Modern Gaming: Has Outrage Become More Important Than Enjoyment?

Gaming exists in a strange place. It’s a medium of entertainment that has grown into a culture in and of itself. From casual gamers that may play an occasional game to kill the time to professional gamers that play hours on end, every day, to make their living, and everyone in between, we’re all linked by a common factor: enjoyment. People play various styles of games for equally various reasons, but it all really boils down to the fact that we enjoy them. Some gamers enjoy sports games and stay within that genre. Others prefer shooters or role-playing games, MMOs, etc. Some, or most, play a mix of genres.

Statistically speaking, the average gamer’s age is somewhere in the 30’s, so it’s also fair to say that most of us have a shared experience of getting into gaming with the earlier systems and have been playing for long enough to have favorite titles that qualify as ‘classics’.  As the industry as a whole has aged, we’ve aged with it, and it’s brought on incredible advances in what video games can be. Once upon a time small, pixilated plumbers and gorillas that looked like little, blocky splotches on a screen were enough to keep us in awe, but now we have games that can make us literally laugh out loud or bring people to the verge of tears. I have a personal memory of playing through Mass Effect 3 as a ‘Renegade’ to see how the story played out if I was a jerk to everyone and, when I came to the ‘end’ of the story arc for the Salarian scientist, Mordin, and had to make game changing choices at his expense, it was actually hard to do and equally hard to watch. Of course it’s just a story and these characters are always waiting for me, should I decide to play it again, but I still felt bad. I genuinely liked that character and it was legitimately hard for me to watch MY Shepard turn on him. The fact that something like video games can bring out these kinds of emotions is incredible, but lately I feel that things are taking a turn for the worst and we, as gamers, may be to blame.

People will always have favorites because people naturally have opinions. We tend to give those favorites a pass when they miss the mark because they do everything else well enough that it’s not a big deal and that’s ok. Sometimes we even look past game-breaking issues because we can still find enough in it to love. Opinions are fine, but sometimes we can let them get in the way of our enjoyment, which is what gaming is all about. We ought to be able to look past flaws.

The latest installment for the critically acclaimed Battlefield series, Battlefield V, is the latest in a long line of games that gamers are targeting for reasons that never used to matter. Some have moaned that female soldiers are making the game historically inaccurate. Others have thrown a flag for the use of prosthetic limbs that are far too advanced for the technology that was actually around in World War II. Even more are upset that the game offers cosmetic options that are not to their liking and, somehow, that’s enough to warrant skipping out on the game entirely. It’s also important to note that a lot of these complaints have cropped up before and since the recent open beta. So we, as gamers, have reached a point of saturation in the market and satisfaction with these feats of art, craftsmanship and digital engineering, that we’re choosing these issues to wave our battle flags over. To me, that seems an incredible shame.

Battlefield V isn’t the first or the silliest that we’ve complained about. The Technomancer was critically panned for some design choices, though a lot of players liked how it played like a classic Bioware game. Some gamers complained about games like Final Fantasy 15 and Metal Gears Solid V because they didn’t play enough like previous installments. Other gamers wanted to boycott Star Wars Battlefront 2 (although the loot-box fiasco was deserved) because they dared to offer a pink, cosmetic skin for Darth Vader. Of course, not all of the games that we nit-pick over are going to fail because of it, but the more vocal we get about non-issues, the harder it becomes for developers to get their games published. We’re setting these expectations that everything has to be perfect to every individual gamer and it’s a far cry from where we came.

A lot of us grew up using blocky characters that looked ridiculous and forgave horrible design flaws because the game was fun. Games like GoldenEye haven’t aged well, but they’re classics for a reason, and that’s because we all, collectively, enjoyed them so much.  Before the option of being able to choose different cosmetics for our digital avatars, we had to simply deal with looking the exact same as another player or, more often, we’d get a palate swapped version of the character, but we didn’t boycott developers for it. We enabled cheat codes for things like “Big Head Mode” even though it legitimately made us easier to kill.

This isn’t to say that the industry is perfect and we’re blowing every little thing out of proportion. There are some absolutely atrocious features that have, unfortunately, become industry standards like loot boxes, paid DLC that isn’t actual expansions or worthwhile content, pre-order bonuses, and so on, but the time may have come for us to step back and re-prioritize. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was a broken, horrible mess and I loved it. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind had rough animations and a terrible combat system, but it’s one of my favorite games. The Legacy of Kain games were wordy and convoluted but I still actively campaign for a new iteration or a remaster because I WILL NOT LET THIS GO, EIDOS INTERACTIVE!

So, as gamers, let’s try to find it in ourselves to let out the inner children that used to play games because they were fun and cool. Let’s use robot arms to shoot WW2 weapons. Let’s play as males or females if we want to and be happy we even have the choice. Let’s match our red lightsabers with beautiful pink capes and destroy the rebel scum looking fabulous, as long as it’s fun, because it’s time we all remember that we’re gamers and having fun is what we do.

This is my opinion but I’m always happy to hear others. Let us know what your favorites games are and what you have been willing to overlook in the comments below.

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