The work that follows does not represent The Crotchety Old Gamer, but I felt that it would be relevant to share the ideas of other gamers from around the world. This is a translated text from Labzat: a Mexican gaming blog. I have been working with these guys to get my work translated into spanish and shared with a broader audioence; and in the spirit of #NotYourShield, I thought it would be interesting to see how gamers worldwide viewed this conflict. It is a little rough at times, but I feel like we share a lot of the same views regarding the situation. The following article has been edited for coherence by myself and translated by a natural Mexican spanish-speaker. Some things may have still gotten lost in translation.
La futura industria del videojuego
Its been a couple of weeks (or more depending on when you are reading this) since the beginning of the game industry’s social media revolution, known as #GamerGate. Many already know what this was about, but now that polemic has been diluted and all that energy of change has been expended on useless discussions. I want to analyze, from my perspective of a foreign gamer (cuz I’m not in the USA), what it means and what it could (or could not) mean for the industry.
The “corruption” of the videogame press
The firs topic within #GamerGate is the corruption of the press. Let me tell you this: I don’t think there is any sign of corruption, yes they are partial but it’s not the same as corrupt. When you write about videogames or any other topic, you always make relations, maybe of friendship or love. It doesn’t matter, the point is that you always have people that you prefer over others. Every media has an editorial preference for some kind of information. For example, my blog Labzat gives preference to discourse about the game industry in México, Spain, and Latin America because it’s my interest to promote the game development in these regions. If there is a private relation between a reporter and a game developer, nobody has to care about it, that is an element of their private life, and it’s hard to say that it interferes with work. Why is that? You could easily say a certain game is “the best,” but the readers have their own voices and opinions; so if you are not objective, they will simply stop believing you and you loose your readerbase. And trust me no body that survives by writing about videogames wants to lose readers.
Where I see a true conflict of interest is in the sponsorship the big companies provide to the videogame press; you won’t care about being impartial when your income is provided, not from the traffic on your page, but from contributions paid by Microsoft or Sony to promote their games. Then you go from being a serious analytic reporter to the slut PR of a company. This produces a decline in the quality of articles: the very short space the indie developers have to promote their projects and the rising of fanboy trolls who just reinforce the idea of gaming as an antisocial activity. Yep, what they blame the whole society for is just the product of their own system. Also, this monetization model sucks because it means indie developers need to pay for reviews to get substantial attention. A couple of times, I have heard rumors in the Mexican indie scene that you have to pay to get reviews. I’m not sure if it’s true and I’ve never seen it directly; but if it is true, we are killing small studios and a lot of new perspectives on the future of gaming.
To solve this, we need to band together as a community and create a new press structure for the highly specialized sector of the infinite universe that is gaming nowadays. The press should also find new ways to monetize in order to be more independent from big companies. Trust me, much more impartial is the site that relies on Google Adsense and ads from other sectors of the gaming world than those who are branded by big companies.
The immaturity of the community and their opinion leaders
Yes, it’s true. Some gamers are just immature, aggressive guys. But don’t forget that most of the games are created with the belief they will be played by a public of 15 to 25, and I feel very conservative about this fact. Unless American teenagers at one point expressed their inconformity and arguments in a clear and polite way (something I have never seen in my life), I think it common sense to expect aggressive reactions to critics discussing videogames they love to play. In fact, I know adults that still react in a violent way.
But I care as much about the visceral actions of the masses as I care for the immature and superfluous declarations of the opinion leaders in the game industry. You can’t be a public figure (as Phil, Anita and Zoe are public figures) and talk without thinking or studying themes like sexism & harassment in a completely serious way. When I read the Phil tweet that states something like “Gamers are the worst, you should nukem them,” I should just remind him of that German dictator who said “the Jews are white collar criminals, lets persecute them.” It might sound like a joke, but declarations like this grant it a whole new level of gravity. A lot of wars have been started because of harsh and careless words.
On the topic of speaking without thinking, Anita basically seems to claim that all games which represent women in a way she dislikes are misogynistic. She sounds like a religious leader who claims her religion as indisputable truth, then sends her followers to vanquish all other religions from the earth. She just says a lot of things then blames gaming, seeing only the surface of topics. I want to see what she thinks of Shakespeare. You know, the part where Othelo kills Desdemona with his bare hands? Or how about Lady Macbeth being the evil force behind all the tragedy of Macbeth? She attacks videogames because developers are nerds who read comics, nearly anonymous to their own audience. I doubt she’d expect a truly intellectual level of discussion, but learning she was artificial and contrived, a lot more voices would likely rise.
Both sides of #GamerGate have made mistakes, but I’m optimistic because I believe that eventually the voices of the trolls and pseudo-intellectuals will vanish while the other side of the community, those without the attitude of children, begin to participate more.
The incapacity of the industry to reach a new market
The videogame industry probably grown the most in recent years; In fact, I’ll bet it’s bigger than pornography. Just imagine that. But when we read articles of the videogame press, it seems that the major industry is always on crisis mode. Like Third World countries, they have a lot of wealth while they simultaneously have a lot of economic problems. Fortunately, it’s easier to understand what is happening in the videogame industry than what goes on in the Third World. The industry is growing up thanks to the new models of distribution and the accessibility to tools to develop games.
But the ones who reap the benefits of this growth are neither the studios, the pulishers nor the gamers. So who benefits? Easy. The digital store owners. They just created a new consumption and production model. A lot of developers produce a lot of games that get distributed at a very low prices because supply is much bigger than the demand. So the gamer gets a lot of games at very low cost or free. They’ll log maybe an hour of gameplay, then forget about them. At that point, gamers don’t play games, they just store them.
When the press writes articles stating “gamers are dead,” they are writing about the gamers who play games and give them the value of a book or a movie. The ones who play to improve their skills on Street Figther, to collects pokemon: the ones who play epic adventures and share it with their loved ones because it was significant to them. It’s sad to read that we have no value to the major press or major companies because we are too few in economic impact for them. But it gets worse! They blame us for their mistakes, for their incapacity to reach the new public that Google, Apple and Steam do! We are not the problem. The problem is yours for generating shity games and reviews. We used to pay more for the games when the games were well-developed and the story, music and graphics were respectively epic, when they cared to utilize the best of technology, give us the best mechanics and polish their code lines to a blinding sheen: When they cared about the game experience. And, yes, we would buy fewer games, but paid much more for them.
It’s fair to recognize, though, that not all the fault lies with the companies, but that it is also ours. We accepted the new system of gaming, of being treated like thieves. We support incomplete games, and never complain about the laziness of developers or the ambition of CEOs. We just sat and and let the industry turn into a bunch of FPS with sepia tones and puzzles F2P. Now what can we expect for the future? I think the industry will turn into two: the massive, fashionable games and the elite games for a very specific public: mimicking the modern film industry.