Posted on January 12, 2011, Jim Sterling We, The Spoiled Gamers
If you ask the right person, 2010 sucked for gamers. Ask someone else, and 2009 was dreadful. There are those who might even go so far as to claim that the past two decades have been awful, that things were better back in the 8-bit days, before endless sequels and first-person-shooters took over the market. And as I sit here, fresh off feeling disappointed that the 3DS has up to five hours of battery life with which to display amazing looking, three-dimensional interactive entertainment without the need for special glasses, I have to ask myself a question … why the hell do we always find something to bitch about?
I have to agree with the fantastic comedian Louis CK when he says that we live in an age of amazing technology, wasted on assholes. I saw a YouTube video of a new iPhone App that converts foreign words on signposts to their English counterparts, in real-time. You hold the camera up to, say, a Spanish signpost, and the image displayed on your screen instantly renders it in English — no scanning, no photography, just an immediate translation. The comments on that video, however, were full of people grumbling about it because some of the words weren’t 100% accurate. As a person who regularly reminds himself to be amazed by the genuinely amazing — lest I forget just how good I have it — this comment thread was depressing to say the least. Instant cynicism and disregard for something our parents would never have dreamed up at our age, simply because a few words are wrong. It’s like complaining about a speck of dust on the Sphinx. It’s the God damn Sphinx! Who’s looking at a blemish when you have a gigantic sand cat staring down at you?
Nowhere is this entitled, unimpressed, ungrateful attitude more apparent to me than in the gaming community. I return to the inspiration of this week’s topic, the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve had the privilege of seeing this little technological beauty in action and it blew me away. The 3D effect is lovely, and more than that, I’m just excited about some of the awesome games coming out for it. However, the moment I heard that the battery life would be low, I was disappointed and cynical. I complained that they’ve gone the PSP route and ruined the potential fun of the system. Never mind that what I held in my hand a few months ago was bordering on fucking magic. If it’s magic that I have to plug in after five hours, well then, I guess it’s shitty magic, which is apparently worse than no magic at all.
Just before the battery complaints, a lot of gamers moaned because the 3DS needs to be held steady when playing. Since the 3D technology is based upon the position of your eyes, the effect is negated if you move around a lot. This revelation (despite being totally obvious) was met with anger and dismay from gamers who now deemed 3D useless and who must have Parkinson’s disease if they can’t sit still when playing a videogame. Again, I stress, what the 3DS does is sorcery. Even if it’s just a gimmick, it’s not something we small-minded gamers could conceive as being possible back when all we had were GameBoys. But along comes one small stipulation, one negative aspect, and we’re furious. We’re like children who are angry that we get one cupcake instead of two, regardless of whether or not we did anything to deserve a cupcake in the first place. When you think about it, we really are brats about this stuff.
There are those who hate the state of the modern games industry, and these chaps too are part of the spoiled generation. I mean, really? Life was better back when music had to cut out to make way for sound effects? When challenge in games consisted of throwing endless waves of enemies at you because anything approaching workable AI didn’t exist and titles were too small for complex strategies? We live in an age of high-definition videogames, where technological innovation has allowed for sound effects and music to pipe in through all corners of our living rooms, and games are longer, bigger, more ambitious, and more complicated than ever before. If you plucked your younger self from the 1980′s and sat him in front of a PlayStation 3, he would literally go insane. His tiny brain would not accept the reality of the situation, it’d overload, and he’d shit himself. No joke — in less than three seconds, feces would slalom through his intestines and explode out of his body with such force that his pants would tear and the entire world behind him would turn a rusty brown.
But you’re right, it was much better back then. Back when our small child brains thought that Bart vs. The Space Mutants was a good game.
Gamers complain about everything. Communities like N4G seemingly thrive off negativity and hatred, griping about everything from graphics to sales figures to reviews. If you own a PlayStation 3, why are you on the Internet, making yourself furious because somebody said Prototype was better than inFAMOUS? Don’t you realize what’s sitting underneath your TV? You have a videogame console that you can watch pornography on. A videogame console … that plays pornography. Porn that you can download with such a high definition that you can pick out each individual pube and spot pimples in the labia folds. WHY ARE YOU SO UNHAPPY!? YOU ARE A KING! YOU ARE GOD!
I recently sat and read a bunch of posts where people were criticizing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game isn’t even out yet, but because Bethesda hasn’t made a big deal out of mod support, and because the story’s initial premise wasn’t instantly Lord of the Rings, people are readying themselves for a bad game. Bethesda just confirmed to Game Informer that if you drop a sword in the game, an NPC child might pick it up and try to give it back to you. A child might return your own sword to you! That is amazing! Be humble, be meek, and be grateful! You are seeing things that the founders of your country, that great emperors who led powerful nations, that Jesus Christ himself have never seen. These men would not even have been arrogant enough to assume that mankind could be capable of such things. Alexander the Great never lost a battle in his glorious ten years of unwavering military command, and yet he couldn’t envision a world where drawings of children pick up swords and give them to overweight men who sit in their thrones of fine cloth and motorized reclining mechanisms.
We complain about games before they are released, then complain about negative reviews after they’re released. Sonic’s legs are too long, Dante’s hair’s too black, SSX: Deadly Descents doesn’t have enough orange in it and we can’t have dedicated servers in Modern Warfare 2. No matter how justified, righteous or silly our complaints, they are all one thing — the product of a rampant entitlement complex. Yes, it was bullshit that dedicated servers weren’t in Modern Warfare 2, but the very concept of dedicated servers even existing could be described by people of faith as miraculous. Yes, Microsoft’s Kinect is mostly disappointing and has only shown itself to be useful for on-rails shovelware, but we’re dancing in front of our televisions and making things happen on them! Why are we always so cynical, so angry, and so utterly terrible?
It sounds like I’m advocating unwavering, unconditional happiness with all that we’re served. This is not the case. I’m an absurdist, a man who believes in recognizing the ridiculousness of a situation but persisting anyway for the reward that persistence itself can bring. We have no right to complain, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. By all means, be angry, be furious, be spoiled and be rotten. Look back on the “good old days” of gaming as if modern technology is not truly astounding. Complain about the 3DS’ battery life in spite of the fact that you will be able to carry Ocarina of Time in the palm of your hand. Display outright contempt for a game with a huge immersive world and dynamic NPCs because you think the story might not be the greatest thing ever penned by mortal men.
I am not suggesting we stop doing that. We love complaining because we’re brought up to be pricks these days. Were it not for our consistently outrageous, unrealistic demands, game developers and manufacturers of technology wouldn’t need to make the unbelievable leaps and bounds they have made. But every now and then, I want you to stop shaking your fist, dry your eyes, and just look at what you have. The telephone that you can play Sonic the Hedgehog on. The PSP that lets you bring home console visuals with you onto a bus. The latest videogame with dynamic lighting, surround sound, and a quest that takes eighty hours to complete.
Just do that every now and then and take some time out to realize how stupid you sound when you complain and how spoiled you really are. You owe it to the millions of people who were born before they could know what an iPod was, to just recognize your good fortune, laugh at your idiotic whining, and be a little bit pleased with your fantastic life.
As soon as you’ve done that, you’re free to go back to calling the 3DS a piece of crap.