Whether you play MMORPGs, Fighting Games or First Person Shooters, you’ve probably heard someone say that whatever game you enjoy is ‘dead’. What they mean to say is that the game you like is no longer relevant because some vocal minority declares that it is bad and not worth your time. Why is this such a prevalent conversation within the gaming community? The answer lies in people’s motivations for playing games. The way I see it, there are two types of gamers: people who play games because they love them and people who play games because they don’t know what they want and rely on others to validate their existence.
First of all, games do not die. They may not sell well, which is a different issue, but if a game sells well and gathers a large audience, it was successful regardless of what a vocal minority says about it six months after release. With that in mind, there is an issue growing out of this phenomena, apart from the audiences reaction to games after their release. It seems as if game development companies are taking advantage of the horde of excited gamers, who feed almost exclusively off of hype, by pushing their latest game as the next big thing that caters to everyone and will destroy all other games that came before it. Obviously this is never entirely true, albeit more true for some games than others (World of Warcraft, for example), but that doesn’t stop the army of lowest-common denominator gamers from reading every article, watching every video and begging for beta access into every new game to come out. While this may seem fine for the gaming community (who doesn’t like to get excited about a new game?) and profitable for the game development industry (especially when it costs $30 to get said beta access), it creates a vicious cycle that is splitting the video game community in twain.
For example, let’s pretend there is a new MMORPG coming out that is based off of a well known RPG series and is marketed as to be the next big thing, the “WoW killer”, that will revolutionize MMORPGs and blow people’s minds. Thousands of Timmys and Sallys get excited about the game (let’s call it StarFighting) three years ahead of its release. When the game comes out, Timmy, Sally and a million other gamers all buy StarFighting and play it for three months. Although the game is pretty good and worth the money to play for the first three months, Timmy and Sally become bored with the game, as it didn’t do everything they were told it would, because of budget constraints. Timmy and Sally stop playing StarFighting and spend the rest of their time on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube discussing how much of a failure StarFighting was and how the developers of StarFighting should go to hell and die. In the gaming community, we call these kinds of gamers Toxic Parasites; they latch onto the next big thing, hype it up to a ridiculous degree and then incite a witch hunt because the game wasn’t all they wanted it to be. These are the same gamers who run around spouting that “StarFighting is DEAD. Who would play that garbage!?”
Sadly, it is not this simple, as it would otherwise be pretty easy to ignore Timmy and Sally and continue enjoying StarFighting for the qualities you realistically expected from it. The problem lies in the combination of the Toxic Parasites and the shift in game development from smaller, more niche games to gigantic eight hundred pound gorilla theme-park games that aim way over their budget and try to appeal to everyone under the sun. While I’m sure these companies would love their games to be popular after three months, they made their money from the initial launch and subsequent sales, leaving Timmy and Sally’s complaints to fall on deaf ears. The problem is that the gaming community’s ears are not as deaf as the triple-A developer’s, which leaves us to deal with the Toxic Parasites. We’re the ones left to deal with the server mergers, as the hordes of Timmys and Sallys move to the next big thing, or, even worse, the complete abandonment of the game we like, because the developers budgeted their continued development based on the millions of users from the first month after launch that are no where to be seen anymore.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution to the gaming communities problem.
A. Make realistic expectations of new games
No game is going to do everything or appeal to everyone, so we need to stop trusting triple-A developers when they say that their new game is the gaming messiah. The only reason developers are getting away with selling a million copies of their game within the first 20 minutes of its release is because people like Timmy and Sally over-hype it on message boards and social media sites. I’m not suggesting that people not get excited about games, but I am suggesting that we reel it in a bit, in terms of what we should expect a game to do for us.
B. If you don’t like it, don’t play it
Thanks to Timmy and Sally, a lot of other people get wound up in the hype of a new game and buy it without really knowing what to expect or what they want out of a game. This leads a lot of people to get upset and regret their purchase. The pack mentality is strong in the video game community, so I suggest that people do more research on new games before getting excited about them without knowing why they’re excited.
C. If you like it, screw what everyone else says
Although a lot of people play games for their communities or to play with their friends, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything your friends or the internet at large says you should. If you enjoy a game, the best thing you can do is support it, both by playing it and by letting people know why you like it. A game is never dead because there will always be someone playing it somewhere and it is your job to be that someone for the games you enjoy. When someone tells you your game of choice is ‘dead’, show them, don’t just tell them, why they’re wrong.
If everyone follows these three rules, the gaming community could be a more positive place: Timmy and Sally would be able to find the games they enjoy, normal gamers, like you or I, would be able to enjoy their games in peace and quiet without having our passions criticized by an army of angry twelve year olds and developers would stop running over budget during development and wouldn’t have to lay off thousands of employees after three years of work on a single project. And if everyone follows these rules and the toxic parasites still don’t find any games they really like, perhaps they simply don’t like games and should adopt a new hobby.