Don’t Take It So Personally!

Some sage advice for the nerdragers.

It’s not their fault.

This isn’t to excuse the recently revealed 2DS; which is frankly ugly whichever way you slice it. Nor do I mean to excuse the massive and well-documented fail that has so far been the pregnancy period of the XBox One. These things happen, and there’s no way to undo them. They just are. But it’s not their fault.

The reason I say this is that there’s a peculiar sense among many of the critics of the aforementioned games; not to mention critics of poor writers, developers of Free-to-Play games and such forth that these things are “hurting gaming”, and by token, therefore hurting themselves in a deeply personal and profound way. People take to the Internet in droves to decry that Nintendo’s new machine is “An afront to every decent games machine out there on the market!”, or that Microsoft “Lied to us for years and now we see it never loved gamers, just the money we spend, like a dirty little gold digger.”

You see this from certain writers who ended up with threats on her life; okay, the script for Dragon Age 2 was hardly Shakespearean in origin and yes, the whole sex thing was a contrived and ultimately facetious addition that added nothing whatsoever to the game in question (that said, you can say this about much of BioWare’s garnish in recent years…). But to call her evil? To say she isn’t a human being as she is so awful? To THREATEN HER FAMILY?! What is with you? If I was standing next to you I’d take my crutch and smack you over the head with it!

You see this with Free-to-Play developers getting hate-mail and nasty comments, questioning their sexuality and commitment to the industry, called a “disease”, an afront to big games developers (Like they NEED help to make themselves look stupid in recent years…). To the point that it really gets you down, having to deal with it day in, day out.

And yet, who is ultimately hurt?

The problem is the entitled masses that hurl forth anonymous abuse from the comfort of their own homes have no reason to be so offended. I’ve used the TV analogy before so here we go again; say there’s a stupid show on Channel 5 like recently, when they did some barely-sensible walkthrough of the Oscar Pistorius case. Yes, it was rubbish. There’s no excuse for it. But you see that thing near you? The thing you point at the TV to change channels? Yes. That’s your solution. Sure, it’s shit. But guess what? If you are watching it for a length of time, you are contributing to its ratings and viewershare. The irony is that they know people will watch this kind of train-wreck TV because people want to complain about things. But they’ve got the power to stop Channel 5 and their ilk from doing stupid shows and specials like that – by choosing instead to not watch them. Without the ratings, without the viewershare, they might even begin to realise the money is better spent on quality programming!

The same is true of gaming. No, the 2DS isn’t pretty. But guess what? I have a 3DS. The strange part is I can’t see what purpose the 2DS has other than being a terribly misjudged attempt by Nintendo to get column inches; the 3D is often turned off on my 3DS, and it’s not hard to turn it off either. Which begs the question of the market it is aimed at; your guess really is as good as mine. But I’m not insulted by it. Nintendo do seem to be making some very odd decisions of late and I do worry about them, no doubt they’re rich enough to get themselves into rehab but it’s no less strange to watch the meltdown in progress. It’s clearly not aimed at me then; it’s a device for a market I am not aware of. But Nintendo may argue there is an audience. And they may invariably be right as well.

But to say it offends every console out there is strong. Remember the XBox One? Remember all that bad stuff? You know, the real anti-consumer bullshit that they employed insisting that it was in our best interests because our safety online was safer in the hands of a bunch of people who clearly had no respect for any of their customers? Yeah. THAT was bad. The 2DS is a novelty act; it’s a curio on a talent show like Britain/America’s Got Talent. It’s dumb and silly and even cringe-worthy; but the more you talk about it, the more it sticks around. I’d mention Jedward here but I fear that’s a bit like the whole Beetlejuice thing. If I say their name too much they will materialise and I will be found tomorrow with bleeding eardrums, comatose and forever changed and harrowed by the experience.

The thing is, by taking it personally, the responses are personal. And deeply personal. Wishing cancer upon their children and their children’s children, threats of rape and sexual violence, talk of hit and runs. It’s grotesque to think that people react in such a way to relatively innocuous announcements; the Wii U gets a price but no-one is interested. Dat 2DS! S’ugly! Sure is, but I’m not offended by it. It doesn’t offend me. The only thing it will do and the only way to hurt Nintendo is, yep, to not buy it. Let them lose money, and let it disappear like the PSPGo! did. Sony’s insistence that was in our interests whilst gouging us on memory (which it still does!) and purchase pricing meant that with retailers unwilling to stock it, it disappeared very quickly and is all but forgotten now.

I don’t blame the people behind it. The guy who designed it obviously was inspired by the new wave of table-top competitive gaming devices. Could have been better, sure; but it’s no Virtual Boy.

The sad thing is, this wave of hate bleeds into an ugly mess where often the very nub of the issues get drowned out under a sea of filth and vulgarity. The discussion invariably turns away from the real issue underlying it all and then becomes a story about consumer reaction to “something something Dark Side”. There’s no way to discuss the sexual politics of BioWare’s games because the conversation turns to trying to explain to people why it’s wrong to call one woman and one small part of a huge team that built the game a “disgusting excuse for a human being”. And that’s what is left when you napalm a discussion with such irreverent hatred. Nothing but ash, and maybe the bare bones of something. But damned if the people coming in after will know what the hell it was. Too far gone for that. You can only talk about the heavy-handed napalming. It’s all you have.

All we have to do in so many of these cases is to ignore it.

A reviewer doesn’t like a game you like? Don’t sign up for the purposes of launching a verbal assault; if I needed such validation to play the games I like to play, I’d barely play much at all. One review doesn’t negate a bunch of good reviews; difference of opinion is important. And if it turns out that the person is seeking attention for themselves and their major news outlet, then that’s all the more reason not to get involved. Because you’re doing what they want you to do, getting them the press coverage and attention that they so crave and indeed, even turning the instigator into the victim. Letting it slide and not turning the reaction into a news story is important; because then the quality – or not, as the case may be – of something can shine through.

There was a real life analogy of this a while back; a kid was being smacked on his bare bottom in public by his dad (Which is wrong), so a couple of burly chaps fairly rightly pushed him aside and threw a few punches towards the dad, who proceeded to get a few more beatings. Neither had noticed the child had, instinctively, run away hoisting up his pants as he went. He ran into the road. A profound moral tale; sometimes an act can lead to a worse conclusion. The road to hell is oft paved with good intentions.

And I do think there is something in the passion we all have as gamers. I think it’s hugely important that we continue to channel that passion but we must also realise that the gaming world is by many still under a very tight microscope; and the reactions we have seen in the last year or so to a multitude of events have sadly painted us all in a terribly poor light. It’s hard to argue that video games have intrinsic benefits and are a valid art form in the modern when the people who play them end up on Twitter acting like they had fallen out of an old Soho-style nightclub at 3am, with no motor control, no bowel control and completely incapable of keeping their traps shut.

When CNN turns and points to a video game like Grand Theft Auto 4, the discussion is not the real things of concern – like why a loaded gun was so unguarded, how the child knew where it was and why the child was obviously left unsupervised in the vicinity of this weapon for so long. No, it’s the video game. And we can’t fight back – because the minute you try, you get a bunch of other people being dicks about it. Swearing, cussing and bringing the tone of the conversation down, the intelligent musings and valid criticisms of the reporting are lose because the new story is; “Look at how gamers are reacting to what we’ve said! Look at their foul language and crude insults! That alone says games are bad, no?”

There are plenty of us who wish to seek peace, who dream of intelligent and meaningful dialogue across the board. The problem is, for all of those who wish peace, there are fifty more for each of us who are simply spoiling for a fight and will take whatever opportunity arises in order to provoke one. And these same people find it incredibly embarrassing when their beloved subject is mocked, derided, insulted and blamed for a variety of problems and societal ills. Which only serves to intensify their rage, making the responses ever more offensive and crude.

Really, the only way I feel to tackle these people is to sever their online life completely. I think if you are caught doing this stuff regularly, or you do something really unforgivable, you should forfeit your online rights. Bam, thirty days offline for some offences. Your broadband is suspended, as is your Twitter/Facebook. You are cut off; isolated. You are now no longer able to grandstand. But this rage is likely a societal issue as well; the rage is coming from somewhere and it’s clearly far too often channelled in completely the wrong direction. The power of social media has helped topple governments in some countries; whereas in the UK and USA, most people just bitch at how stupid Nintendo is constantly and enjoy a spot of derogatory “negging” every time someone says they are a girl.

(On a side note; Ladies. If someone negs you in real life, hit the man’s hard reset button (his crotch). Preferably with your knee but considering some of the negging going on, circumstances may require something more hard-wearing and heavy-duty… online? Report abuse. It’s not cute.)

If people stopped taking things so personally they might get to enjoy things more. They will be a lot less stressed for one; it must be terribly hard work to get so worked up every single day. Seriously, when did thirty-something gamers turn into freaking Victor Meldrew? Seriously, ten years ago some of what is going on would have been considered outlandish even in a sitcom! And yet here we are. Nintendo aren’t trying to insult you with the 2DS; they think it’s a good idea. The best way to show it’s not? Ignore it. The more the news focuses on the reaction, the more publicity the 2DS gets. Therefore the more likely it is that it will sell and not go away.

The irony underlying it all is that by reacting so violently, they undermine the very thing they desire; to see it stop. And increasingly, the news is becoming more and more focused on how gamers react to things. We have become a sort of societal joke now; we’ve dragged the passion out of the bedroom, and into being “cool” and “trendy”… and now, here we are. Sort of almost back where we started; in the shadows, hissing at things we don’t approve of.

The XBox One I’ll grant you was worth a reaction; but that was a company seeking to profit from restrictions. The truer reason for the reversals is more likely that the PS4 was already selling out on pre-orders; the XBox One was also getting a media hammering, including a late-night US Talk Show stint that must have hurt like hell. The reason for the back-pedalling there is simple; money. And note this; once Microsoft have your money, there is a very real chance down the road they will put that same crap back in somehow. Because they’ll already have your money. Nerdrage over that one…

We need to stop reacting in some of these cases though. We damage our credibility and that of our brothers and sisters by taking it so far, so quickly and for such asinine, benign things. It’s almost embarassing to admit you have a gaming blog these days, because the assumption is you’re another shouty sweary douche who just insults everyone who doesn’t agree with you.

Please, stop it. If they’re not insulting your mother, your sister or commenting on the size of your genitalia, then you have no right to feel so personally offended by any of these things.

Speak with your wallet. Trust me. They’re far more likely to notice that…

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