Video games are a wonder. They're built solely for people to enjoy as a leisure pursuit. They can be touching, explosive, challenging, manipulative. They are my passion in life, and I'd wager, for many of you as well.
So why are people on the internet always so angry about video games? Many online communities are packed to the rafters with so-called game fans doing little but spending their time hating video games and slagging off other people for liking games they don't like.
Sometimes this is because they're just assholes. But other times it's simply because people are looking at the medium as it used to exist, or how they grew up with it, and not what it's become. Or they don't quite understand how something in the video game industry works. This is through no fault of their own, so don't take that as an insult, it's just what happens when assumptions are built on what things are and what they mean and never officially laid out or challenged.
It gets me a little down sometimes, so I figured, I may as well try and do my part to cheer things up a little.
What follows, then, are some tips on how to handle some of gaming's more contentious issues. Some of them are based on an understanding of how things work as a person who's been around games for nearly ten years across retail, the press and sometimes even developers.
The others are just because I live in a sunny, quiet country and am generally a pretty chilled guy.
If you feel like taking some of this stuff onboard, awesome! I hope to see you in our comments section being a reasonable human being who just wants to talk about video games. And if you don't feel like taking any of this onboard, well, nobody's forcing you to. These aren't rules.
Stop Caring So Much About Reviews: As we've seen this month, review scores can lead to absolute shitstorms online. Which is stupid. The only reason this happens is because people often don't understand what a review is before they read it.
A common mistake people make when reading a review is to assume it's an objective piece of reporting. That the text and score (if applicable) is the final say on the overall quality of the game. That's why they cause so much anger and hostility: as noted the other day, people use them to treat their confirmation bias. So when two reviews give them two different scores, they freak out.
A review is what one writer, or at most one publication, thinks about a game. That's it! We all like and loathe different games for different reasons, and professional games writers are no different. So stop taking their/our word as gospel.
Take it for what it is: their/our thoughts on a game. If you find yourself constantly in agreement with one writer or publication's tastes in a game, then by all means, skew towards them, but always remember a review is an opinion, not a judgement. And unless there are factual mistakes in the content of a review, they can never be wrong.
Stop Reading Metacritic: This kind of ties into the point above, but searching for some kind of single score to judge a game by is a waste of time. A video game is a subjective piece of work, meaning no two people will enjoy the same two things about a game in exactly the same way.
So what if a game has a Metacritic rating of 96? You may, based upon a lifetime's worth of developing your own taste for video games, despise a title that every major publication raves about. Because you're you. No two publications will review a game the same way either, and few publications share exactly the same scoring system across the board. Making these "bundled" scores a poor representation of a game's worth.
People get angry about Metacritic scores for roughly the same reason they get angry about review scores: it can justify a purchase, or an intent to purchase, and if the score is lower/higher than the individual believes it should be (even though some reviews may be right on this individual's money!) then they go bananas.
Don't go bananas. Reviews are things to be sampled and picked from across the board, getting things you feel are relevant from one or several of them. Since individual reviews aren't gospel, a collection of their scores shouldn't be either.
"Games Journalism" Isn't A Single Entity: Depending on where you hang out online, you'll often see discussions - to the accompaniment of the gnashing of teeth - as to the quality of "games journalism". As though it was a homogeneous entity, and everybody who writes about games for money lives in the one big house and shares the one big computer and is exactly the same person writing exactly the same shit.
There are good writers and not-as-good writers, there are funny sites, there are serious sites, there are sites in between. There are niche sites, and gender-based sites, and sites for people who live in a particular part of the world. Just like the games they represent, some people will like some more than others, and some will find a site or magazine caters more to their tastes than others. So find one (or more than one!) you like and enjoy it!
The Video Game Industry Is An Industry: Obvious, right? But it's shocking how often people need to be reminded of this. Those games you're buying are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that exists to make money. They're not being provided to you as a service, or a gift. They're a way for companies like Activision, EA and Nintendo to put money in their own and their shareholder's pockets.
As such, they rarely have your childhood memories or niche interests in mind. This can be a brutal truth to swallow, and for many Mega Man Legends fans it's proving tough to even get in their mouths, but the sooner you accept this, the quicker you'll stop being so disappointed the next time a disappointing piece of DLC/sequel/spin-off/remake is announced.
Note that this isn't defeatist talk, because it's a fight you were never fighting in the first place, let alone had a chance of winning. It's just a fact of life, like finding out Santa isn't real, and the sooner you accept it and move on, the quicker you'll find peace with the subject.
Everyone Plays Games Differently. For Different Reasons.: Video games should be a means to bring people together, not a way to sub-divide a group of people already divided by the fact they play too many video games. Some of you might play nothing but MMOs. Some will play Call of Duty multiplayer, some will play iPhone games on the bus, some will play Kinect games with their kids, others will play Dark Souls until 3 in the morning.
And when they play those games, they'll play them how they want to play them. Some gamers enjoy a challenge, and will play punishing games on the hardest difficulty. Others just want an escape, to see a world and enjoy a story.
People get old, people might have less money than others, people have kids, people get sick of shooters. Every person is different, and every person plays games differently and for different reasons, so let them be! Looking down on someone for their gaming preferences is one of the worst things we can do as people passionate about the medium, whether they play Angry Birds, Madden or Modern Warfare. We should be banding together and celebrating what we have in common, not throwing up walls within walls just to feel somehow "cooler" or "better" than someone else.
Ignore The Fanboys: There will always be assholes on the internet, and fanboys - die-hard supporters of a particular company with a raging bias - are some of the worst. It's totally fine to have preferences in gaming. But it's not fine to use that preference as a podium from which to talk shit about other people's preferences, or worse, as a shield to "protect" you from experiencing and learning what other games/franchises/platforms have to offer.
I know, once you get past the specifics most of this stuff can basically be summed up "be nice to each other, and a little more understanding", which sounds dangerously preachy, so if it comes across like that, I'm sorry. Like I said, these are just tips, not something I'm imploring you to do.
But if you find yourself signing out of a commenting or forum account at the end of the day filled with anger and frustration, you could do worse things than maybe try a few of these out. Or at least go somewhere you don't get trolled as often.