Video games are a truly special part of our day-to-day lives. They allow players to explore and immerse themselves within varying worlds of increasingly unique designs. Thanks to a growing wealth of options with their games, there’s always an experience ready for every kind of gamer. While recent years have introduced controversial elements like DLC, micro-transactions, and Day One patches, gaming continues to thrive. However, there’s another fast-developing issue that plagues today’s fans, and it’s self-inflicted.
This issue can be described as a growing toxicity within many gaming circles. Although it may initially appear to be typical internet culture with the constant pessimism and trash-talking, this trend has gotten progressively worse. It’s difficult to say what started it, but its presence in current gaming culture is undeniable. Go to just about any comment section or Twitter feed where the topic is anything slightly divisive, and you’ll witness a large group of negative-minded people looking for the worst in any given gaming product.
Typically, these comment sections are where bandwagon mentality and widespread criticism begin. Dissenting opinions aren’t as accepted as they once were, leading to many being called incorrect for their own opinions and preferences. Unlike the usual disagreements that are only natural with any gaming product, these mentalities indicate a sense of self-superiority as they “feel bad” for those who make choices or have opinions that they deem “wrong” (i.e. Someone pre-ordering a game that the other person doesn’t think highly of). It’s an egocentric mindset that many have adopted when faced with something they don’t like or one that they feel strongly about (both in a positive and negative connotation).
In terms of early examples of this trend, let’s go back to the 2002 Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker reveal. When first unveiled, many took to online forums to discuss their disapproval of the game’s “cartoony” lifestyle. At the time, the negative reactions made sense because it seemed to be a dramatic change from typical games within the series, leading to many fearing that the series was now “ruined.” It’s easy to say in hindsight that the criticism was ridiculous, but the reactions didn’t seem too out-of-place. Many fans feel a strong passion towards the Zelda series, so the outcry wasn’t entirely unexpected. It felt like real concern and not just people nitpicking for the sake of it.
Jump forward to the summer of 2015 though when, after plenty of apprehension and fan anticipation, Fallout 4 is finally confirmed. The hype was real among all gamers as the mythic sequel to Fallout 3 was now a reality. However, unlike the somewhat understandable Wind Waker outcry, fan reactions towards Fallout 4 felt a tad… nitpicky. Across all YouTube videos and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter), this seemed to be the general trend:
Fallout 4 trailer initial reaction: “I can’t believe that this game is actually real and it comes out in six months! So excited!”
Five minutes later: “The graphics aren’t that good, though.”
This was a game that many people put in the same “Like THAT will ever happen” category as Half Life 3. Yet, once this almost-mythic title was confirmed and set to release that year, people didn’t hesitate to complain. It’s like if someone was proposing to their loved one and their first reactions are totally gleeful. Then, moments later, the one being proposed to says, “but why didn’t you ask me sooner?” It’s this constantly-present mindset of never being truly satisfied; a set of expectations where the game can’t meet that person’s standards, regardless of what they’re shown in the future.
Considering that this was prior to any extended gameplay shown, it simply felt like people were just looking for flaws. Simply put, it represented an inability to be excited for anything. I mean, if you’re not going to get excited for Fallout 4, then what ARE you going to get excited for?
These passionate gamers no longer seemed to hope for the best in their games. Instead, they always searched for the cons, ignoring any pros they discover in the process. It was with this mindset that many gamers have become a more pessimistic group post-release. This trend soon spread to pre-release discussions of upcoming games as well. Rather than waiting for the game to speak for itself, fans decided to take this negative outlook to each major game’s marketing campaigns so that there was no honeymoon period before or after a title’s release.