We’re Gamers! Haven’t We Learned Anything?
If you are looking for a seriously funny movie. look no further than The Gamers: The Dorkness Rising. The movie is all about a group of Dungeons and Dragons players who, in an attempt to beat a campaign their GM is writing, bring in a female friend to add to the team. Chock full of inside jokes, many of which are well explained since they do have a brand new gamer in the mix, the movie manages to balance being both a parody and an homage to old school pen and paper RPGs. Anyone who grew up playing or knew people who did will thoroughly enjoy the film.
So why do I bring up this movie? At one point, one of the long time players gets extremely frustrated with a decision made by the new gamer, and he goes off rather spectacularly. At the end of his rant, he grabs his books, dice and jacket, accusing this player of ruining his game. As he is about to storm out the door, he turns back around to face the other players and says “Darn it *slightly censored*, we’re gamers! Haven’t we learned anything?”
So how do the rest of the players react. One of them slinks under the table, pops up in the now vacant seat next to the new gamer and asks “So what happens next?” The others decide they have been enjoying playing the game well enough they are not going to let someone making a decision they would not have made themselves ruin the experience. In the end, they find they really like the way this new player games.
Now even with me not giving you all of the specifics, I am guessing most of you have decided this guy who stormed out kind of overreacted. I would agree. So why did I bring up this scene in the movie and use part of the quote for my title? The answer is simple:
I see so many gamers doing this same thing over and over again, and it is starting to make me sick.
Taking Our Controller and Going Home
Think I am overreacting? Let’s take a look at just a few examples, shall we?
- Valve announces Left 4 Dead 2 at E3. A group of Steam members start an online petition to boycott the game before they even play it, stating Valve should instead include the new content as free updates to the original game.
- Call of Duty Elite gets delayed on PC. People in the forums start commenting they think Activision should be sued because they did not get their full access on time.
- Some stores break street date on Modern Warfare 3. Gamers are warned by Microsoft not to take their games online as it might result in banning as they may not be able to differentiate legal copies from pirated ones. Gamers start to complain they are not allowed to play a game they should not own yet.
- Someone dares to write a thoughtful review of Uncharted 3 stating why his is not as thrilled with the game as most critics are. Instead of gamers reading it, thinking about the points that were made and forming their own opinions, they start screaming because the lower review might affect the Metacritic score, which was a stupid argument as the site was not included in that score.
Are you starting to see the picture? I wish these were the only examples I had, but they are not. Gamers are developing the reputation of the schoolyard child who has decided, since no one wants to play his way, he is taking his ball and going home. Sure, it would be easy to write these off as a select few who are the ones posting in forums and on Twitter, but the number of gamers who fall into this, even if not to this extreme, is growing. As further proof, take a look at the ongoing saga surrounding Mass Effect 3 and the Coop mode.
How Dare They Do Something New!
The rumors of some form of an online multiplayer component being in the works for Mass Effect 3 had been flying around for some time. The speculation was running rampant. Was EA forcing Bioware to make something they could lock behind an online pass? Would including some form of multiplayer mean the single player campaign would suffer? Were they going to make Mass Effect an MMORPG? No one really had the answers, and people started to brace themselves against ideas they just knew they were not going to like even before any kind of an announcement was made.
Then just a few weeks ago, Bioware revealed just what their vision of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer was. What the company unveiled was 4 player Coop experience, allowing players to make custom characters from many of the primary races and fight for control of specific locations in the game. The idea was if players chose to participate in the coop missions, they could take control of war assets which would then be available to the players in their single player campaigns. As Casey Hudson, Executive Producer for Bioware, explained it in the video announcing the new mode, this game was all about the galactic war against the Reavers, and it just seemed like the perfect place to introduce multiplayer. As a devoted fan of the series, I found myself starting to get excited. The concept of Bioware giving me a chance to gain a completely new experience in the Mass Effect Universe? Yeah, that was something I could really get behind.
To say my optimism appeared to be in the minority was truly an understatement. Gamers were up in arms about this, some seeming to decide this was going to keep them from buying the game. Now I can understand some of the skepticism over this decision, especially as the comapny distributing the game, EA, has made several questionable decisions as of late. What I did not expect was the venom I was reading on Twitter and hearing in podcasts.
Of course, I guess I should have seen one part of the reaction coming. After all, gamers have proven time and time again they will take misinformation and run with it, using it to unjustly attack development companies.
Inaccurate Information is Inaccurate
Time and time again, we have seen examples of gamers going off on development ideas without getting the full or even accurate story behind it. We have addressed a lot of this misinformation on the EDG Podcast in the past. Imagine my surprise, then, when even EDG fell pray to this. We had to address some of that in the following week’s podcast.
Let’s take a look at some of the inaccurate information which has been and continues to be getting circulated about the Mass Effect 3 Coop:
- Multiplayer has been a last minute addition to appease EA: While I cannot address whether or not EA might have influenced the inclusion of multiplayer in the game, I can tell you it was not a last minute thing. How, you ask? Well, just listen to Bioware talk about it. They built an entire separate team to handle the multiplayer. That’s not something you do last minute. On top of that, I follow Christina Norman on Twitter (@truffle). In case you are wondering the relevance of that, Christina was a developer/programmer with Bioware working on Mass Effect 3 before she moved over to Riot Studios, makers of League of Legends. Not long after she left (a few months ago), she said there was one more major reveal still to be made about Mass Effect. When Coop was announce, she all but confirmed that was what she was referencing and noted it appeared to be advancing nicely since when she had last seen it.
- You will play as established characters in coop: You will actually create your own specific characters for coop. You will be able to choose from many of the major races and all of the classes. Want a Solarian tech specialist? You got it. Rather play as an Asari adept? Go for it. Want to play as a Hanar soldier…. Okay, I got a little carried away there, but you get the point. The coop will give you the chance to play as races you have never been able to play before. Sure, you could have them in your party, but that is not the same.
- You will be forced to play coop to get the ultimate ending: Casey Hudson specifically addressed this in the video announcing multiplayer. Coop is completely optional. All the areas you can gain control of in coop can be visited in the main storyline, and it is completely possible to get the best ending without playing a lick of the coop.
- Making the coop has taken team members and assets away from single player: As I mentioned earlier, the team working the on the coop experience is an entirely new team which was built specifically to do just that. They did not take away team members from the single player experience in order to make it. Bioware has assured us they intend to make the best single player campaign possible, with coop being the icing on the cake. Now I will grant you the last two points I have made are based on taking Casey Hudson and Bioware at their word. If Bioware had a history of going against their word, I would understand the skepticism. As they have not, I do not understand why gamers are not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this.
The shear amount of misinformation surrounding the decision to add coop to Mass Effect 3 is staggering, but it is hardly the only example of this. What tends to happen is gamers take this and run with it, judging a game or game mode without ever having played it. Is it any wonder game developers are getting a little wary of trying new things? We tell them we we want them to do just that, then when they do, we turn on them.
You know what is really bad? While I am here championing a need to do away with this type of attitude, I can see where I have done the same thing on more than one occasion. A great example of this is the way I reacted to Valve deciding to make Portal 2 a full retail game. I voiced on more than one occasion my doubts there was enough content there to do it, and I thought the idea of coop was a bad one. Now the game is on my short list for Game of the Year. I am not blind to the fact that I have contributed to the problem.
Time to Settle Down
So, how do we handle this? I think it is time that we as gamers decided to settle down a bit. We need to make sure we have the facts before we rally against something. We need to be open to new ideas. Instead of being the jaded gamer ready to storm out when things are not going our way, we should strive to be more like the ones willing to embrace change, especially when those changes could wind up improving the overall experience. As I mentioned before, I am excited to see what Bioware does with the Mass Effect 3 coop, bnt even if that part of the game falls flat on its face, I am willing to give the company credit for trying something new.
Now I am not saying we should not criticize things which do indeed deserve criticism. For example, EA’s moves recently have lead many gamers to level criticism its way, and that criticism is well deserved. What I am trying to say is we need to be sure the criticism is earned before we start throwing it out. Maybe it is time we as gamers stopped making up our minds before we have all the facts or have had a chance to see something for ourselves. Not only wold we probably find a renewed love of gaming, but we might find developers are willing to reward our new attitudes.
It is time we all stop giving gamers a bad name.