This month’s conversation leftover: Player Rights. I think it all comes down to how gamers see one another. I have a very small sampling to make any guesses on, but let’s say some responses chipped away at my usual optimism. Not to worry, it’s replenished each morning.
There are those who probably think I’m very cynical because I see games as very meaningful. They think that because I enjoy dissecting games, picking them apart, finding out where they fail (instead of only where they succeed as is the custom) that I think games are just terrible baddies that can’t do anything right. Worse, I’m someone who thinks that games should be “serious” at all, over-reading them, over-interpreting them, placing meaning that just isn’t there, etc. Really cynical stuff.
Actually it gets even worse than that. There are gamers who believe that everything is fine in games, there are no problems whatsoever, games aren’t perfect, but they are as close to perfect as they will ever get and we need to accept them as such. Don’t protest, don’t bring up the unpleasantries: today’s games are the best of all possible worlds. This is it! Enjoy it or leave it alone!
These are the real cynics. These are the real pessimists.
These gamers often hold gamers and their developers to a very low standard, one that’s achievable with ease. We are at the low bar of gaming, marginally higher in some cases than we were 20 years ago and in others worse off than 20 years ago. By discussing the ways that games can be far better, I’m less cynical than these gamers. I believe games can absolutely improve and I want them to. I think talking about their weak points, their failings, and their strengths are all statements of faith. Because I believe they can be better, I feel they’re worthwhile to bring up because without those kinds of critiques they can’t do better.
The Cynical Brit isn’t actually cynical. His willingness to rip games a part is his optimism that games can do better, and his unwillingness to accept a lower standard.
Some might call this game snobbery, but that’s also being cynical. Think of it this way: suppose there are a group of starving people sitting on the right and on the left is a circle in which farmers occasionally drop morsels of food from their vast surplus. A piece of food gets tossed in. Some of the hungry eagerly pounce on it, smiling and dancing, grateful they might live to see another morsel get tossed into the box and calling the farmer kind and awesome for sharing a few morsels from their vast surplus. Some of the hungry also take the food eagerly, but they resent the farmer while still others take the food, but they make sure to let the farmer know that they can do much better. Those vast surpluses can be shared and people need not starve at all. I’m picking on gamers in this particular instance, but the analogy applies to the larger capitalist world we live in. There are those who defend the farmer and those who call on them to live up to their responsibility to the starving. Where do you fall in this analogy?
Analogies are never perfect, and they’re not supposed to be. In no way am I saying that optimists are always right in their ideas, but I’m definitely saying they are right to be optimistic and gaming deserves such critics – can’t do better without them. We should always try, always do our little part. There are some cynics among the starving and there are some optimists. The difference between the two is that optimists try to see solutions in which no one is unduly deprived, while cynics believe we are already living in the most perfect of worlds. Which group do you belong to?
This post is asking gamers one thing: don’t be so cynical. Of course games can be even more awesome. Of course developers can improve their methods. Of course players’ rights are important. Admitting any one of those things doesn’t deny any participant said things because this isn’t a zero sum game. We’re not suddenly evil just because we can afford to improve. Games are instantly terrible if they have failings and shortcomings. And one gamer seeing room for improvement doesn’t mean every gamer needs to see that same thing in order for it to be valid. We each have unique experiences in this life, and that means we’ll see things from those unique perspectives. A guy like me doesn’t think of the failings of communications tools until a gamer like Simcha points out there are major shortcomings in-game communication. These unique perspectives are what make improvements possible. When we make room for improvement, we add just a teeny bit more awesome to our gaming futures.