Presumptuous Negativity

The gaming community is a fascinating boiling pot of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. As the medium has grown to cover a plethora of genres (and just as many games that refuse to fit into rigid genrelisation), so too has the community around it grown.

We now live in a world where the kids of the 80’s and 90’s (now adults) are gaming in the more traditional sense on both computers and home consoles, we’re also gaming on the go with mobile phones and tablets, and even our aunts and grandparents are now gaming with the rise of free to play games like Candy Crush.

Sadly, there’s one thing that’s beginning to creep into our culture, and that is what I like to call “Presumptuous Negativity”. Join me after the jump to find out what I mean by that.

“Presumptuous Negativity” is the term I use for the rising trend of people “hating” on something that they haven’t yet experienced. This is not a new phenomenon, and it goes back as far as games like Dark Souls 2 which were hated by people who hadn’t even played it – they listened to a couple of bad reviews and their minds are made up, which is fine, but they then go on to echo those views like salty parrots.

I’m guilty of this myself. It’s common knowledge amongst my gamer friends (and even the non gaming ones) that I am no fan of EA, Activision, or Ubisoft. Honestly, I had multiple bad experiences with games published by these studios (the prevalence of toxic microtransactions, pre-cut DLC, and the concept of cranking out the same game every year) but a friend of mine stopped me in my tracks one day when he asked if I’d actually played any of their newer games.

I paused. I hadn’t. I was simply repeating the negativity that others had fed me under the assumption that the product must be bad just because of the publisher.

I then stopped and thought about it harder. Why was I doing this? I jumped on my PS4 and went through the PlayStation Plus games in my library and found a load by these publishers, and actually found myself enjoying some. Trackmania Turbo and Rayman Origins by UbiSoft, I even enjoyed a bit of the Call of Duty Black Ops 3 campaign (though I’m still personally not a fan of the FPS genre at large).

Recently, I’ve been playing Command and Conquer Rivals, which is published by EA, and I’m actually really enjoying it. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is being published by Activision, and I’m a lot less anxious about this now than I was.

I remembered parroting the same old arguments about why Dark Souls 2 was the worst of the Souls game because of bad bosses, awkward design and so on. Then I sat down with it properly, and it is now, honestly, my favourite of the trilogy. I understand it’s not perfect and there are a lot of boss fights that feel like padding, but there are some of my favourites in the series, some of the coolest areas, and some of the deepest lore. It was brave and I actually feel terrible that I judged it without trying it – that I spread negativity on it for no good reason.

This is like the Vainglory community currently. It’s astonishing how often I hear that “Vainglory is dead” yet there’s a thriving, vibrant community, and I never struggle to find games. Why is it apparently dead? Because the developers recently added timers to the jungle camps and removed a cigar from some artwork – literally both things that happened in League of Legends, and that doesn’t appear to be dead yet?

Everyone has their own viewpoint of what the games they play should be like. The issue arises in that many have gone from wishlisting and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if-” to genuinely feeling upset that the developers aren’t doing exactly what they want.

I have to laugh when SEMC release new skins for characters and the immediate cry is “Why haven’t you done new skins for XYZ? SMH”. The bottom line is that some folks in the community will never be happy unless they are at the helm and all their own personal desires are met, regardless of whether or not those desires could actually tank the entire thing.

I recently chuckled at a tweet where a guy was crying out that the hero he played needs a buff rather than all these other changes being made, yet two tweets previously he comments about how he’s been “smashing it” with that exact hero. The comments below his “please buff” are all people echoing that this hero definitely needs improvements but, looking at the API stats, this hero is one of the most picked and with an above average win rate. Curious how so many people are suddenly crying for something that isn’t needed and are getting upset that it doesn’t happen, all because they saw one guy complain about it.

Why are we like this as gamers? Why are we so quick to jump on the negativity bandwagon?

A recent meme was the “Unpopular Opinions” which asked people what their unpopular opinions were. 90% of these were “Popular Game X actually sucks” – why is this the prevalence rather than “Unpopular game Y is actually really good and just got unfairly treated”? Is it human nature to jump straight to the negatives without even pausing to consider the positives?

It seems that “hating X” is the new “I liked X before it was cool”, but surely this is really damaging? How can we expect developers to actually try new things and do what we’re asking when we all seem to hate it before it’s happened? If one person’s bad opinion can influence an entire generation of gamers, how many great games are going to be lost beneath a tide of salt? At what point do we realise that we are consumers, not developers, and that ultimately many of our “fixes” are demonstrably terrible?

I made a conscious decision a few months ago to break this habit. Every time I want to post something negative, I pause and consider if I have a valid, personal criticism that I can back up. Can I suggest something for it?

Sure, it terrified me to see that Sekiro is being published by Activision, especially hot off the heals of the Destiny 2 controversy. My concerns were questions like:

How much of the game will be “in box” and how much will be paid DLC?

Following my new ethos, I asked myself if I had any actual criticisms that I can back up with evidence. At this point, no, I do not. There is no point me jumping on a “hate train” at this point, all I’m going to do is get myself worked up.

Fallout 76 was announced at E3 and a friend of mine (a huge Fallout fan) began worrying about the online aspect of it, and got really quite worked up. When I asked him how much of his concern was based on actual facts from footage or interviews, and how much was just anxious extrapolation, it turned out that most of it was the latter. He was just imagining ways that it could be bad, and two days later, Bethesda released an interview that quashed almost all of his concerns.

I’m not saying “Don’t be anxious”, I know the human brain doesn’t have an “off switch” for that kind of stuff, but before we all start shouting that our favourite franchise is now ruined purely because of the publisher’s name on the new game’s box, or a game is “dying” because a recent in-game change has altered the meta, or that “this game I haven’t played is terrible because someone else said so” (Remember IGN giving Alien Isolation a 5.7 and then it being hailed as one of the greatest horror games of modern times by almost everyone?), perhaps we should each take a step back and ask ourselves what we’re actually trying to achieve by joining in the cacophony.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Is the gaming community growing too negative? Are we all too reactionary? What is your (positive) Unpopular Gaming Opinion?

Because mine is that there is too much salt and that many of the games and publishers being burried under mountains of sodium chloride aren’t actually deserving of it – check out the comments of my CnC Rivals post for the example that inspired this article.

6 thoughts on “Presumptuous Negativity

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  1. Good read & I’m glad somebody is talking about it.

    Just in my own view, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes we don’t judge games for what they are, but instead judge them based on what we want them to be. This is a very slippery slope as our wants & desires are infinite & ever changing – it would be unreasonable, in my opinion, to expect games to live up to such a benchmark.

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  2. Of course gamers are negative… the gaming industry itself has bred so much cynicism from the unethical practices of publishers that everybody is on edge.

    I blame games media and publishers for all the negativity these days. Thanks to stuff like the game awards and E3 overhyping games, people get angry when they realize that the game didn’t live up to the overglorified press it recieved.

    It’s an industry that is full of cynicism and hate and publishers/the media don’t really give a damn because they still make money regardless.

    Back in the day, we didn’t have this cynicism, that’s because the internet wasn’t half as big and as such it was easier to escape the press and all the hype trains you see nowadays.

    People need to stop getting excited for games and be more realistic about them, only then will they grow to appreciate them for what they are.

    That being said, the quality of games has diminished since 2007. I’m still trying to figure out why that is the case, I have some ideas but ultimately I’m at a loss.

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    1. You have some very good points here. I’d argue there have been some absolute blinders released recently, and anyone that says that it was so much better is ultimately forgetting all the crap that came out in the PlayStation 2 era.

      Gaming has changed. Some of those are massive improvements though, surely? Being able to download your games, cloud saves, online multiplayer, shareplay and built in recording options for content creators?

      I do 100% agree that we can lay a lot of blame at the feet of the media stirring fanaticism. Gaming isn’t a hobby anymore, it’s a way of life.

      For better or for worse, I suppose
      Thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

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      1. There was a lot of crap in the ps2 era… but the same could be said for all era’s. I don’t judge based on how many bad games there are because if I did, current gen would be the worst because of all the asset flips on Steam since there’s no quality control whatsoever on Steam.
        As such I judge things based on the games that are good and I find that these days publishers are playing it safe using big brands to sell mediocre products.
        We’re starting to see a lot of games follow the same formula these days but it leads a lot of games to feel the same. I feel as if developers are trying too hard these days to make amazing games whereas back then, they just did.
        Games didn’t try to tick all the boxes what dictate whether games would be good (open world, over the top tutorials, hollywood inspired narrative etc.)
        Indie developers are trying to bring back the old days… but the problem is that they don’t have the money to make their games as good as the games of old and some of them aren’t exactly distinguishing their games from the games of old.
        The only game I have any hope for these days is Mount And Blade 2: Bannerlord because the first Mount And Blade didn’t give a damn about ticking the boxes, it did what it wanted to do and it did it well.
        I think the problem is that people have taken a lot of things for granted. I personally am content with what was given to us in the ps2 generation, I just want more of that, I don’t want better graphics/bigger worlds, I want games to be like what they were back on PS2, I want games to have more limitations so that developers are forced to be more creative with their design.
        The problem I see is that publishers care more about technology than the actual creativity of game developers and because of the media and the average gaming consumer, the message that is being sent to them is that graphics and huge open worlds are more important than anything.
        The problem is that not all of us want that and also as a result, while games are getting bigger and have better visual quality, I think that has come at a cost of actual game design because the money is invested into the wrong things.

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