so amazing as compared to games back then.  But you are not seeing the big picture here.

Back in the 1990s we would have literally emptied our bowels into our Umbros if you told us that, one day, games were going to look as good as Bloodborne and only take a minute or two to load for the privilege. It was common in the 80s to whack a game cassette into your ZX Spectrum (or Commodore 64, if your parents loved you) and wait a full half-hour for the bastard to load.

Yes, games back then were different, and had problems.  Gaming was in its infancy.  But so what?  Does that mean that we should accept problems because back then had it worse?  There’s nothing wrong with demanding a quality product.  Especially when you are spending $60+ dollars on said product, with the nickel-and-diming DLC practices.  But that is part of the problem that modern gamers have.  Again, you seem like you’re missing something.

But those old games—as cumbersome and trying as they could be—had a simplistic magic about them. Did you feel betrayed by the original Mass Effect 3 ending, the one that asked you to use your imagination for once and make up your own mind about what happened? The one that cleverly left it open so that you could put your own, personal spin on the finale?

Oh, go fuck yourself.  I did hate the ending to Mass Effect 3.  Why?  Because my choices didn’t matter!  A tenant so central to the game, and it was flat-out ignored.  It isn’t “clever” to have players choices not matter.  It’s treacherous.  Look at how the previous game played.  During the Suicide Mission, each choice you make affects who lives or dies.  That means something.  We wanted our choices to matter.  When we spent a whole game building up an army to fight the Reapers, we wanted to have control of that army.  That’s not an unreasonable request!  If you want to apologize for that piss-poor ending, that’s on you.  But don’t act like you have some kind of high ground because you’re willing to accept a faulty product.  Let me make something clear, every single bit of the problem I have with that game came from the last third.  Up until then, it was a masterful work, that treated my decisions like they mattered, and that was great.  But in that final third, all your choices mean nothing.  The army you helped build is for naught, because you don’t even get to command it.  Then it ends with a three-colored option, each stupider than the last.  If you choose to think that disliking that makes us entitled, piss off.  When an entire series of games is about choice and consequence, and the ending to the whole series abandons that, then that is a flaw that is worth calling out.

And before you talk about how wildly different endings based on choice don’t matter, I suggest you play Heavy Rain and see how many different endings there are to that.

Try playing a retro game with no story or narrative at all, where the only additional depth given is that which you make up in your own head. Did Alex Kidd have reams of exposition and cutscenes explaining every single insufferable detail of his world and backstory? No, but it was insane fun creating those stories for yourself as a kid.

That’s your argument?  That we were kids and we could make our own endings?  Look, man, older games didn’t have complex plots because they didn’t have the capability for it.  They just didn’t.  Newer games do.  We do have complex narratives.  And when you make a complex narrative in a game, it has rules to follow.  It has to stay consistent.  It has to respect the intelligence of its audience.  That’s not an unfair expectation on our part.  Granted, some games can have a little more depth in their narrative than others.  The narrative of Bloodborne is buried under some mystery.  But the narrative of The Last of Us is not.  There isn’t very much exposition in the game, but you can clearly follow the narrative.  The Mass Effect games are talky-techie sci-fi, in the same vein as Star Trek.  It’s not unreasonable for us to have expectations of that.  If your whole argument boils down to – we didn’t have this as kids!, then you clearly don’t understand what people like me like about gaming, and why we love this hobby as much as we do.  You know, when we aren’t “putting it to the sword.”  Whatever the fuck that means.

The present we live in now was hard to predict back then. I simply couldn’t comprehend the photo-real worlds, slick gameplay, and immersing narratives we have in 2015—it felt space age when Mario was still rendered in 8bit pixels, something I would never see before I died of old age. But most importantly, I imagined just how happy and blown away I, and all the other gamers I knew (and the many millions more that I didn’t), would be by those experiences.

Again, the entire argument boils down to – we didn’t have it back then, so just shut up and like it.  No.  I won’t do that.  If there is a flaw in something, I will call it out.  When a game betrays everything that made it good, causing the ending to crash and burn, I will shine a harsh light on that.  I am currently invested in a story-based, episodic game called Life is Strange.  We have come to the last episode, and I am nervous about it, because I don’t want to see it pull another Mass Effect 3 and have my choices (that I will admit to spending an EXTREME amount of time meticulously cultivating, making sure that I had allies and relationships that were strong) mean nothing.  That’s an unreasonable request.

Dave, I’ve went after you before, and last time I was mean more than I should have been.  This time, I’m gonna disagree with you pretty harshly, because I think that you’re missing the point.  I think that you’re not seeing that we do have raised expectations.  That’s not unreasonable.  Retro games didn’t have complex narratives because they didn’t have the hardware for it.  I grew up in the days of the Sega Genesis, then the N64.  Those were my first two consoles.  The latter introduced me to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  That was an epic narrative, telling a heroic story about a boy who saves the world, and time.  It has some harsh themes about growing up and how hard that can be.  That was the gaming that I grew up with it.  Should I suddenly not have narrative expectation because you and yours didn’t have that sort of thing?  It’s what I grew up with.  Does that make it invalid because of your experiences?  Get over yourself, man.

There is nothing wrong with having expectations.  I don’t suppose you remember a time, in the late-90’s to the early 2000’s, when big Hollywood blockbusters SUCKED.  I mean really sucked.  I do.  I remember when we saw movies that were lukewarm at best, but they didn’t suck, so we loved them.  We were willing to accept the blandness, because they didn’t suck.  Are you saying that that is what we should be willing to do for games?  If so, my answer is – fuck that!  I will have high expectations.  I will want more from this medium, because I know that it can give that to me.  There are games like Journey, Flower, The Unfinished Swan, and Life is Strange, that push boundaries of the artistic side of the equation.  And there are games like The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls, that show that AAA gaming can be more than CoD or AC.  Expectations can lead to great things.  Does that even remotely interest you?  Or are you just going to look at the past and then say that bad game endings don’t matter?

Until next time, a quote,

“People say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.  The truth is, you knew exactly what you had.  You just never thought you’d lose it.”  -Anonymous

Peace out,

Maverick

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2 thoughts on “The Gaming Press Don’t Pay Attention (A response to Dave Cook)

  1. It’s all a matter of perspective and proportion. I think a lot of gamers are very quick to criticise and can be a little remiss in what they feel a game should or shouldn’t be. We aren’t spoiled but we do seem to have an abstract sense of entitlement when it comes to our demands. However the constant stream of broken content, insufferable monetised dlc that could easily of been included with the game and annualised diarrhea produced by some devs specifically to ensnare further revenue from gullible gamers that wrongly assume devs want to make great “working” content. That I can’t abide.

    • An interesting perspective. For me, I don’t think it’s entitlement for us to complain about things we don’t like. Sure, we may want them to change the ending, but if it was something no one had ever done, then we wouldn’t feel the need to ask for it. After all, endings to games have been changed due to fan backlash. I think the first Fallout was one example.

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