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We need to kill the 'angry gamer' archetype

Core gamers, without a shadow of a doubt, are the most aggressive, self-serving, knee-jerk murderous people the universe has ever seen. We’re effectively less shock-resistant Daleks, our incendiary utterances translated into the same monotone, staccato bark each and every time we HIT THE. CAPS LOCK KEY. AND. JETTISON. ALL. CORRECT. GRAMMAR. But of course, you know that. You’re probably reading this with a smart phone in each hand, typing out a furious forum comment with your left and a death-threat tweet to a developer with your right, struggling to make out the words in front of you through the perpetual murder-haze blighting your rage-vibrating eyeballs. Like some kind of angry Jesus on a techno-crucifix of holy fury.

But of course, the above is--to a certain degree--almost certainly untrue. I’m not for a second going to pretend that the gaming community is a blessed-out bunch of doped-up Eloi, playing harps while receiving shoulder massages around a pristine communal bong. Core gamers are notorious for self-righteous, unacceptably aggressive online outbursts, often directed towards developers and publishers with very personal venom. Look at the abuse Call of Duty Design Director David Vonderhaar got over a few Black Ops 2 balancing tweaks. Look at the disgusting tirades against (now-ex) BioWare writer Jennifer Hepler following the release of Dragon Age 2. Look at poor old Phil Fish. And most recently, look at the opinion-lava spurting furiously from the glowing mouths of the many core gamers populating Kim Kardashian fandom.

Yeah, back up a moment. Because obviously I’m making a point with that last example. You might be aware that the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood mobile game is currently raking in more money than an ice cream van on the surface of the sun. You might be aware that it’s currently set to make its ‘star’ around $85 million this year. But you might not know that, instead of going about her usual day-to-day business as a perpetual feedback loop for unfounded celebrity, everyone’s favourite walking-billboard-for-herself has been coming in for some severe Twitter-flak since the weekend. Moreso than usual.

You see the free-to-play adventure game/dress-up simulator crashed a few days ago, and lo, a great many voices did swirl around Kardashian’s personal @ccount, like so many Nazi-melting furies at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It all got very nasty. It all got very personal. It all got a bit like this.

The usual gamer backlash on the internet then. Except that it wasn’t. These weren’t grumpy, aggressive, bedroom-dwelling, teenage Call of Duty players. They weren’t the self-entitled, Comic Book Guy-style nerd experts, spouting anally-retentive derision at a change in the canon of their favourite RPG series. They were the sort of people who play casual, celebrity-endorsed mobile games. They were the sort of people who think that Kim Kardashian both develops and maintains those games single-handed. They were the sort of people who pay attention to Kim Kardashian’s existence. And here’s where I think it starts to become fairly clear that we’re not dealing with a social problem within core gamers specifically. Rather, we’re dealing with a social problem within human beings in general. A lot of them are pretty shit, and rather noisy with it.

But that doesn’t let us off the hook. Not any more than the excuse of ‘But all my clones are just as bad!’ pardoned the Imperial Troopers who killed Luke Skywalker’s Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. We can’t control the behaviour of everyone else on the internet (and everyone from reality TV viewers to Doctor Who fans question their community’s mothers’ morals on a regular basis), but that only makes it even more important that we remain accountable for our own. And as I’ve already established, we have a bit of a rep for being gobby arseholes. So let’s just address that shall we?

To do that, I think we--aside from generally calming the hell down and just becoming better at functioning as civilised people--need to look at the circumstances that spawned this culture of lunatics. Because while the notion that games create aggression is naught but the most ribald codshit, certain elements of gaming culture do encourage this crap.

Take, for instance, the jabbering horde of identikit, angry bellow-men making up a significant quota of the gaming ‘personalities’ outside of traditional journalism. They stand there in their legions, indistinguishable of face but strong of number, like rows of red-headed sunflowers in an endless field of generic, non-specific outrage. Pull up Thesaurus.com, pick any synonym for ‘angry’, stick it in front of the word ‘gamer’ in a Google search box, and you’ll almost certainly find some grunting fury-pump gushing out acrid globs of faux-rage about something related to electronic amusements.

I get why there are a lot of them. It’s easy. Or at least it looks like it is. Certain internetters, like Yahtzee Croshaw, Jim Sterling and The Angry Nerd did a great job of using comedic outrage to make strong points about game design and the industry at large as games culture was really kicking off online. British journalist Charlie Brooker has also been fantastic at aiming the technique at TV. But as effortless as the good stuff inherently looks, it takes a fair degree of skill, in both writing and delivery, in order to imbue it with real, meaningful content.

Anger is one of the simplest emotions to convey and relate to. It’s unambiguous, it’s immediate, and it generally doesn’t come with a great deal of nuance, or layers in need of deciphering. Anyone can comprehend it on a direct, primal level. But unless you’re really good, and--ironically--rather thoughtful about it, it’s really hard to make work on anything other than a superficial level.

For all the reasons above, it remains a popular, go-to angle online, but for all the reasons above, there’s rather too much of it, and rather too much that isn’t great. But still, it informs a lot of the approach that gamers take to their hobby and the industry responsible for it. As games commentary matures, we need less default anger. We need more varied, more tonally and intellectually distinct approaches to coverage, and more people bringing unique and considered angles.

And then there are the problems within the games industry. Subtle ones, but problems which I suspect have an attritional bleed-through effect on the general gaming attitude. Every E3, we’re told that badassery is the one true path. Thoughtful, meaningfully violent games like The Last of Us are demoed as shotgun-porn. Long-standing stealth series like Splinter Cell are reconfigured on-stage as a roaring carnival of Brutal Melee Takedowns™. Intelligent, adult developers discuss their games in air-punching, bro-fisting, pseudo-teen speak. None of it is helping, All of it is compounding the idea that shallow aggression is the default means through which to appreciate games.

I’m not pretending that we can fix this overnight. And I’m not ever going to pretend that we’ll stamp out 100% of the mindless bile and personal abuse festering congealed in the corners of the internet’s comment boxes. Like I said, a lot of people are just a bit shit. But we all, gamer, commentator, publisher and developer alike, need to stop simply talking the talk of games as a mature, mainstream entertainment medium. We need to put on our boots (military or decoratively fashionable) and get walking. Ideally in careful steps, of a sensible volume, so as not to rudely rattle the floorboards or squash anyone’s toes. 

We all deserve better, and beyond that, games themselves deserve better too. 

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25 comments

  • Outofmanyone - July 25, 2014 3:42 p.m.

    Ugh, typos.. you guys need an edit button on here ;)
  • Outofmanyone - July 25, 2014 3:39 p.m.

    I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this. Reason being, the last Philly Eagles game I attended two guys got into a fist fight right behind our row and security had to escort them out. I'm sure drinking was involve(when is it not?) but I want to know something.. how come I don't see any articles on professional sports websites titled something like "Why we, as fans and a community, need to learn to calm our anger"? I have rarely seen a gamer get legitimately angry at another gamer in person and start a physical confrontation--the excepting being myself when I swung at a good friend over Mario Party over 15 years ago, oops--while I have seen it dozens of times in person at sporting events, including some of my own HS Basketball games. I don't play online multiplayer but from what I hear, online gaming with the "Call of Duty Crowd" can be pretty pathetic and I'm sure that does not reflect well on the industry if parents witness their kid yelling at the TV screen and throwing equipment but I'm fairly confident that will not change.. It hasn't for sports has it? When competition is involved it's natural to get angry at another person, it's one of the flaws we have as human beings. Confession: I did break my nice white PlayStation controller achieving Platinum in GoWIII :( No one else was around at the time thankfully..
  • FoxdenRacing - July 25, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    We live with the consequences of an apathetic generation who wanted to be their kids' friends, rather than their kids' parents, never teaching respect or discipline or consequences because that would 'clip their wings' or 'hurt their feelings'. And because the days of old within gaming are no longer with us...bringing genuine advancements, for sure, but also eliminating consequences in the online gaming arena, it's a wholly different culture. I don't know whether I should be offended that these twits are now considered 'core' gamers and fight to restore the dignity of the name, or coin a new one to represent first-generation gamers [the first to grow up with games] who don't come off sounding like tourettes cases, and disavow them. I don't miss the early days of multiplayer...where you had to know a guy that knew a guy to get the IP of a server...but do sorely miss the etiquette it brought with it. If you acted like a prick, you got booted, no ifs, ands, or buts...and if you were really awful, the admin would spread the word. You quickly learned not to be insufferable, or the only place you'd have to play is with the other insufferables...who were head and shoulders better at it than you were. Now that centralized, anonymous matchmaking with peer-hosted sessions is the norm, there's no consequences. Get booted? So what! There's a million other rooms to go be insufferable in, let the 'good times' roll. But it can be the good times again. Discipline or children. Communicate what we treasured or why. Stand as a unified mass that won't suffer intolerable childishness. Get the devs, and gaming media, involved. Send the message: Shape up or get out, we're tired of you ruining our good name. As for guys like Jim and Yahtzee...they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there's so many guys out there that completely miss the point when trying to fake it until they make it. Those two aren't published and enjoyed because they cuss and get animated...they work to hold lazy devs and sleazy publishers accountable, using their respective schticks to drive the point home. I'd continue to watch both even if they went completely 'professional', dropping the cussing and mockery, because they're very good writers, and passionate enough about games to not stand idly by while the bar is lowered. That, dear youtuber with 3 viewers, is why they're huge and you're not. They're working to make gaming a better place...you're just pretending to be perturbed for a cheap laugh.
  • rxb - July 25, 2014 8:12 a.m.

    Hooters is this your way of telling us GR will no longer be doing the Week of Hate? Seriously though I totally agree. I think one problem is some people actually enjoy being angry. To be honest though I don't know if we can solve this problem. I read a thing where one developer took on every angry hater he had in a calm and rational way. With each person after a few emails each way it turned into a normal constructive conversation. Sounds like a great idea that works but its just not possible for every case.
  • LordGoomy - July 24, 2014 11:36 a.m.

    This is a wonderful article. Criticism is an essential part of discourse, but "criticism" for so many people is simply hurling mean-spirited and petty insults around and then being offended at your attempt at "censorship" when you tell them to stop. What amazes me is that so many people feel the need to go one step further and tell the creator of a thing they don't like exactly how much they don't like it. If you want to rage about a media product that you didn't care for, fine. I can't really stop you. But, to then go online and email or directly message a person involved in the creation of said thing, screaming at them about how what they made was so awful and that they should go kill themselves, goes so far beyond crossing the line that the line can no longer be seen. We all have a responsibility to improve the general image of the communities that we consider ourselves to be part of. Anger is so played out at this point- respectful discourse should be what we're shooting for now. Great points!
  • rabidpotatochip - July 24, 2014 8:37 a.m.

    I think we can all agree that the only logical course of action is for Kim Kardashian to take a video game design course and release a AAA title just to spite all the haters.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 24, 2014 10:33 a.m.

    That'll be the day. I can see the headline now: "Sony move Last Guardian design direction duties to Kim Kardashian. Fumito Ueda now developing dress-up sims."
  • TurkeyOnRye - July 24, 2014 5:20 a.m.

    Well said. But I'll never agree with a statement like "poor Phil Fish." The guy is a self-righteous dick and he treated the people who made his game profitable like trash. It would have happened in any medium of expression.
  • mothbanquet - July 24, 2014 2:14 a.m.

    We rage. Everyone does. I've gone through five xbox controllers, an N64 No Mercy cart (to my eternal regret, the original dodgy UK release before they pulled it off the shelves and replaced it months later) and two coffee tables. I take my anger out on inanimate objects for the most part. When it comes to people, however, I'm a thoroughly patient person. I hate fighting, think violence is a hassle and was brought up to believe in courtesy and tact. Internet anonymity removes that natural barrier which tells people 'hey, this guy is bigger/scarier than me, I think I'll keep my mouth shut' and without that barrier courtesy goes right out the window. Meeting friendly, courteous and level-headed individuals in gaming is a rare joy but even when we do, those people get angry too. It's how we project that anger that matters.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - July 23, 2014 8:04 p.m.

    Anger is an emotional feeling of getting beat the fuck out. It harness somebody's butthurt and generates it to hilarity. Does it suck and need to die? Yes But its alive and well and is still alive for glory. Especially when its uncalled for over something unexpected. Like Megaman fans whenever Megaman appears in anything as a reference. Like the massive butthurt of Bayonetta 2 Wii U exclusive Death threats to Kim Kardashian Everything about DSP Mewtwo fags getting analblasted not because of the Greninja ruse, but because of Lucario coming back http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/689/536/799.jpg Gotta love these rages, it fuels hatred souls like myself.
  • shawksta - July 23, 2014 7:38 p.m.

    If we're going on stereotypes here, AVGN's entire justification revolves around his childhood being surrounded with nothing but shitty games, his outcry over why the decent Godzilla games he always wanted was never there for him as a kid shows that. We all gotta let out some fume at one point or another and sometimes its just fun watching arguments and rage. Though there were many times where people are just overexaggerating over the simplest stuff or over a situation they are too dense to understand why. Its not going to go away, if anything its probably just gonna be overshadowed by a new personality archetype then pop up more anyway.
  • pl4y4h - July 23, 2014 4:43 p.m.

    I'm sure this article was really thought out with a hard hitting ending to make me think.... But at this moment in time, reading furious casual posts (over a kardashian game no less...) has made me want to reconsider using the internet for the rest of today. See you tomorrow
  • jim-forbes - July 23, 2014 4:21 p.m.

    The thing that blew me away most about this article was the Kim Kardashian link, there is not enough emphasis in the OMG WTF category to suitably convey my OMG WTF at the comments on that. 90% of posts capslock. Adults acting like children (well I guess they are playing a dress-up simulator, make of that what you will.) Suicide threats. Kim, fix your game. #despairsforhumanity
  • _--_ - July 23, 2014 3:15 p.m.

    --its ok to be angry --and get angry --but not to ALWAYS be(its called patience~and its the activity of saints) --i have a few policies(for 'participating' online) --i dont call names --and --or pick on people 'personally' --i keep 100% on subject --and --the subject is the game(or gamer's preferences about a certain game or genre~or company) --and --what it 'comes down to' is --if you cant 'handle' being called a fanboy(and being proven stupid and wrong(about VIDEO GAMES) --youre the sociopathic loon --not me
  • Pooka - July 23, 2014 3:06 p.m.

    You could have named this article "Internet fury isn't just humanitys problem, we need to kill the angry person archetype" and it would have been the same thing. A large percentage of the human race are carpetbagging shitholes. Gaming has become more and more popular over the years, becoming a mainstream form of entertainment. Ergo, a large percentage of the gaming population are now carpetbagging shitholes. Accept it, because it won't ever change.
  • g1rldraco7 - July 23, 2014 2:47 p.m.

    This is why parents need to watch and monitor there children's activities. Otherwise they blame the games instead of the parent who rather go out to drink than make sure they're child doesn't end up psychotic because they couldn't keep the lines of reality and fantasy separate.
  • Notanerd - July 23, 2014 1:20 p.m.

    A little childish?? How about working for a living
  • GOD - July 23, 2014 12:43 p.m.

    What's that? Kids these days are disrespectful little punks with no common courtesy? They're completely self-serving and if you're not with them you're against them and get told to fuck off and die? You didn't know? I thought everyone knew.
  • GOD - July 23, 2014 12:50 p.m.

    As a side note, I'm only 21, but I learned early the value of respecting others. My hope when I was younger was that these people would eventually have to get jobs and would be reprimanded by reality, but it seems they've only used the repercussions of reality to further their bias that the world is against them as they continue their crusade for their own gain.
  • mothbanquet - July 24, 2014 2:21 a.m.

    When I was a kid we were shit-scared of our elders, and for good reason. Today's society grants children a huge amount of protection and while that's obviously a good thing in some ways, in others they're immune to the consequences of bad behaviour. And if Lethal Weapon 2 has taught us anything, where there's immunity, there's corruption...

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