Video games culture is a very interesting one for those inside it. I don’t mean “worthy of study” or “something to aspire to” either, more “something diverse, but with a dark side”. The week, beginning with the 22nd of July 2013, has been a good example of everything we don’t want from a culture, and should be documented in case there are people out there that are still not sure why those on the “outside” don’t take our hobby seriously.
The Steam Sale, which has become an unofficial holiday/celebration for gamers ended at the start of the week, and would prove to be the highlight with many gleefully emptying their wallets into the coffers of game developers in the pursuit of cheap games. Then things changed for the worse.
Â David Vonderhaar, and his colleagues at Treyarch,Â issued some balance tweaks to the multiplayer of the hugely popular Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Sadly, the Call of Duty community didn’t take kindly to this, and reacted in all manner of ways… including issuing death threats.Â Things got so bad that Dan Amrich, Community Manager for Activision felt the need to comment on the situation in an editorial on his blog, and numerous others chimed in on Twitter as per usual.
Two days later, a story emerged about Microsoft performing another of their now infamous policy U-turns regarding indie self publishing on the Xbox One. Interestingly, this time it wasn’t consumer reaction to this change that sparked controversy, nor was it the issue itself. Polygon responded to the news by interviewing several indie developers asking for their opinions on the matter. One of those was Kevin Dent, a man of both questionable reputation and a questionable career history. Prominent indie developer Phil Fish (Of FEZ fame) was not happy about this and proceeded to repeatedly ask Polygon and its staff via Twitter why he was chosen despite a dubious past. While the intention is sound, Fish clearly has a unique way of getting his point across, which some may not see as the most effective, especially in spite of Fish and Dent’s recent spats via social networking.
Further drama surrounding Fish erupted days after when FEZ II ended up being casualty to a feud between him and Marcus Beer of GameTrailers. Beer decided to criticise
Fish and fellow developer Jonathan Blow, over their responses to the Xbox One self publishing U-Turn Â calling them “hipsters” among other things. Phil, rightfully upset, once again took to Twitter to air his grievances, yet this ended with Phil only reflecting the abuse he gets regularly on to Beer. This resulted in Fish’s resignation from the industry, and the cancellation of FEZ 2, as well as the intensification of the hate Phil usually experiences.
And Fish wasn’t the only industry insider to stir drama around controversial subjects as Â VideoGamer.com’s Matt Lees posted a video to Youtube with the somewhat sensationalist title “Killer is Dead: Just Like Suda 51’s Career”. Instead of his usual comedic shenanigans, this video outlined a mode in the upcoming title Killer Is Dead named “Gigolo Mode”. The mode in question involves the player swooning women as a male character using, what Matt considers distasteful means. This sparked outrage from many commenters on Youtube, NeoGAF, and you guessed it, Twitter. And as usual, they couldn’t keep the discussion, but Â resorted to personal insults over the microblogging service.
Sadly, these four incidents are indicative of the events seen regularly within gaming culture though not usually this frequently. It is a culture infested with the idea that anger, insults, threats and unprofessionalism are the norm,
and are acceptable from anybody be they developers, press, or consumers. There is very little regard for anybody, especially when the primary communication medium is the internet. For those who wonder why video games are yet to be recognised by mainstream culture, this is going to be the number one hurdle. If the video games culture is turning away those from inside it on all fronts, how can anyone expect it ever to be accepted by anyone else?
Fortunately, there are people out there helping to make a positive difference, and it’s a shame that these efforts go largely unheard. So let me take the opportunity to mention just one effort. Summer Games Done Quick or SGDQ for short, is a fundraising effort organised to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. It’s a speed-running marathon with tons of awesome games, and tons of great personalities. So check it out, make a difference, and let’s try not to have a repeat of this week again?