This Week In Games is a weekly column covering the biggest gaming stories. This week, Jake Tucker argues that gamers shouldn’t presume to know better than the people who make their favorite game – especially when it comes to harassment.
What is it that makes game fans so eager to critique the games they claim to love? That sounds dramatic, but it’s always difficult to see social media swell with plenty of armchair pundits eager to claim they have the one idea a AAA game studio needs to fix its flagship product.
These ideas from untrained players, who in many cases have no idea what is going on behind the scenes and what ideas have been experimented with behind the scenes, are often not perfect.
This week we saw not one, but two controversies at once. After the first beta week, there were complaints about it Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is too different/similar depending on who you ask. Elsewhere, a social media statement was posted on Twitter by Respawn Entertainment, urging fans to stop harassing their development team.
There are a few different issues in these various complaints, but it all boils down to one crucial thing: fans of games seem to have enough ownership that they can demand changes to the games they play. Multiple replies to Respawn’s tweet suggested that if Respawn changed the things they wanted to change, the harassment would stop. “Then switch back the iron visor on the heatsink and don’t sell the reactive skin for $160,” claimed one reply. “You get constructive feedback when you make a playable and enjoyable game,” said another.
Elsewhere, streamers and content creators have complained about it Modern Warfare 2 changed the series’ trademark minimap as it no longer shows small dots of enemies when shooting, which developer Infinity Ward said because they don’t want to penalize players for firing their guns. Which seems reasonable for a shooter. Others have complained that the time to kill is too different from previous games in the series, taking turns claiming that it’s too fast or too slow.
Personally I think Modern Warfare 2The changes to the minimap are positive, but it’s not really about whether the changes are good or bad, or even feedback in general at all. Constructive criticism makes just about everything better — journalists enjoy being edited, for example — but constructive criticism doesn’t mean yelling at someone to fix their game or demanding that something be more in line with what you want.
Unfortunately, this is not a new topic. In March 2012, Mass Effect 3 released. The game’s ending was considered so bad by some fans that the community started a social media firestorm, harassing developers and even going so far as to start a petition to demand Bioware change the game. Bioware changed the ending. There is a great video from People Make Games where the developers talk about how much it has affected them and if you are one of those people thinking about tweeting abuse you might check out the video to see see what impact this can have.
It would be easy to blame and write off the Dunning-Kruger effect were it not for the fact that games are often such a toxic event – and so often result in the annoyance of developers, including disproportionately those who identify as such are anything but straight white males – that this is one of the biggest threats to the open and transparent communication of developers out there.
As game developers and publishers get better and better at taking care of their employees and their mental health, it seems less likely that this ongoing pressure will get fans the things they think they want, and instead cause developers to further isolating and less transparent are upcoming developments. This is bad news for the entire industry. If the angry fans could stop the abuse, maybe we could enjoy all the games – which is what we’re actually here to do – and just have a nicer time in general.