Diablo 3′s Botched Launch: 3 Reasons Gamers Should Care
1. Games Either Matter, Or They Don’t
The video game industry is desperate for their product to be recognized as legitimate art. Fortunately, that’s something they have in common with gamers, who long to have their cherished pastime removed from the list of approved reasons to bully someone for loving. In order for this to happen, however, the industry is going to have to be willing to subject itself to withering criticism. The response to the way recent debacles have been received by the gaming community suggests they’re not there yet.
Compare to another hallowed American cultural staple, the film industry. Our movie biz has become notorious for emphasizing increasingly expensive, intellectually vapid, narratively incoherent nonsense at the expense of challenging, or at least artistically meritorious, work. And the reason for that is that movies like Transformers generate tons and tons and tons of money. The consumer has spoken with their wallets. Hollywood has been rewarded handsomely for being as stupid as possible.
But movies are still considered an almost universally applicable, essential art form, and even the worst film’s studio is willing to endure a critical drubbing. That’s largely because the industry waited until after the hard-fought battle for legitimacy was won before going all-in on pandering to the lowest common denominator’s stupider cousin. The video game industry appears to be skipping that crucial step and going straight from Orson Welles to Michael Bay, without Coppola and Spielberg in between. And they want gamers to shut up, enjoy the ride, and fork over the cash without question.
Here’s the thing: We, as a society, have decided it’s acceptable to spend millions upon millions of dollars creating video games. Apparently, we think they’re a big deal. If that’s so, then video games should also be a big enough deal that when it sucks, or their execution is screwed up, we shouldn’t have to justify being a bit persnickety about it. The fact that games matter should be justification enough for caring about it. Instead, whenever gamers – who, it’s important to add, are the greatest defenders of the concept that video games are art – get angry at an inferior product or a f*cked up launch, rather than being listened to, they’re ridiculed.
We don’t mean to whine, but it’s a bit rich that when it comes time to yell at Roger Ebert for failing to recognize video games as art, gamers are the celebrated cavalry zooming over the nearest hill. Yet when it’s time to point out that, maybe, some very specific promises were very brazenly broken, or that perhaps built-in inconveniences aren’t what we signed up for? Suddenly, video games are for losers who don’t have sex, or if you prefer, ‘basement dwelling neckbeards.’ The problem is so acute that even people whose job it is to cover the gaming world line up to mock gamers for giving the same level of Fu-, er, damns, about video games that highly respected and well-paid intellectuals give about movies, novels, even comics.
Simply put, if the gaming world wants to be taken seriously, it has to take itself seriously. Which is why it’s extremely important for gamers to be unashamed to vent their spleen whenever they’re ripped off, whether the ripping off is intentional, or accidental. As we pointed out during the discussion of changing the ending to Mass Effect 3, the gaming industry has long encouraged a symbiotic relationship with players. But that symbiosis has to work both ways, or one side is simply being a parasite. Put more simply, pointing out that it’s kind of ridiculous for a company the size of Blizzard to release a game without anticipating the kind of problems caused by 4 million people trying to access it at the same time isn’t the same thing as calling them cartoon villains.
Tough love is tough, but it’s still love. Right?
And let’s be honest. You might personally be annoyed by all the whining, but the gamers have managed to effect positive change. Yes, BioWare had to be dragged kicking and screaming into admitting the scope of customer anger. On the other hand, Blizzard, to their credit, has been immediately forthcoming with an apology for the bumbled release and vows to make everything work as smoothly as possible. At the end of the proverbial day, the only thing lost is the sense that gamers are supposed to be passive receptors of whatever developers give them. I can think of worse fates.
In short, it is essential to the health of the industry, and the future of gaming as a part of our culture, that we stop shaming players for having the gall to complain when they’re let down. Only fools assume that the best possible position to take is ‘whatever the lord of the manner says’. A community full of amateurs who casually create things like Counterstrike and Defense of the Ancients is definitely not defined by foolishness; why then are we expecting them to behave otherwise. So ignore the haters and rage until your voices are gone, gamers. You’ll always have your thumbs.
But if none of this sways the skeptical observer, then just think of the issue in practical terms. You paid 60 bucks for a copy of a game. You didn’t expect that game to change the world. You’re not asking it to replace your friends. You just want it to do the thing that the people who made it promised you it would do. If it fails to meet this very modest standard? You got ripped off, end of story.
If that doesn’t bug you, it’s ok. But if you don’t mind, the next time we go out on the town, I’m driving my own car. I, at least, care whether or not it works.