previously published on 30plusgamer, a no longer active site
Lately it seems that almost everyone is on at least one form of social media. This is a wonderful chance for the gaming community to actually have contact with writers and developers of games. Not only can you stay up to date on the latest news, but you actually have a way to contact developers and say, “Hey I really loved this, I kind of didn’t like that”. But where there is a good side there is a bad side, and the bad side seems to be coming out more and more. The anonymous nature of the internet seems to bring out the worst in some people, and lately this has really been showing with gamers.
In the summer of 2013 Call of Duty released an update which featured a change to the DSR a very popular weapon in the recent games of the series. The response to the change in fire time of the weapon was a general feeling of unhappiness. What makes this situation so bad is that gamers did not use twitter to say that they were unhappy with the changes but to actually send death threats to the developers. David Vonderhaar, who used twitter to announce the changes was sent a range of tweets from saying that he should be fired, all the way up to he should actually kill himself. Despite Vonderhaar clearly not being the only person that was involved in this choice, he took the full brunt of the gaming community because he had announced it.
Activision stood behind the choice to change the DSR, but went further to call out the gaming community. Saying the response was immature and unnecessary. Both Vonderhaar and the PR reps from Activision posed the question of whether or not a change to a gun in a video game was really worth telling a person to kill themselves. The question is a valid one, while many might agree that the changes to the gun were wrong, the response was also wrong. Does a change in firing speed of a in-game gun really warrant the death of a human being?
Phil Fish is known for having created Fez. There are a lot of mixed feelings about Phil Fish’s breakdown on twitter and eventual cancellation of Fez 2. At first Fish was called out on Gametrailers, but the situation quickly spiraled out of control. A rash of arguments seemed to break out via twitter, and many of those attacking Fish had no actual relation to Gametrailers. Fish at one point also crossed the line insulting those attacking him. It is indicative of the greater problem though. If upset gamers did not have access to Fish as a developer would he still have canceled the sequel to his game?
This is not actually a question that can be answered, but Fish did say that harassment from the gaming community had a lot to do with why he quit. His own behavior might not have been perfect, but few people know what it’s like to be hit over and over with hate. It’s uncertain whether or not the gaming community was the cause of his quitting. However, gamers were once again in the headlines for being a group that harasses developers, and this time to the point that we would drive one away. At the end of the day it seems to matter little if it was this one incident that caused the cancellation of the game, but rather that even developers don’t want to deal with the community.
For the 3rd time in a few months the video game community was once again in the spotlight for harassment. Jennifer Helper was a writer for BioWare that worked largely on Dragon Age 2, though she recently quit. It has come out that harassment from the community was not the sole cause for her choice to leave, but that the harassment that was reported did exist.
Helper was attacked for a variety of reasons. Some attacked her for an interview (link to) in which she stated she did not play combat heavy games. Many for the drastic changes to Dragon Age 2. She, along with the rest of Bioware, were also attacked from within and outside the gaming community for their choice to embrace homosexual relations.
Since it’s come out that harassment is not the only reason that Helper quit is it worth mentioning? The answer is simply, yes. While it may not have been the reason she quit for a few weeks the news was that she had quit from being driven away by gamers, and it was completely believable. Doesn’t that highlight the problem itself? That we as a gaming a community don’t even need to question the idea that a well established person that helps in the creation of games could be driven away by the very audience she works for?
Even if harassment didn’t drive away Helper it doesn’t excuse the harassment she received. It also doesn’t excuse gamers for once again being in headlines for being a community so terrible that we drive away those that create for us.
The fact is it stretches beyond major headlines. The response to Mass Effect 3, comments on the reboot of Lara Croft, etc. It’s not that the complaints are or are not valid, it’s how they are expressed. It’s not that people dislike changes to games it’s that they take to twitter and instead of expressing dissatisfaction they told people to hurt themselves or used offensive terms to describe those involved with games. We didn’t say in response to the changes of COD, “As a gamer, I feel these changes are wrong”. We said, “You should kill yourself,” not seeming to care that there was a real person reading that tweet and knowing it was in reference to themselves.
Furthermore it begs the question of how does it make the rest of the world see gamers. When the PR department from a gaming company feels free to call us immature, what about those with no connection to our community? Do we really expect the media to find a new villain to blame for all acts of violence when even those developing for us seem to have contempt for us?
If the community doesn’t use this connection to developers, writers, and those involved with games in a more productive way how many other talented people will we drive away. Will we reach a point that we have to face the consequences of the most talented in the gaming world no longer wanting to be involved with us?
There is a certain beauty with a direct line to those creating COD and saying that changing the rate of fire on a popular weapon is not something we want as a community. The problems arise in how we choose to phrase that anger. No, someone should not die because we don’t like the changes to a weapon in a video game. Developers can know you are unhappy without being threatened or insulted.