Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
There is a certain toxic element to gaming culture. These gamers, who usually consider themselves “hardcore,” not only think the way they play the game – often on levels of difficulty that border on masochistic – is the best way to play the game, if you can’t play the game at that level they don’t think you should be playing at all. And they aren’t shy about sharing this opinion.
These gamers look down their nose at anyone who plays a game on normal mode, much less on easy. They whine incessantly about developers adding “no fail” modes that allow those who aren’t “hardcore” gamers to still enjoy the story and game experience, usually on the premise that it somehow gives those gamers an experience they haven’t “earned” the way the “hardcore gamer” has.
In online games, they’ll shout down any criticism of gameplay mechanics or suggestions that developers work on balancing character classes or levels – especially if it negatively impacts the power levels of their preferred character class. These criticisms of “nerfing,” or reducing the power levels of a character class or weapon type, are ironic given their standard criticism that they’re simply better players and those who don’t fare well in combat against them simply need to “git gud” (i.e., “get good” or work harder at learning to play the game).
The issue of toxic gaming communities is nothing new, but it’s come to the forefront again recently as Amazon prepares to launch their new MMO (massively multiplayer online) game New World.
The game is still in closed beta, meaning that it hasn’t launched yet, but certain game journalists, professional gamers and gamer streamers, and those who pre-ordered the game have access early, before the official launch.
The pre-launch hype around the game has been strong – exactly what Amazon wants – with game streamers building excitement for the launch. But they’ve also had some criticism of the game mechanics. Specifically, they’ve criticized the balancing of certain character classes and abilities. Streamers who have already reached level 60, for instance, are finding themselves killed from a distance by characters as low as level 12 using long distance weapons to “snipe” the higher level players. Some popular streamers have been specifically targeted by these snipers, making it difficult for them to experience and enjoy the game; and, by extension, to share that game experience with their followers.
Getting killed by other players is part of playing on a PvP (player vs player) server. This is something all MMO players need to take into account. If they don’t want to PvP, there are often servers that offer a PvE (player vs environment) experience only, where other players can’t attack you.
But streamers want the full experience. Being targeted by a toxic community whose response to your requests to “please stop killing me from a distance while I’m fighting someone else” is, “git gud, scrub,” is obviously frustrating, for the streamers and their fans.
It’s fair for gamers – especially those who want a “hardcore” experience – to be able to have that experience. If their idea of fun is a fight that requires memorizing certain patterns, grinding for certain gear beforehand, and completing repetitive tasks to whittle down the health bar of a boss over the course of an afternoon, far be it from me to take that away from them.
But on the other hand, their attempts at keeping games somehow “pure” and “untainted” by easy modes and story modes does to casual gamers exactly what they claim the casuals are doing to them – forcing them to experience a game in a way that isn’t pleasurable for them.
More and more, games are about a story experience as much as a test of reflexes and math skills. (Just trust me when I say a LOT of math goes into choosing the ideal gear and specs for characters in some role playing games.) I’ve argued that some of the most compelling and immersive stories today are being told in game. Not television. Not film. Games.
But if games are a medium for storytelling, that story needs to have a mode that is open for everyone to enjoy. Not just for those who admonish others to “git gud.” This toxic trend needs to end, and developers are taking steps to make sure it does with those new, no-fail story modes that more games are featuring.
It isn’t going to be possible for all games, and maybe shouldn’t be a feature in some online shooters and other player vs player type games. Or at least in those PvP elements of the game. But anyone who buys a game deserves to experience the story they’ve paid for.
Those who won’t accept that need to “git gud” with the idea that this is the future of gaming. It’s a hobby everyone can enjoy. And their petty gatekeeping is not going to be tolerated – by other gaming fans or, probably most importantly, by game developers who want to sell their games to a broader audience.
Consumers are voting with their pocketbooks, and that’s ultimately what publishers listen to.
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