Let's Try And Be A Little Happier Talking About Video Games

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 arseholes. 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 that 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

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 10 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.

[image url="http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/9/2011/10/medium_rage.jpg" size="legacy" align="center" "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 arseholes 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.


    This!... I'm so sick of people bagging out games... It's fine if they're shit but if it just didn't live up to your expectations, move on.

    CoD being the exception :)

    It starts with us though, I for one will take this on board AFTER I close this page.

    Those are great guidelines, but the ethics behind supporting (or not) DRM-laden games is what gets me angry. That, and Origin's ToS, which are -vile-. Any tips on those, Luke?

    All games suck. The old games like populous on the master system were the best ever! Pc gaming is also dying.


    Why should anyone ignore Metacritic? It's an amazing tool for judging at a glance whether a game succeeds or fails at what it sets out to do. I think "take Metacritic scores with a grain of salt" would be far better advice.

    Even though it's silly to say that a game with a score of 93 is objectively better than a game with a score of 89 (both of my personal favourite games are 89s), to say that Deus Ex HR: The Missing Link fails to achieve what the main game did because it only got a 76 is a perfectly valid conclusion to reach that will save you $15.

      Well according to Metacritic i've missed out on a craploads of must have games such as GTA, MW, BF, etc. all of which i really don't care for as games (yes i have tried sandbox and wasn't my thing and I'm no good w/ FPS nor am I big fan of the genre anyway) and I love trash a lot like various JRPG's

      You would excuse me if my tastes aren't actually in line w/ "whats cool" in gaming will you? =P

      Good thing I didn't judge Missing Link's deviate score from the base game on Metacritic then, as I quite enjoyed it and I persomally think it was worth my $15.

      But I mostly agree with your point, to have a look but don't take the score as the MOST DEFINITIVE THING EVER TO EXIST, EVER.

    My biggest pet peev with games these days is the length of the singleplayer campaign. Take SC2 for example. It barely broke the 15h barrier if you took your time on it, and yet people were complaining it was too long.

    15 hours. Too Long. SERIOUSLY?!

    When FFVII first came out, I played it to the time cap of 99h59m59s and still kept going. This was the same period as the likes of TES: Daggerfall, a game you could quite happily sink an entire week of continuous play into before realising the phone's been ringing for the last 5 days as work tries to determine if you're dead or just fired. Now, people complain if a game takes more than half a day to burn through, and the next game in the series is shortened accordingly. Sad

      I think achievements/gamerscores are partly to blame for that phenomenon. Back in the day, as you said, people were much more willing to pump dozens or even hundreds of hours into a single game, even one that was (gasp!) not particularly current or well-known, simply because the game was fun and engrossing. Nowadays people want to buy every AAA title on release day, knock it over in a few hours, milk it for cheevos, then forget it and move on to the next one. Gamerscores act as a kind of global XP score that makes people think that the sheer quantity of games they have completed actually matters. Pretty clever system, really.

        Here here. This is all true. Could not agree more. The amount of time I spent on FFs and Zeldas back in the day..

    some more behind the scenes articles from devs explaining why they couldn't implement this or that, would help.

    all i see is mostly wasted opportunities and constant cloning of higher selling games in the name of profit.

    the thing is i'm sure they would make more dollars long term if they thought more creatively, sure some would fail but some would succeed.

    I get annoyed because the current state of gaming does not have to be like this, more gamers could be happier and companies richer if they started thinking more long term.

    and why are new aus psn dlc prices now almost double usd?

    I prefer to pay top dollar to people who deserve it and to me the current games are not worth it.

    I just want my kids back.


    Gaming is in fact dying

      Not really.

    Is it considered Irony when you're writing what in all intents and purposes a great opinion piece about being more positive about gaming in general at one hand... and actually making sense I might add. And then inserting a nice lil troll to a specific set of fans =P (Yes i'm talking about that nice stab at MML fans there xD)

    Barring that lil trolling very nice opinion piece actually and pretty much hits all the marks on the huge negatives the community can sometimes succumb to.

    Fantastic, fantastic point about gaming as an industry.

    "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."

    The number of times I've seen people dissatisfied that their favourite developer isn't a company full of starving artists who exist only to cater to their very specific demands and can never be allowed to do anything that's commercially successful is ridiculous. I can't tell if it's willful ignorance or naivete.

    "...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."

    This is the best thing I've read all week.

    One of the key points is that it's the internet. It's no secret that anonymity can cause people to be a little more... uhhh... forceful in their opinions. Then again, I've seen some pretty impressive fights in my workplace between developers.

    It's also a problem of only ever seeing the vocal minority. Quite a lot of gamers aren't actually raging, fanatical hate mongers, they're very level headed and civil but their voices just get lost in the screams.

    Great article and some good suggestions there. Hopefully the rational commentors can outnumber the negative ones one day. If people just took a second to breathe and think before they post anything online gaming sites would be better and maybe even foster discussion. People can get angry if a company or website does something wrong or makes a mistake but be sensible about it. Shouting 'Company X will die' and such does not help.

    That being said what does Kotaku as a website plan to do to help in trying to foster a positive comments section and readership? Veiled jabs at fans and 'bait' articles on Kotaku have been common in the past. Kotaku writers are better than that. I know this because of articles by Mark Serrels and Tracy Lien and great US articles like http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/10/the-painful-beautiful-parting-of-two-brothers-bound-by-gaming/

    So I'll do my part as a reader of Kotaku and post rational comments and hopefully the Kotaku staff can do the same.


    Great article!
    One thing I absolutely hate the most is seeing COD fanboys, BF3 fanboys, console fanboys and PC fanboys argue. Their opinions keep deranging my thoughts to buy a game. Well, as stated above; it's the internet and everyone has their rights to voice their opinion.

    This is all too true.....fantastic article

    It gets me a little down sometimes, so I figured, I may as well

    Good article.

    And if you want to see insane Nintendo fanboyism, check out 3DS Blog. I sometimes read it because it has info on ambassador program etc, but damn, the website has amassed a rapid fanboy cult of stupidness.

    Just on the topic of video games being a business, there is nothing wrong with publisher's wanting to make money with games. What I have an issue with is when a company (read, Activision), will only release games that they can saturate the market with, without bothering to innovate (games are like washing powder after all, we only need a near identical product every year to get sales success!). Time has proven how long that lasts, it'll only take a few slipup's for a business plan like that to backfire, as EA discovered years ago. The sooner the better I say, we're close enough to Hollywood as it is...

    Games make gamers want to "win" and in a competitive environment like the games industry games become sports teams and everyone wants their own team to "win". While I have no problem with the competitive discussions, sometimes people just need to calm down about it and discuss rather than argue.

    Gaming systems are like arseholes - everyones got one but everyone thinks everybody elses stinks, hahaha

    Great article, by the way.

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