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Opinion: The Puberty of the Gaming Industry (Guest Column)

Opinion: The Puberty of the Gaming Industry (Guest Column)

Oct 31, 2013

The following post was written by a guest columnist; any opinions contained herein are those of the writer and not necessarily of Gaming IQ or its representatives.
 

There’s something that has been bothering me a lot about the gaming industry lately. Or actually mostly about its fans. It seems like gamers, a lot more than for example music lovers or cinephiles, seem to have this profound conviction that the games as well as the whole industry somehow belongs to them. That they are the ones who should control it – decide what’s good and bad for each title as well as for the industry in general, and also who is welcome in it. That everything they don’t approve of needs to be a target of hate, bashing, shaming…

The thing is, many gamers have literally been here since the beginning. They have invested a lot of time and money, maybe even given up real-life relationships to play games. They have played Ghosts and Goblins for three hundred hours plus. They might even have been bullied for being nerds – been dismissed as hopeless outcasts – but refused to change because there simply is nothing better than playing games. They have earned the right to be here. They deserve to be the self-appointed champions of the gaming industry.
It’s not really hard to understand why people who feel this way might become uneasy when their domain – or dare I say ‘boys club’ – starts to change. When people start questioning their right to be such an exclusive group. When they suddenly find themselves among other people who, as far as they can tell, have not been through what they have. People who do not have to fear being regarded as ‘losers’ because of their hobby.

Like many others before me have noted, the society of nerds used to be so welcoming. People who often had no-one else, so they turned to their peers and found comfort in each others’ company. Everyone was welcome, as long as they were nerds. But now, as more and more people are playing games, it’s not the same anymore. Something has changed. Every time topics such as equality and gender in games are debated, a bunch of rabid fans appear whose firm belief is seemingly that no one other than them should ever be allowed to play games. Only they should be allowed to feel like the character they play somehow represents them; only they should feel like the communities and commercials relate to them, personally. The very same people who used to be the outcasts are now actively trying to keep people out. The nerds have become the bullies.

We can’t let them keep doing this. To me it’s quite obvious that by making sure games contain characters, beliefs and morals a wider audience can relate to, then more people will feel comfortable enough to play games on a large scale, which in turn means developers and publishers would make more money. More money means companies are able to then make more games – and that’s what we want, right? But as long as there’s a group of hardcore fans who yell at the top of their lungs: “don’t touch what I love” and game designers who say “we just give the fans what they want”, nothing will ever change.

As studios, we have to stop throwing these bullies bones. Ignore the trolls but tell the serious critics where their arguments fail. Tell them why they have to stop smothering the media with their misguided love.

As gamers ourselves we have to mature and learn to respect developers as well as each other. Everyone who plays games and feels comfortable with calling themselves a gamer, is a gamer.
The gaming industry is only just starting to really mature, as all media needs to do sooner or later. Right now, it’s going through puberty – and we all know how trying and chaotic that period can be. It’s now that we have to teach it how to love and show respect. We have to tell it to yes, do what it wants and not let itself be stepped on, but at the same time keep away from abusive behavior. There’s a fine line between being protective and being aggressive, and the industry as a whole – developers and gamers alike – need to understand how to toe it better.

Then, and only then, can it grow up to be the wonderful and self-confident ‘adult’ I think we are all desperately longing for. We may then finally be regarded as an art form worthy of the same cultural respect as movies or music. Being grown-up doesn’t necessarily mean being boring – gamers of all people should know that. It just means understanding the consequences of your actions and responding to things such as critique in an adult and reasonable way. And you know what? While young love might be furious and passionate, the love between grown-ups is more sincere and often lasts much longer. Let’s see if we can build a healthy, long-term relationship with games.

Are you with me?

Anna Jenelius is a QA Tester for Sweden-based developer and publisher Paradox Interactive. You can find her on Twitter at @TheAnaka

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