Who is WWW?
The Internet is getting pretty old these days, not just in the content that is has been delivering but in the real years. The Internet is a graying 45 years old but his son, World Wide Web, is only 25. You see WWW is the Internet as most of us may know it. This 25 year old, over confident, sideways hat wearing, pain in our back side is barely out of college and still working his way into a stable career. WWW is still hanging out frequently with his college friends, sifting through his epic porn collection, drinking beers and playing Madden after his job at the tech support call center.
He may have traded in his beer funnel for a classier frosty mug, but WWW hasn’t truly found himself. He could still rise up to be something great, or break down under the pressure that everyone puts on him. He’s got a long time girlfriend who keeps dropping hints about a ring but nothing is settled in his mind yet. The world is full of immature possibilities; work is dragging his fun down enough. Now his dad is putting the pressure on like the mom he never knew to settle down, get married, buy a house, and maybe think about a child of his own. All the while, WWW is still thinking to himself, “I’m only 25. Give me some space people.”
Just something to put the world (wide web) into perspective.
When Did This Become Media vs Consumer?
A lot of digital ink has been wasted these last couple of weeks. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started to find better things to do with my time than visit my favorite gaming sites only to find yet another article on how we as gamers are acting like fools, how we as gamers are to blame for the ilks of the lowest form, how we as gamers need to behave accordingly or else the news will cease to exist and we will continue to receive sternly worded open letters about what journalists think the world should be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that nothing should be said or done when someone clearly steps out of line. But what I’ve found most disturbing is in the manner in which it has been going down. I’m trying to find reasoning in what game’s journalists are thinking when they set out on a tirade against the people who basically keep them employed. I could be wrong about this, but I never considered players of games to be nearly as enthusiastic about combing the web for articles and clicking on ad riddled pages to read singular opinionated pieces that belittle their intelligence.
To my knowledge, the most recent raid that consumers have been sharpening their pitchforks over is the complete radio silence from the major gaming press in regards to questions consumers have been asking. Yes it’s all a bunch of tinfoil hat conspiracy crap, but it’s also not without warrant. The film and music industry is pretty widely known for having their dark days, and so why not gaming as well. I don’t think it was uncalled for to at least entertain the question and finally put it to bed. Instead of calmly responding with a short but cleanly written open letter that explains their policies and practices, journalists either waited in silence until the resonance was too strong to avoid or they completely exploded on the internet much in the same way of the people they were criticizing. I’m not placing the blame completely on the gaming press, but being that many of the vocal consumers were acting in a way that lacked professional courtesy, I guess my hope was that the press would have handled it better than joining in on the shouting match.
There have been a lot of angry messages these past weeks that have been very reminiscent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. There are a lot of angry voices but each of them is screaming something different. Some are upset about the radio silence, others are expressing their anxiety over the threat of cronyism from a group of hungry writers who started out as fanboy gamers themselves, and others are inexplicably trying to destroy the lives of other people because they can. There really is no excuse for the latter but that doesn’t mean the other voices needed to be silenced with the same fire hose and tear gas. The concerned gamer didn’t need to be shut down with such violent force as those who were blatantly breaking the law and attempting to destroy peoples’ lives.
I find it strange that the gaming press celebrates the achievements of the angry mob when it benefits the press, who is also a consumer, but lashes out when that same mob questions the motives of the press. I didn’t see too many angry articles when the Kraken was released for On-Disk DLC or shady Online-Only experiments like Sim City or Don Mattricks’ quote about how off-line gamers can buy a 360. The press was downright cackling at the nuggets of Internet Meme gold being thrown their way. They were happy to post and re-post poorly chosen words from executives. Why so defensive now? The shoe is on the other foot and there have to be measures taken to settle this gracefully, and without name calling or a call to arms against WWW because of a vocal minority.
What’s So Bad About Being A Gamer?
I guess you could say that I’m a “traditional” gamer if you define that as being part of the old guard. I don’t like social and mobile games, and I rarely play multi-player games anymore. My wife’s biggest achievement and nearly all-inclusive brush with video games is reaching level 15 in Candy Crush, and I no longer have friends who play games. Over time my entire gaming support system has collapsed and I’ve been assigned to playing many single player experiences now. I play games when I can, but they often focus on story or mechanics or visual appeal; rarely because of their Twitter integration or ability to connect me to the outside world. Though my only similarity to the cliche stereotype is my attraction to single player experiences, I suppose it still classifies me as one of those traditional gamers that some journalist seem to despise so much.
I must admit that the more editorials I read that attack gamers, the less I care to be a part of anything that has to do with this industry; to buy the games, read the news, follow the trends. As a grown ass man, I may not walk around with a badge on my chest that says, “gamer” on it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel some connection to the experience of playing games.
It genuinely hurts me when I read these spiteful editorials that are casting a wide net over the moniker because someone thinks it will solve the problem to put a pillow over it’s face. These blanket assumptions are no less hurtful to me than some old lady who gripped her purse when she saw me walking by, or the middle-aged white female who frantically closed the elevator door when she saw this sometimes bearded brown guy approaching. That is the real world we live in, and now even in my virtual world I can’t escape the net that is cast over me. If there is ever a defense for escapism in games, we are living it right now.
Abandoning the title of traditional gamer and those who classify as one will solve nothing. Are the problems we are experiencing in the name or are we looking for a sacrificial lamb to sidestep the real issues? Instead of attacking traditional gamers I would beg of the gaming press to ask the where and why of how it got this heated. Instead of both sides shouting like a couple headed to divorce court, let’s find the many lines in the sand and see where people stand. You might be surprised.
I realize that I too am part of the problem by coupling all journalists into the bag of “gaming press” but I only do so because there are less of them than us gamers. I’m not writing this to single out a handful of journalist by name; I’m doing it to ask all of them to be more open-minded and understand that just because there is a new world out there, it doesn’t mean that it exists as the antithesis of the old world; it is simply adding to it.
What Good Can Come Of This?
A lot of hurtful words have been thrown over the fence, perhaps words that can’t be taken back. I have certainly found myself looking at some journalist with less confidence and respect; not because of what they may or may not have done, but because of how they handled the situation and what they chose to say about it. If nothing else, these past weeks have proven that it is a delicate line that is towed by the gaming community, the press, and the developers. There truly is a thin line between love and hate, and the seemingly irrational behavior we see from gamers and gaming press is not too different from what we see every day from our friends and family who are in rocky relationships.
There will be fights, there will be moments of separation, and there will most definitely be the occasional divorce. Nothing about any of this is ever clean, calm, and filled with reason. Arguments are muddied by a long history of nagging little issues that find their way into a seemingly simple problem; the veritable straw that breaks the camel’s back. Neither side can see the light and these arguments often are only settled in awkward silence; an agreement to disagree that will likely erupt again in the future and lead to more distrust in the relationship.
When I ask myself, “what good can come of this?” I don’t have an easy answer. There are too many arguments thrown in to the same fight. A journalist might say, “Gamers will finally grow up and learn to share their pastime.” A gamer might say, “Journalists will actually learn to be transparent from now on.” A developer might say, “Both sides will learn something from the way we’ve learned to engage our fans and ignore the haters who hate.” And I’d probably have to say that they are all right and wrong at the same time…