I’ve spoken out against the term “gamer” before. That was a year ago; it might as well have been sheer millennia in internet terms. Even then, I could smell the smoke from the burning schism in videogames. Things have come to a head in a way I would have never imagined could possibly happen a mere five years ago.
The schism has opened up into a gaping canyon, an abyss that threatens to swallow us all. People stand on either side while the entire twisted morass roils about in the chasm, smeared with all the filth of their corrupted, attention-grabbing gains. Now we’re standing on the edge of the abyss, and suddenly, I can’t think of one good thing to say.
I once wanted to work in games journalism. I was young, heady with love for a medium I enjoyed and willing to see it flourish. I never had many friends, and I wanted to find people like me, who understood games and realized that made them part of something bigger. I wanted to share my experiences and connect with others. I dreamed of being able to attend the E3 trade shows, closed-door events, and to rub shoulders with men like Carmack and Kojima. I began planning for a future career in video games, as a writer for magazines and websites. The outlets were few, then, and the prestige was high.
As I got older I watched it slowly but surely turn to shit. Games writing became commodities and then commercials. The print magazines strong enough to sustain a reader base in the age of the internet grew increasingly reliant on advertising, and the ones that didn’t were funded by the very companies they were reporting on. The age of free, gonzo, internet journalism was supposed to be the way forward from this – and that only had the effect of trivializing it even more. Content exploded out into the void at exponential rates, and supply outstripped demand. Writers developed ‘new games journalism’ to withstand the tidal wave and to differentiate themselves from the plethora of new voices given equal opportunity out there on the internet. Sites consolidated around each other as the transformation finished; they became nothing more than glorified PR sites, hosting advertising masquerading as news. They lived or died from ad revenue and the goodwill of the larger companies that sustained them.
Despite all this, there was still a large part of me that wanted to work in games journalism. In my youth I was convinced that I was better, I was different. That I could do a better job than all the others out there and be rewarded on merit alone. I followed the game industry like a hawk, making a habit of checking four or five different news sites three or four times a day and hanging on to every tidbit of new information companies drip-fed to us. At the end of the day, I still loved games.
Something else began to change round about 2005 and gained full swing by 2007.
It was the era of the Xbox 360, and the rise of the western games industry to dominance over the global market.
“Gamer” suddenly took on a new meaning. People outside my hobby began to get into videogames, and the industry changed with it. Videogames metamorphosed from a predominantly Japanese product into something more and more dominated by a fratboy, beer-swilling Western audience. I felt left behind as art styles and entire genres of game were driven into smaller and smaller niches. Mechanics lost precedence to production values and flash overtook substance.
I reacted negatively.
To this day I remain embittered by this. The seventh generation of video game consoles will be marked as a dark age for me; an age when Japan lost its way in trying to increase the appeal of their products and aim towards a western audience that wanted nothing to do with them to begin with, when PC games developed for more complex and sophisticated control systems began to see significant downsizing and stripping of features in order to suit the Xbox system, when games lost their ability to be solvent and differentiate given reasonable budgets and had to sell millions of copies to even begin to break even.
In retrospect, this anger came from a place of selfishness. I was lashing out against people that I feel didn’t belong in my hobby, and against the industry that went haring after them like lemmings off a cliff. I was Asian! I was the market that mattered, and it was my money that funded the games industry! Almost overnight, none of my experiences mattered simply because the games industry had decided that I was not a market worth making games for.
It’s difficult to not feel betrayed on a personal level when something you’ve loved and supported all along becomes a twisted reflection of something you’ve once loved. I was searching for my own identity, and I found it inside the gaming subculture. When that subculture changed to a point where I felt it no longer represented me, what choice did I have but to reject that subculture? On a macro, business level, it’s merely business. People go where the money is. This is a fact of life. This will not change the way I feel, but it is merely the way the world works.
Since then I’ve learned to live with my hatred of the western games industry; they’re capable of making good games, even if they seem to have an active distaste for many of the things that attracted me to games in the first place. I consider Oblivion to be my poster child for shitty western games, at the same time I consider Skyrim to be one of the best examples of a WRPG on the market and well worth the accolades it gets (to be fair, it’s not like there’s much competition).
#Gamergate is this story. Gamergate is the same thing happening all over again, but on a wider scale.
Everyone from the pro-Sarkeesians to the 4chan wolves are screaming to high heaven and gnashing their teeth about how they are the audience that matters. How their money is the money that funds the game industry, and that they are the movers and shakers, the ones that matter. All of it comes from a place of selfishness. Everyone is reacting this strongly because games connected with something in them on a personal level, something they liked or understood, and became an important experience that shaped who they are.
I don’t know what it means to be a ‘gamer’ anymore. I just know that the way the entire situation has been handled from both sides of the fence has drastically damaged what little love remains in my heart for video games. I consider the “gamer” I was once so proud to call myself a rotting, decomposed corpse, barely more than a shambling husk of what it once was – and to see people fighting to keep the gamer identity alive out of nothing other than love of their hobby alone, and can’t help but wonder –
Where were all these people when I was left behind?
I don’t have much constructive to add. People smarter than I have chimed in already, and the arguments from both sides have matured and become more deeply entrenched since it began. The only thing I can do is say this one thing to everyone still fighting or clawing at the sides of the abyss;
Hito no hanashi o chanto ki-ke.
Listen to what everyone is saying. Everyone. Think about the kind of place they come from, and what kind of experiences in life have made them who they are. This is not a plea for transparency, or against corruption, in defense or attack of the gamer, or even for or against video games. This is a plea for us to understand each other as human beings. One of the greatest tools in any writer’s arsenal is not the ability to condemn, but the ability to understand and empathize, to get into the heads of other people and understand what drives them and makes them tick. You can’t do that if you don’t even at least make an effort to try and understand. The Universal Theory of Pocky holds true. We don’t have to have our percepts match – we just need to find the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us, and make an effort to listen and try to understand why they do what they do.
If games do not bring us together but instead drive us apart, I’m completely done with video games. We could use one less thing to fight over.
I’m Chaosrayne on Skype. Come find me. Let’s talk about fun times with video games.
I’m Chaosgoeshere on AIM. Come find me. Let’s talk about what made us laugh, made us cry, and overly-sentimental bullshit that we love in video games.
I’m clastorder on wordpress. Come find me. Let’s talk about the nature of this industry, and the people in it. Let’s talk about how great it is that we care so much about this wonderful new medium and the things that games are capable of.
I’m chaoslastorder on PSN. Destiny is coming out soon. Come find me. Let’s team up and shoot things, and enjoy playing together.
Oh, and because I figure I couldn’t get away without saying it at least once, I’d be okay with the entire corrupt temple of rancid lies burning to the ground and crashing down on everyone involved. I’m an extremely bitter, cynical bastard of a human being, but just this once I’d like to think given a fresh start, we can do better.