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The Toxic Effect of “You’re Not a Gamer”

RDR2.jpg

As many probably know by now, one of the most anticipated games of the year, Red Dead Redemption 2, comes out tomorrow.  The early reviews have dropped today, and with the average Metacritic score sitting at a 97, it is on track to become one of the most highly-reviewed games of all time.  Ultimately, however, I am not writing this post to talk about the game’s review scores.  Instead, I am here to talk about a quote that comes from an EGM review that was retweeted by Metacritic as a promotion for the game’s high reviews.  The quote in question reads, “One of the most gorgeous, seamless, rootinest, tootinest games ever made, and if you voluntarily miss out on it, you’re either not a gamer or in a coma.”

Reading this quote was an upsetting experience, to say the least, specifically for the part insinuating that people cannot call themselves “gamers” if they do not want to play Red Dead Redemption 2.  This blanket statement is insulting to the gaming community, as it makes us sound like mindless robots, endlessly consuming the exact same video games and sharing identical opinions.  The reality is that every gamer is different, and while a game may be objectively phenomenal in every regard, there are still people who will not want to play that specific title, and it doesn’t make them any worse for it.  Take my own tastes, for example.  I hated Persona 5 and never finished Breath of the Wild because it didn’t hold my interest.  On the other hand, Saints Row IV is in my top ten, and I adore Mass Effect Andromeda for the great, though flawed, experience that it is.

Within the community, there’s been a lot of backlash against this comment, but there’s also a more concerning consequence from a quote like this.  Games are getting more and more expensive to make, to the point where they are on par with a lot of other forms of media, like creating a movie.  The issue is, however, that most every person in modern society watches at least some movies, and this case is not true with gaming.  If the community wants games to continue to improve, and we want those improvements without games being priced at double what they are today, then we need more bodies in the industry.  Now, think about what this quote says to someone that is considering making that leap of faith into the gaming industry.  It doesn’t speak well to the community and may very well scare potential gamers off, worrying that they aren’t hardcore enough to handle a game like this, or that they don’t want to participate in a community that judges them for their tastes.

For as horrifying as this comment is for many gamers, the scary truth is that this is nowhere near an isolated event.  I know that I’m guilty of occasionally staring at my husband like he grew a second head when he tells me he doesn’t like a game that I adore.  Conversely, I vividly remember that there are games I played through the entirety of, hating every minute along the way, just because someone I knew told me that I wasn’t a real gamer unless I had played them.  Gamers are incredibly loyal to their favorite games, and while that’s a great sign of a healthy industry, it can cause toxicity when arguments start up about whose opinion is objectively correct.  This inability to accept that people have different opinions regarding video games needs to stop, as in addition to wreaking havoc within the gaming community, it is stalling growth by preventing new gamers from joining.

I want to close this piece by stressing that I have so many great experiences from the gaming community.  There are a ton of people, both in real life and online, that I have had wonderful debates and discussions with that don’t include an ounce of hostility.  Therefore, I am by no means generalizing that “all gamers are evil”, as I know that is not the case.  Still, quotes like this one from EGM and discussions I have had over the years with less than pleasant people show that this community still has a long way to go.  Everyone who is reading this post should feel inspired to be the change the community needs.  Reach out to people who are considering joining us gamers and make them want to stay.  Don’t attack people because they don’t like or have no interest in a certain game.  Together, we can make the community a better place.

Do you have any experiences with toxicity in the gaming community?  Let me know in the comments below!

Note:  This post is imported from a prior blog, HannieBee Games.

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22 replies »

  1. Very interesting post and this raises such crucial questions as the gaming industry moves forward. There are too many games and too many genres for someone with a normal life to play everything – or like all the books I like or movies… Variety is the spice of life. And we need to make the newcomers welcome. I belong to various Facebook groups and see some disturbing posts about other gamers’ choices of game/play-speed/build/lifestyles etc. Why can’t I be a newb, smell the roses, and read books as well?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep, exactly! A big example of posts on Facebook groups I see a lot are people shaming others for not picking up all the new release games. Unless it’s a game I’m unbelievably hyped for, though, I wait until the game is on sale six months down the road. I don’t believe that wanting to save money makes me any less of a gamer, but people’s definitions are so messed up these days.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Totally. I’m in an Assassin’s Creed group and some guys were boasting about beating AC Odyssey in the first week of release and wondering why some of us were taking so long. They were ready for RDR2…and I presume the next hot release. I tend to buy games months, if not years after their release – Witcher 3 being the best example, and I’m still enjoying that. AC Odyssey was an exception as I’m an Ancient Greece enthusiast – same with Hellblade with its psychological theme.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really *really* despise the “git gud” mentality of a lot of gamers. I was stuck on Hollow Knight for *hours,* to the point that I had to download an immortality mod just to get past the second boss (and the beat the game, eventually, modded the whole time.)

    I’m disabled, and my vision impairment often makes me want an “easy” or “story” mode on games that don’t have them (that and much larger captions.) I’m currently playing DOOM 2016 on the easiest mode, and am having fun with it, but I hate that I can look at the game fandom and get bashed for not playing on Ultra Nightmare.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I play on easy mode with most everything because I like to play as many games as possible to take in their stories. If I am getting frustrated, I have no issue with turning down the difficulty. I personally feel like, as long as people are having fun and it isn’t hurting anyone (online multiplayer cheaters), who cares how you choose to consume your games?

      Liked by 2 people

    • The new Super Mario platformer game for Switch coming out in 2019 has two new ‘easy’ mode characters to choose, including Nabbit who literally cannot die. I fully intend to use Nabbit through that entire thing so I can FINALLY beat a Super Mario game. Because I never have beaten a Mario game in my life.

      Not everyone can ‘git gud’ at certain types of games, no matter how hard we try. I feel no shame in playing an easier mode. Games are made to be enjoyed by EVERYONE, not just the so-called pros.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. It’s a form of gatekeeping. By denying your experience as a gamer by not playing Red Dead 3, they can dismiss your opinions on gaming topics too. Now, that’s harmless enough when it’s just idiot teenagers on Facebook, but it was particuarly jarring seeing the quote in EGM, which genuinely does hold a place of authority in the pantheon of gaming. It’s exclusionary and amplifies the toxic elemens of ‘gamer identity.’

    You touched on something else that I’ve been thinking about a lot, the way many people, including outrselves, can take it as a personal offence when someone disagrees on the merits of a particular game. I’ll try to get some thoughts together on my blog sometime but there is this interesting dynamic between the things we enjoy and how we construct our own identity around it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well said. I saw this going around Twitter too. I didn’t get offended but I did think it was utterly ridiculous. Obviously written by someone who can’t tell the difference between confidence and arrogance.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s a very good point, I didn’t consider that this would put off some people from attempting at gaming. I was always under the impression that “we’re done now”, like, everybody’s in, superhero’s are cool, being a nerd and/or geek is acceptable, and so on. But I guess there are still people out there who are on the fence about video games. I mean, most of the mainstream media depicts us as sexist manchildren obsessed with having the highest gore score, so it’s understandable that any little thing would just widen the chasm between us.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It is a terrible comment that never should have made its way in to a professional review. It is toxic gaming culture at its worst because it comes from a position of influence. There are plenty of reasons that someone might not want to play RDRII but that doesn’t disqualify them from games or mean that they are in a coma.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Totally agree. This careless writing was intended to be a fleeting marketing ploy but it was so poorly executed.

    I really like your quote here, as I think it applies to politics and life in general these days:
    “Gamers are incredibly loyal to their favorite games, and while that’s a great sign of a healthy industry, it can cause toxicity when arguments start up about whose opinion is objectively correct. This inability to accept that people have different opinions regarding video games needs to stop…”

    Why can’t people start embracing the fact that everyone is different??

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good post. I adore open world games but since RDR2 is a console exclusive I’m not playing it. I still consider myself a gamer but I have a fantastic PC and I’m not spending 400 dollars on a console just for one game. The gaming world can be a great place, but there’s a lot of double standards and I feel some studios and their games can do no wrong while others are dragged and hounded mercilessly even though they put out games of the same quality. Andromeda is a good example of that, it was certainly flawed but it was far from a disaster and very enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Toxicity in mainstream gaming communities is the reason I don’t follow big gaming sites anymore. I’m struggling to get through the “masterpiece” Breath of the Wild Zelda game, and I loved Mass Effect Andromeda too. Play what you love, and that’s different for every gamer no matter what the “professional” critics say. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I think you hit the nail in the head with this one. Gaming culture still feels stuck in the teenage years of competing with your friends to see who beat which game, and it seems a lot of these journalists are still stuck in that mentality. It’s taken me a while, but now I’m old enough to not need to be told what to like and what to play. My time is limited now, and it’s not worth dedicating it to games I won’t enjoy simply because someone else says so. I’m currently playing Hollow Knight, and even though it’s a very good game, I’m not really enjoying it. I will also be passing on Octopath Traveller, because I just don’t have the patience for those types of games anymore.
    Let’s all just accept that not all great games are a must play for everyone. The industry has grown enough that we can actually be selective about what we play, which didn’t use to happen not so long ago.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I think due to the interactivity of videogames compared to other media such as books or movies, that gamers inadvertently view attacks on their favorite games as personal attacks on them because of how they personally invest themselves into them. I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past with my favorites, and sometimes its hard not to be offended when a game I view to be hurting the industry is very popular.
    But comments like the one you pointed out are not only rude and insulting, they should be unacceptable from a professional game journalist. Its hard to view EGMs review as real journalism because of it. That’s something you expect to see In a user review where someone is fanboying out, or a YouTube comment. Not a professional review.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree. Although you set movies apart from games because of interactivity. I kind of disagree only because of any Star Wars comments section. The angry fanboys in these comments sections are similar to video game fanboys. They see Star Wars as more than what it is, but its simply a movie. Same goes for fans of many videogames. I’ll admit too that I’ve defended my treasured films and games in the past. Not to the extreme like some fans do though. As much as I love a video game or film, I’m still aware that they are ONLY pieces of entertainment. Nothing more.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Awesome read! I agree with so much of what you said. Currently I’m seeing tons of this ‘toxicity’ in the comments sections of any article mentioning Fallout 76. Its quite ridiculous how vile some get over a game.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well written piece and interesting take, will admit hadn’t seen that particular blurb but agreed would be off putting and extremely condescending. Will concede I’ve probably held a similar mindset around ‘gamers’ who solely play candy crush or other similar mobile ‘Games’ but just depends where you draw your lines on what constitutes a game or gamer according to your preferences.

    Liked by 2 people

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