Can’t We All Just Get Along?

May 11, 2011

I was going to take a break from blogging today in order to get some work done, but I am suddenly struck by this this little nugget of wisdom from the twitter feed of Anjin from Bullet Points:

Reading about gamers hating on/feeling detached from/white knighting other gamers is making me sad. If there was ever a community that should embrace the breadth of its otherness, it should be gamers.

It really spoke to me, because I’ve actually mulled over this many times in the last year. I mean, everyone is entitled to an opinion. Whether or not I agree with something, I usually don’t mind too much reading about criticisms of a game. Sometimes I even enjoy it, because I can learn a thing or two from getting someone else’s point of view.

However, civilized discussion about how mechanics aren’t working or how gameplay can be improved is one thing. Even a short response like “It’s just not for me and here’s why” is equally legitimate and fair. What bothers me is seeing how more and more of this “constructive criticism” is actually crossing the line from tearing apart a game, to tearing apart its players.

I’ve been noticing a lot of commentary these days devolving into ad hominem and personal attacks, ultimately saying much less about how one feels about a game (which is actually somewhat useful), and becoming more about making known their condescension and hate for their fellow gamers for liking or disliking it (which is completely pointless). It irks me and bewilders me, because it’s not like how someone else feels about a game, or what you think of those individuals, has any bearing at all on your gameplay experience. This contempt at others solely for their gaming preferences, where is it coming from?


  1. I chalk it up to the one-upmanship that accompanies some gamer’s egos. Tearing someone down to make oneself look good is a strategy taught to nerds and geeks in their formative years, and a lot of them believe that it’s OK to give as one gets.

    These folk believe that if you disagree with someone it’s not enough to engage in intelligent discourse; one must distance oneself from the opponent, and then proceed to discredit them, destroy their reputation in the court of public opinon, and then salt the earth so that nothing can grow there ever again.

    BTW, that is the most awesome picture in the history of picturedom.

    • I’m rather fond of that picture too 🙂 Cute, but we all know that zebra’s a goner…

      It is difficult to debate with people who take that route, because the discussion isn’t based on the merits (or lack thereof) of the game anymore, just what they think of you as a person.

  2. Right there with ya. I’ve really backed away from reading (most) blogs and hanging out on Twitter lately. Just too much bad karma for my tastes. I miss some friends (present company) but overall feel somehow ‘lighter’ for not carrying around all the irritation that comes with reading people sniping at each other all day.

    • Yeah, I don’t mind reading negative articles and forum posts; like I said, sometimes it helps me to get another point of view. It’s the ones that imply other people have an intellectual deficiency for liking or not liking something which annoys me.

  3. As I’m sure you would expect, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Like anything, a little understanding would avoid a lot of pointless hand-ringing and finger-pointing.

    I suspect that I’m turning into a hippie as I get older, but wouldn’t it be better for us to just get along?

    • A little understanding and civility and logic. It’s easy to call someone a fanboi or a hater for giving their reasons why they they like or dislike something; it’s harder but more helpful to rebut with an actual argument.

  4. I have also backed away from jumping into game forums specifically. I will read the articles or blog posts from the sites I frequent and take them for what they are…I am amazed on how fast things deteriorate into personal attacks these days. There is enough of real life drama to deal with to spend any time ‘fired up’ in a one on one battle about a game…

    • Yeah, game forums are usually pretty bad…and not just because of the personal attacks either. I don’t go to forums anymore unless I need to look at patch notes, dev posts, or to search for solutions to any technical problems.

  5. I see people being rude and negative more and more these days. I think its partly because people feel more anonymous and therefore can say what they want without it impacting their relationships. We tend to be more polite and think about what we say when we know that it can be tied to our personal identity, not our online identities. It is kind of sad that people use their anonymity to be nasty and show the worst side of their personality.

    • Anonymity plays a huge part, no doubt. Thing is, it’s not even just about calling people names on an individual basis, the part that bemuses me is the making of unflattering generalizations about the people who enjoy the games they don’t, as if putting down the game isn’t enough, they have to put down the people who play it too. That’s the part that bothers me the most, I think.

  6. My blog’s point is for me to figure out what stuff I like and why. I try to speak constructively about mechanics and feelings that I experience during games. If I come across an issue that I can’t speak very constructively about, well, I try to say the best I can. As with everything else, it’s the thought that counts.

    • Oh, exactly! It’s okay to not like something, and writing about the reasons why is great. Like I said, I find those kinds of opinions helpful. You know, sometimes I learn something, and even if I don’t, at least I gain a better understanding of where the author’s coming from. But trying to get a negative opinion of a game across by disparaging the individuals or types of gamers that play it, that’s not so helpful.

  7. I’ve gotten to be pretty picky about what blogs I follow, and I almost never go to message boards any more. The asshattery you will see on display at places like MMORPG.com will ceaselessly astound (I mean no offense to the fine folks that run it, that’s just where message boards tend to go for some reason).

    The idea that you could dislike a game so much that you become convinced everyone playing it is somehow an inferior human to you is completely insane to me. But that is exactly where some commentators are quick to go when they try to explain the popularity of games that “obviously suck.” Those kinds of explanations say a lot more about the arrogance and narcissism of the speaker than about the game being commented on.

    • Haha, like I said in a comment above, forums are a whole different kind of animal. There are some fine folks on message boards, but I’ve also seen too many cases of trolls and entitlement complexes than I care to remember; ad hominem attacks are like the least of my worries 😛

      And nice, I couldn’t have said it better. I think it’s also the overall condescension and the I-know-better attitude…in some ways, that bothers me even more than personal attacks.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. If people can’t have every whim catered to they make a big fuss and cry about the other parts of the player base ruining their game. It is something I am getting very tired of. Spoiled, entitled attitudes ruin communities. It has seemed to seep into some blogs too, sadly.

    • True, and it’s ironic, because MMOs are so much about being a community. Part of that is recognizing that there’s a huge playerbase out there, and not everyone is the same as you. Everyone has different tastes, different play styles, different goals, and it’s the diversity that makes this genre so fun. But instead, some people choose to ostracize and belittle those who have different preferences and blame them for ruining “their” game/genre.

  9. Yeah, I don’t understand it either…To each their own, I’ve always said. Do whatever makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else.

    It’s truly one thing to tear into a game for its mechanics, story, etc., but to criticize people that actually enjoy the game? Why not let them have their fun?

    Now, granted, when I review an MMORPG, I do consider the community of the game itself, as that factors into how much I might enjoy the game, but I also won’t sit there and make personal attacks either.

    • Right, I say criticize the game if you don’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with that. Why some people feel the need to throw in a few cheap shots at its fans or playerbase, I just don’t know…

  10. ok then I’ll be the one to disagree. Im not a fan of personal attacks but the day someone just agrees for the sake of agreeing is too much. Bottom line is not everyone will be happy and i for one enjoy reading differing viewpoints on things. Add to that the slight tribalism and bias with regards to games and it adds a bit of spice to things.

    • I guess I should clarify. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with an opinion. Like I said in my post, differing view points are good, sometimes they can be helpful.

      What irks me is something completely different. Let me give an example: Joe says they prefer Game A to game B because he thinks so-and-so mechanic is better executed. Bill disagrees with Joe and says he actually prefers Game B because he happens to like the way so-and-so mechanic is done and explains why he thinks it’s actually better than the way Game A does it. Random asshole says Joe is just a Game A fanboi and must be smoking something because Game A’s mechanics are so dumbed down that only 12-year-olds who can’t figure their way out of a paper bag could appreciate it.

      Both players disagree with Joe, but Bill gives actual reasons that relate to the game mechanics. Random asshole makes a sweeping negative generalization and doesn’t bring another viewpoint or actually anything of helpful to the discussion.

  11. I think a major reason for it is this: Other peoples personal opinions of a game DO effect my gaming experience. There are dozens of people who can tell you about how Trammel ruined their gaming experience in UO, and it wasn’t just the developers doing something random, it was the developers watching the way people acted and behaved, and going the route that would make them the most money.

    Assuming I am someone who loved pre-Trammel UO, those people’s attitude and actions, their playing preference, ruined my gaming experience.

    If you want a more recent event, look at WoW. The forums, twitter, blogs etc were all screaming for the game to not be so danged easy and boring. Due to the demand, Blizzard brought the game back to the Burning Crusade difficulty for heroics, and it utterly ruined the game for many players who were perfectly happy with the game the way it was before.

    It is perfectly valid to be angry over other people ruining a game you like, even if they are the majority it doesn’t mean I automatically like it. Should they perhaps be a little more civil about it? Yes they should. Is it wrong of them? I don’t believe so, no.

    Anyway, just my thoughts, great post as always 🙂


    • To me, that’s a different sort of situation. Usually when I find myself not liking something, and I’m clearly in the minority, then I either a) live with it or b) move on to something else. I may think to myself, “man, those people totally ruined my experience” but at the same time, I don’t think they are beneath me or that I am better than they are because I happen to prefer something different. I don’t have to like it, and of course I have all the right to be angry…but it’s possible to do it without insulting others’ personal tastes, treating players like they don’t know better, or labeling play styles as invalid or inferior just because they aren’t like my own. Does that make sense?

      To give a simplified example (and forgive me, but it’s just the first thing that popped into my head), apps and mobile phones. Company A develops an app for iOS but not Android. As an Android user, I may be pissed off and disgruntled, but my anger is more directed at the company for making that decision even though I know android sales have actually surpassed iphone sales. I don’t go, only stupid people buy iphones 😛

  12. Part of the downside of being online is the lack of context you have at your disposal when you make statements. You can’t have proper context when you can’t see the person typing the message, or hear the tone of their voice. It just isn’t possible.

    Say you’re talking to someone, and they think something you said was wrong, and maybe instead of pointing it out, they decide to humor you by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry then — I stand corrected.:P”

    Online, that comes off as condescension, and it pisses people off more than anything. In real life, however, that might be someone’s way of just agreeing with you until you calm down, whereupon you’ll see the holes in your logic on your own — and no toes will have been stepped on, and the truly insecure people won’t have to face a crowd of strangers who just watched them proven wrong by someone right out in the open (because while you’re ranting, someone else will likely come along and drop the facts more eloquently before you can regain lucidity).

    The reason this happens is because of a lack of context. You can’t see someone’s smile when they know you’re wrong, but they don’t want to just come out and say it. They know you’ll figure it out on your own. The context comes from facial expressions, gestures, vocal tone — all things you don’t get online.

    Constructive criticism is often seen as just another form of dissenting opinion — probably because it’s REALLY hard to make a separation between genuinely helpful criticism and just plain ol’ nitpicking (which exists in abundance online).

    Sadly, the interwebs is just not the best place to go for mature discussion (in some cases — there are always exceptions) on most topics, because while this person over here might be up for mature conversation, and this person over here might be, as well, these people over here don’t give a shit about true discussion — they just want to nitpick and rant.

    In real life, you could pick those dissenters out and get back to real discussion.

    Online, how can you know when someone is making a truly legitimate case? Furthermore, how can you be sure when opponents are saying something, they aren’t simply trying to stir up the hornet’s nest?

    On the other side, how can you be sure the people who praise something are truly being objective, and not agreeing simply because they have blind loyalty to a game company, or an IP?

    Sadly, you can’t know — because you can’t give any statements their proper context.

    This isn’t really just a gamer problem, it’s an internet wide problem. I don’t really see it going away, either. You’ll never be able to truly get across the context of your message through text on a screen. The only way I could ever see it being solved would be if everybody was on skype, or some other webcam sites so you could be seen making your statement. That said, a large part of the internet’s appeal is anonymity — the ability to say whatever the hell you want without repercussion.

    Anonymity kills accountability.

    Without accountability, there will always be people firing first, in every direction, just to see who gets hit.

    Harsh moderation would be the only way to really police that, and who has that kind of time? Most message boards are run by people with normal day jobs, kids, spouses, real life activities, etc; I would be surprised if they had the time to sift through every single discussion to make sure which posts were raising legitimate concerns, and which posts were created with the sole purpose of riling up the other posters.

    BioWare had to hire an entire crew of people whose job it was to handle the community and moderate the boards — and even they have a time keeping the vitriol down to a level where a reasonable person could come on the boards and stomach some discussion (and that is debateable, depending on who you ask 😛 ).

    I don’t see internet shit-slinging, in the gamer community or any other, going away anytime soon. That makes me a little disappointed. But luckily, blogs help ease this sadness (they are much easier to police thanks to filters. Plus, few people come on them just to flame — and even if they do, you can delete their post and boot them right back to Oz in 2 seconds).

    • True, context plays a huge role in any kind of discussion online, really. One of the hardest things to do is to convey emotions through text; sometimes emoticons just won’t do as well.

      But constructive criticism, nit-picking, or anything like that…it’s all cool to me, if we’re discussing something like a game. But what bothers me is something different entirely. I think I started thinking about this late last year around the time WoW Cataclysm launched. I saw people going back to play the game, and what struck me as bizarre were their self-disparaging comments. Comments like, “I feel dirty for saying this, but I’m really having fun” or “I’m going back to WoW…I know, sorry, I’m horrible”. I’m like, why are you apologizing? So you’re enjoying yourself, why the guilty feelings?

      And it just made me think, for so long, criticisms of WoW have extend beyond its mechanics, to the point negative connotations have been attached to WoW players. I mean, take the saying “go back to WoW” for instance. You see that used in forums all the time, to people who aren’t even necessarily WoW players, maybe because they voiced an unpopular opinion. It’s more than just dismissive; it also implies that the person has bad taste in gaming and doesn’t know any better, because nowadays I find critiques of WoW very rarely involve discussion of its mechanics anymore, people are more apt to say “caters to bad gamers” or “dumbed down for lazy people”. No wonder some people were hesitant in admitting it’s fun.

      Similar sort of deal with the SWTOR forums. In fact, we pretty much see this every week with the Friday updates. God help me, sometimes I really like an update, even if it’s one that’s rather lowkey. Take that announcement of Drew Karpyshyn’s upcoming SWTOR book, for example. I personally was very excited when I saw that update…I actually AM a huge fan of Karpyshyn. And I saw that a lot of forum goers were happy as well, from their positive posts. Of course, there were a lot of negative posts too, and I thought to myself, well, why not explain why you think it’s a bad update (and some did, saying that a Revan book set hundreds of years before SWTOR is irrelevant and I can buy that) but most simply dismissed those who liked the update as fanbois and sheep. I get that they’re angry, and that’s cool, but they can rage about the update or take it out on BioWare if they want for all I care, since they were the ones who actually prepared the update. To take it out on the people for liking it, on the other hand, just seems a little pointless.

      • I don’t see internet shit-slinging going away anytime soon, but I also don’t see any sense to it.

        It is pointless, I agree, to hate something, seemingly, without a legitimate reason.

        Unfortunately, that’s where that whole “this person :), this person :(, those people >:(” dichotomy comes into play. The first two groups ( :), & 😦 ) may be able to find some middle ground for discussion, even though one is happy with the update, and the other might not be so much. The other group ( 😡 ) may not have any legitimate reasons for hating it, other than that it wasn’t what they wanted.

        (Some) gamers following video games online are INCREDIBLY selfish. Lore hounds love story, but progression-minded gamers couldn’t give a crap — so when an update is 90% story, and 10% progression, some more animated progression-minded folk will QQ to eternity about how much an update sucks, simply because it doesn’t float their respective boat. I doubt if you pressed the ranters, they could even come up with a legitimate reason why it is a “bad” update — it just is, in their minds. It is because it’s coming from a completely different area than what appeals to them.

        But that’s far from the only reason people claim to hate an update.

        Some people want a release date every Friday, and anything less than that is just a horrible update (those types are the ones that infuriate me most, because it’s like being pissed you didn’t win the lottery — nobody said you would, and the chances of it ever happening are so small you would be a fool to count on it at any time, let alone every week).

        Now for the down side: how do you stop it?

        Honestly, I don’t think you really can stop it — at least not without becoming a complete nazi with your forums, deciding who may and may not post based on the (limited) context you can glean from their topics.

        Call it the very ugly side of free speech — we may have a First Amendment right to free speech, but it doesn’t say in there that it has to make the least amount of sense, or be, in any way, sensible. 😦

        On the subject of WoW…

        Think about an old girlfriend/boyfriend that you broke up with, that you knew just wasn’t right for you. He/she had some good qualities, and they weren’t totally screwed up people — it just didn’t work. It happens.

        Somewhere deep down, though, you still have some yearning to get back together with them — even if you know you won’t get anymore out of it than you did before you finally broke it off.

        If you spent a decent amount of time getting over them, and you go back to them knowing full well it’s not going to be any better than it was before, I imagine you would feel a little guilty. That seems almost like a lack of willpower.XD

        WoW may be a much smaller, less significant version of that phenomenon, but the example isn’t totally ludicrous.

        If you listen to people who just left WoW, often it sounds more like they just kicked a heroin addiction, or got out of a really bad relationship. Getting away from that game likely took some effort on their part.

        Demonizing a game is a part of distancing yourself from it. It makes it easier for you to stay away if you make it out to be the devil. When you’re trying to put some distance between you and an ex, you aren’t going to focus on their good qualities, ne?

        Going back to a game like WoW, after you demonized it, probably just feels like you didn’t have the will to stay away. :/

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