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United we stand, divided we fall

Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?

Nicholas: Two weeks ago we spoke about the blow-up from gamers in response to Jimmy Kimmel’s video that poked fun at people (gamers) who watched other people (gamers) playing games. In our article we both discussed the fact that neither of us were into watching streams, and how both of us would much rather play the games ourselves (which was the point Kimmel was making to begin with). This week I wanted to focus not so much on the subject matter of the video nor the backlash that was received from it, but rather, the response from some gamers about the behaviour of gamers.

To kick this week’s article off I wanted to ask you two questions – what is a ‘gamer’, and do you consider yourself one?

Andy: I sure as hell consider myself a gamer. I mean I play video games for… well, I don’t even really want to know how many hours I put into gaming each week. A couple of years ago I used to play mostly multiplayer titles however they’ve kind of lost their draw on me over time. Nowadays I lean more towards single-player and cop-op games. The larger part of your question though, “what is a gamer” is probably a matter of opinion. The way I look at it is anyone who plays a game, shockingly enough, is a gamer. From someone who plays hours and hours of games a week like you and I, to my mom who only plays Bejeweled on her 3DS, or to the person who plays Angry Birds on their phone. We don’t all play the same games, or the volume of games, but that doesn’t make us any less of a gamer.

The crux of your question though is where it gets a little muddy, like when we hear stories about “some gamers” and something negative, such as the reaction to the Kimmel monologue. The story then becomes negative about ‘gamers’. There is no breaking down of who those ‘gamers’ are, rather everyone is lumped into the same umbrella. Within the gamer umbrella there are literally thousands of different pockets, and many people can fit into multiple pockets. Much like me saying “I’m American, I live in the Midwest, and I live in Minnesota.” Much like other types of media we tend to paint everything with one brush. So when you guys down in Australia hear something negative about America, and let’s be honest there’s a lot of crap going on, then it’s easy to think all Americans are like that one story.

I think it’s fair to assume, that those gamers who cause problems, do stupid crap and are just in general ass-hats, are a small minority of the overall gaming community. Yet, with that said they are also the ones that get the majority of print/word of mouth. Those gamers who are content to play their games in obscurity are suddenly lumped together with everyone else. So the faux “gamer outrage” becomes more than just a couple of keyboard warriors and more about everyone that plays a game. If we go by my assumption that there are way more “good gamers” out there than the negative ones, what is the reason that we only hear about the negative? Is it just a natural progression of other news stories and reporting practices? Or do you think it’s something more?

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Nicholas: I think it’s the case of ‘the squeaky wheel gets the most oil’ when it comes to how anything (including gaming) is represented both in daily conversation and news coverage/the media. It’s also the case of how negativity and scandal gets the most clicks/views/newspaper sales too. Sure, you can write an article about how great cosplay is at Oz Comic Con this weekend, but what would garner more attention with readers at large is a story about how misogyny and sexism is rampant within the geek community as people continue to harass cosplayers. Just like in Kimmel’s example, he could have made a segment talking about the success of streaming, but it was far more entertaining and interesting to poke fun at it instead.

If we keep on this topic though, you’re completely correct in saying that all too often we hear stories about something negative in the gaming community. Like I’ve mentioned above, if it’s not another case of how blatant sexism is, it’s a story about how abusive and offensive people are in the comments section of a YouTube video or an article. That doesn’t interest me. What does though, is how quickly we, as gamers, jump onto either the attack of the community, or the defence of the ‘good guys’. For every person sharing their negative experience there’s another person responding by saying, “not all gamers are like that”. This is what I wanted to tackle this week.

In light of the hurl of abuse aimed at Kimmel for his video there were a number of people who rose up to tell people that not all gamers shared the sentiments of those trolls online. The question I’d like to ask you is, why do we as gamers feel like we need to speak out against people like this, and furthermore, why do we automatically assume they’re all ‘gamers’? When we have anonymity, can’t those people be theoretically anyone? Even non-gamers just interested in causing a sh*t-storm, especially with how blurry the term ‘gamer’ has now become?

Andy: I think the majority of the stuff we see is from actual gamers to be honest. Like I said above, the term ‘gamer’ has expanded to encompass a lot more people now, and that’s OK I‘m all for it actually. The more people we have talking about games, playing games and buying games the healthier our passion will be. What I don’t like, and you have sort of alluded to is the faux outrage over every little thing. No playable female character in a game? Outrage. No minority lead character in a game? Outrage. No LGBT character? Outrage. There being a female lead character? Outrage. There being a minority lead character in a game? Outrage. There being a LGBT character in a game? Outrage.

There are people within every gaming subgroup that believe they have been wronged by something a media personality says or a decision a developer makes. Some people take it as an affront to their very being and seek to enact “social justice” for a cause. Any perceived slight is enough to light up their keyboards, do an online petition to make change happen and get all their friends to follow suit. Then it becomes more about mob mentality than it is about creating dialogue with  whoever they feel slighted them.

The reason I think it’s mostly gamers is because almost every other issue has its own group that does the very same thing. I have a hard time believing someone who doesn’t care about games would go to the trouble of following something, finding the firebrand moment and jumping up and down to get attention. We touched on in during a Game on or Game Over article sometime back in regards to how gamers seem to feel they are entitled to so much. That statement can be generalized to almost anything now a days really. Do you think all these instances of outrage and injustice that are trumpeted from mountain tops by a few individuals is mostly about entitlement, or do you think that they are just trolling? I’m leading more towards the former myself, what about you?

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Nicholas: I certainly don’t think there are ‘non-gamers’ who are finding something to be ‘offended’ by, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone sees a sh*tstorm happening and they decide to jump in for fun. With regards to your final comment, I think it’s party right, but I don’t agree with it completely. For example, I wouldn’t call it entitled when people complained about Kimmel making fun of streamers. At the same time, I wouldn’t call it entitled when people complain about the lead character being female. What I would call it though, is immaturity. People are being immature if they can’t handle a comedian poking fun at something and similarly, people are being immature when they get angry that a character doesn’t meet their demands.

What I do agree with is the fact that it’s certainly just a few individuals making the most noise. I assume (key word: assume) that most gamers don’t care about most of the issues that we see discussed online. Most gamers don’t care what the skin colour is of a certain character or what gender he/she might be. Most gamers I assume are just interested in playing a great game, but like we said before, the squeakiest wheel gets the most oil and people assume the views of those made online are shared by the majority.

What I wanted to touch on next is this whole idea of condemning the greater gaming ‘community’ whenever something like this arises. When GamerGate (sorry folks to bring it up yet again) was a thing the impression I got from it all was just how bad the community had become. When the Kimmel blow-up was happening there were people coming out talking about how we need to stop making threats online. The question is though, why do we continue to group all gamers together? Why do we treat the idiots who get angry at people who belittle streaming with those who play Angry Birds on their mobiles as they commute to work? Is it not as stupid to group together an entire group of people because of a single factor as it is to blame everyone for the actions of a very minute few? As a comparison, if we shouldn’t judge an entire religious community because one extremist idiot decides to incite violence, why should we judge gamers because a few immature morons got their feelings hurt and pushed it too far?

Andy: I have to disagree with you… disagreeing with me. Here’s my rationale for thinking gamers are entitled when it comes to things like Kimmel’s monologue. He went against what a specific group of gamers (those who watch streams and Let’s Play stuff) and they had a brain aneurism and threw a fit all to prove how wrong he was and how right they were. History has shown us that’s how some within the larger gaming community act anytime someone says, or does, something that go against their way. Look no further than the header paragraph of our Game on or Game Over articles. Call of Duty vs Battlefield or Microsoft vs Sony, I really think some gamers are entitled in thinking that what they play and like is the only thing others should play and like.

I think the reason “gamers” are grouped together when talking about the industry is two-fold. 1. It’s very hard to differentiate the large pool of gamers. There are a few subgroups we can talk about like Esports, but by and large it’s hard to really boil it down to a subsection due to the nature of the online anonymity. 2. There hasn’t really been a big push by any group within the gaming community to push a positive message. Not that it’s a bad thing mind you, I just think those of us who are gamers and enjoy playing games are… well we’re playing games and having fun instead of bitching about even minute detail that at the end of the day doesn’t matter.

Personally, I look forward to the time I can set aside to play a game. I don’t care what sex the main character is, or what race they are. If the game is fun, and I’m enjoying it nothing else really matters. I don’t see playing games as an avenue to institute a social justice campaign. Being that last weekend featured Batman Day this quote is fitting. In ‘Dark Knight’ Bruce and Alfred are talking and Alfred has a line where he says “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” No matter how we spin this topic, how much lip service we pay to each aspect at the end of the day is that all this is about? That some people, who just happen to play games, they just want to cause trouble and be as big of a pain in the ass as they can?

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Nicholas: A combination of both really. There’s no doubt that some people just enjoy trolling but I should point out that when I say trolling I don’t include death threats or the like. The other is the fact that people are just simply disrespectful. Some people (and that’s the key word – some) don’t either understand the significance of making a threat against people online and others realise but choose to ignore it. I don’t think anyone who wished harm on Kimmel would actually go ahead with it (mainly because they’re too busy watching people play League of Legends to leave the house) but it’s still poor form to make comments like that to begin with.

I wanted to end this topic just focusing on what you said above, “There hasn’t really been a big push by any group within the gaming community to push a positive message.” Isn’t the fact these articles exist and these conversations happen online because gamers are trying to push a positive message? Aren’t the examples of people speaking against these trolls online a perfect example? Ultimately however, whenever situations like this arise, should gamers have to come to the defence of the greater community, or should we and others realise that the vocal minority don’t represent the majority, and we leave it at that? Should there come a time when we realise that trolls will always exist, and we stop wasting our time having to declare that we don’t condone their attitudes and behaviours?

Andy: Here’s the thing about the gaming community – in the past anyone that said they were a gamer was looked down on, called lazy, no life or whatever insult was popular that day. There has been a pretty big shift in that being a gamer is now acceptable and dare I say even cool. Gamers are still trying to remove that old perception from some of the mainstream media – look at Kimmel for one. So, even when a very small segment of the gaming community does something negative the media is quick to jump on it, which makes any small progress made by the larger gaming community seem non-existent.

I honestly don’t think that there has been much pushback by the gaming community to push a positive message. You said it yourself when you said that when an incident happens a lot of gamers scream “that’s not us” and come to the defence of being a gamer, but it almost always ends there. Once the defence is over gamers tend to fade back to their couches and chairs and happily go about playing their games until the next emergency happens. When gamers do try something positive they keep the scope of it within the gaming community. Like the Extra Life Charity and the Lame Game Marathon. If the gaming community truly wants to facilitate a change in perception with people who aren’t gamers, then we have to be willing to go to them. We can’t expect them to come to us and understand us.

What we need to do is change the overall perception of gamers so that when something does happen, like people threatening Kimmel or what have you; people don’t think ”Oh typical gamers.” They think “a few bad apples just like every other group of people” because that’s what it is, but right now the impression people get who don’t follow gaming is we are all like that. We need to stop defending ourselves and just try to promote the positive. If we, the gaming community, are always on the defensive then nothing will ever be accomplished. It’s time to stop focusing on the negative and putting out fires, let’s start talking about the positives and the good that gaming can do. Not to other games, we all already know it, start talking to people who don’t know. That’s the way to truly make a difference. Let’s be honest, the more people talking about the positives of gaming the better, and who knows, maybe we can add a couple more gamers and then we’re all better off.

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.

Thank you to Mark Ankucic and his article for the inspiration behind this week’s topic.



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About the author

Nicholas Simonovski

Events and Racing Editor at Stevivor.com. Proud RX8 owner, Strange Music fan and Joe Rogan follower. Living life one cheat meal at a time.

About the author

Andy Gray

From the frozen land of Minnesota, I was the weird kid that begged my parents for an Intellivision instead of an Atari. My love for gaming has only grown since. When I’m not gaming I enjoy ice hockey and training dogs. I’m still trying to get my Elkhound to add to my Gamerscore though, one day this will happen.