Gamers are a vocal bunch. We love to get angry, throw our toys, start petitions. Yet there are certain key outrages that fire up again and again; hotly contested discussion points that we all care very deeply about.
Or at least, we think we do. The truth is, we don’t actually care about these things at all. Let’s talk about them.
I love to hate on annualised franchises, but maybe that’s just because I don’t like any of them.
Call of Duty? Please. Assassin’s Creed? PC gamers are not capable of liking Ubisoft titles; we’ve developed an immunity. Battlefield? Refer to #1.
But what if there was a new Half-Life every year? It probably wouldn’t matter how bad they got, I’d still buy them. I’m a hypocrite, and as such I’m going to lump myself in with the rest of you unapologetic consumers.
Thing is, we all take a big steaming dump on every annual release, right before heading to the pre-order page.
We don’t hate having a new title to play every year, we hate that it’s not perfect. We moan about the optimisation, the lack of originality, the enormous day one patches and the glitches.
But we’d probably moan even louder if we found out the game wasn’t coming at all.
See, we’re not actually capable of making good decisions. It’s a bit like offering a meth addict a toke on your broken lightbulb – just because they say yes doesn’t mean it was a good idea.
We’re like that with our annual games. If you put it on the shelf, we’re going to buy it. We need the developers and the publishers to impose a two year wait on us and deliver a better game, then maybe we’d see.
Since we keep handing over our money, that’s probably not going to happen.
Tell me something – what do you think about Activision? EA?
Giant, money-grubbing corporations who’ve inserted themselves so insidiously into the games industry they’ve removed all competition and ruined gaming. Sound about right?
Alright, now tell me what you think about Steam. Google?
Remember when Origin got launched, and we all hated it? Ugh, why do we need ANOTHER platform when we already have Steam? Let’s not even get started on Uplay.
We don’t really hate the companies because they’re monopolies; we just kind of hate the companies themselves.
Everybody hates Activision because they run every franchise into the ground (although, see #1) and, more importantly, they’re honest about it. In a lot of ways it isn’t really so much the business practices but rather the way that company is perceived.
Google is universally loved because they give you all this cool shit for free and have jumping castles in their offices or whatever, all the while selling all your personal info to the highest bidder and slowly taking over the world Pinky and the Brain style.
Steam gets a pass since they basically invented digital distribution (and we love that) and empty our wallets with Steam Sales every year. We like Steam, so we’re quite happy for them to have no competition whatsoever. It’s convenient, but not the healthiest thing for the consumer.
I’ll be honest though, installing Origin for EA games is annoying.
I’ll just state at the get-go here that pay-to-win style microtransactions suck diseased, rotting ass and ruin any game they’re put in. These are bad and the companies who do them should feed bad.
As for the rest, well… we love them.
One only needs to see the massive DotA 2 (or CS:GO, for that matter) item markets to know that people just love to spend money on games they love.
We all have this innate desire to collect, to have something new and shiny. These games feed that addiction. Without that drive, to be honest, most RPGs wouldn’t exist. The thing that keeps people playing the likes of Borderlands and Diablo and Skyrim long after the initial novelty has worn off is that desire to collect more, more, more.
Some of the most successful microtransaction games use a similar model. The more you play, the more item drops you get. These can be traded up, sold, or collated into bigger, flashier items. Assuming you’re not a Middle Eastern prince, even those of us who simply buy all the items we own do it over time, building up collections.
Microtransactions add excitement and longevity to games we don’t want to stop playing. For the games that do it right, they just wouldn’t be the same without them.
This will probably be the one that has people scrambling to the comments to argue the fastest – bear with me here.
We’ve seen a lot of graphics scandals – tech demos not measuring up to final releases, Watch Dogs toning down PC graphics, the consoles’ 1080p vs 900p scandals and numerous other torch-and-pitchfork Internet crusades.
What I would argue however is that in all these cases the issue isn’t so much the graphics as it is about expectations not being met.
When people buy an Xbox One, they expect it to be able to produce the same level of performance as the PlayStation 4 – that’s what Microsoft promised.
When people see a flashy tech demo at E3, they expect the final game is going to look the same. Truthfully, the uproar only usually starts after someone puts out a comparison video – most people hadn’t noticed until then.
Games like Call of Duty, however, aren’t held to these standards. Activision has specifically always targeted 60fps for the smooth gameplay, and time and again they’ve compromised on graphics to do that. The game doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look incredible either. Nobody cares.
One of the most popular games in the world, Minecraft, literally looks like shit. But since it’s an “art style” and wasn’t expected to have mind-blowing graphics, nobody cares.
The truth is, we don’t really need our games to look amazing. As long as they’re fun, we’re happy. But if we’re expecting a graphical masterpiece, you can bet your ass we expect to get it. If we have a R20K PC, you can bet your ass we expect to run everything on Ultra. People don’t buy these monster rigs because they need pretty graphics; they buy them because they want to run everything at the best it can be, always. Because only being capable of Medium or High simply isn’t good enough.
Game Review Scores
There’s a caveat here – I think if a game gets Metacritic scores below 50, people probably take notice – just ask whoever the hell it was that developed that new Tony Hawk game.
Aside from that though, we don’t really care. When it comes to the big releases, whether or not people are going to buy a particular game is decided before that game even so much as crosses a critic’s table – pre-order numbers evidence this quite easily.
That isn’t to say we don’t read or enjoy reviews – we do, but it’s almost more like reading an opinion piece, in that whether or not we agree is probably decided before we read it at all. The critic isn’t seen as some kind of an expert, but just another dude with an opinion – we read it to find out someone else’s experience.
That’s exactly why sites like Eurogamer have ditched scores entirely; the numerical value no longer held any meaning; the focus shifted to the experience.
Right, I’m done ranting – what would you add to the list? What would you take off it? Sound off in the comments.