In recent years, gamers have become entitled little brats who should learn to be happy with what they're given. In a post Gamer-Gate world, it's easy to feel as if this is your forced position as the consumer. The backlash that became Gamer-Gate was, in part, a large group of people fighting against this ideology that those parting with money would get what they got and learn to like it. Somewhat expectedly, the world of gaming “since the incident“ has changed, and somewhat dramatically, if 2015's E3 conference is anything to go by. More publishers than ever seem to be making a conscious effort to represent differing ethnic groups, genders and sexual orientations in their works. Marketing strategies are less forced and in your face. Early Access is... well it's still spreading like a rash but you can't have everything. Besides this, I think we can safely say that we fought the system and we won.
Well I don't think we did. I think that publishers haven't changed for the better, and you only have to scratch away at the glossy surface to see that all those dents and rust-holes have been hammered out and covered up in some dodgy, back alley garage your mate went to once. This machine looks shiny and new, but really a marketing department has duct-taped a body kit on to it and kicked it backwards through a few press conferences until we all just agreed that it looked better that the last thing. Different groups of people being represented? Everyone shouted about it for months on end. Less focus on pre-orders and DLC? What were we all tweeting about until our thumbs bled? Developers are there to make games for us to buy and enjoy. Publishers are there to gather data on what the people want so they can find developers, tell them to make something using that data and, ultimately, make money. Statistically speaking, a handful of publishers must have looked at the backlash and entered the “new age“ (I say, shuddering at my own pretentiousness) with legitimately good intentions, but business is always going to be business. At the end of the day, we see big companies giving us what we want and trying to make amends. What they see is nothing short of feeding the cows the good hay and coming back later for the good meat. Business is business.
No. The big companies are not on our side and that's fine. Really, it's okay. They were never meant to be friendly. Big AAA publishers made their names selling games and that's literally what they're there to do. More importantly; it's all they know, full stop. They don't exist to dictate the moral high ground (to a degree), they just see something they can sell and they sell it. They're no different to a drinks company like Coca Cola or a film company like Lions Gate. Coca-Cola rots your teeth and Saw is gruesome as hell but ultimately they're there, fun and wouldn't exist without the big company that put it there. Both of these things had their share of controversy and hatred but there's still huge audiences for both products and thus, we have a billion different flavours of Coke and a billion different films in the Saw franchise. They're bad for you but you don't really care because you're a smart little flower and you understand the art of exercising moderation.
In an ideal world, game publishers would distance themselves from the product entirely, selling it and nothing else. The development house making the game would have to work to create a more polished game in order to get picked up by a publisher and the publisher would have to chose their products more carefully to ensure they would sell. AAA titles would suddenly become a lot better and would become a lot more diverse purely by necessity. Games would appeal to more focussed audiences, kind of solving the unsolvable issue of pleasing everyone, development houses would grow from exposure and publishers would still get money from publishing. Everyone would happy. But what do I know? I'm just a hobbyist.
What this article boils down to is this: this whole thing is trivial. Video games are trivial. Yes, they offer an air of escapism. Yes, they offer challenging scenarios we wouldn't get anywhere else. Yes, they can tell stories in ways impossible until three decades ago. After all, video games are the sum of all the media formats that the world has loved for the last few centuries of our species' existence and to deny its importance would be nothing short of idiotic... but that doesn't stop it from just being media. For all it did, the Gamer-Gate movement highlighted just how menial and trivial this whole argument is. It's a perpetual argument centred entirely around what the little flashy lights on the screen do and at the end of it all, such energy could be put to better use elsewhere. We've seen equally terrible and sometimes worse things in film and in books than we have in video games. It was all controversial then, it's all controversial now and it's probably going to be controversial the next time it happens too. Sometimes you have to consider if the fight holds meaning or if people are just out to prove they're right. It's a messy detail of the human condition and on a large enough scale, it's dangerous.
Maybe in the future, the argument of ethics in video games can come about in a way that actually ushers in some progress. From what we have seen so far, I'm going to go ahead and say that now is not that time. At the end of the day, I want to say this: Objectively speaking, video games are little more than a form of entertainment media. I love them, they are an amazing way to tell stories and the things that can be done with them change daily. It's an exciting industry and should be praised as much as it should be scorned. That said, it's just a way to tell stories. When you close the book, the film ends or the final boss falls; the real world still exists. The real world has real issues that matter a whole lot more than what the suits at Konami or EA or Nintendo are “up to this time“ and it's really looking like some people at the heart of this on going slander-fest have forgotten all of that. I feel like it needs to be said that some people are taking video games way too seriously, and that maybe we all need to take a step back and look at what this community has become and where it's going. By that I mean publishers, gamers and journalists, because this is starting to get ridiculous. Let's not ruin video games, hey?