[Guest Featurama] And The Gamers Who Hate Them

[Promoted from our Community Manager’s inbox, here’s another fantastic Guest Writer! Daniel Starkey is here to say gamers need to brighten up a bit and throw some of that negativity out the window. Some say he never sleeps and eats only gourmet amaretto cupcakes. Others claim he’s a hyperactive optimist. To citizens of the Internet, though, he’s Captain Starkey, Intergalactic Games Journalist. You can follow him on Twitter, or add him on Facebook.]

I’ve noticed that writing is a lot like living. If you’ve been doing it long enough and suddenly find yourself having some trouble, people say the same things, “Stick to what you know” or “just be yourself”. I’ve never really understood what those meant, but I’ve been struggling with this piece in one form or another for several months, so it’s worth a shot, I guess.

I’m going to level with you folks, most of the time, I am aggressively optimistic. I’m the kind of person that most people hate because no matter where we go or what we do I’m bouncing off the walls filled with the joy of living. I’m the guy that likes birthday singers at restaurants. I’m the guy that plays hopscotch on the crosswalk. I’m the guy that annoys the living shit out of you (sorry about that, by the way).

Today though, I want to tell you about one of the few groups of people that tend to annoy the shit out of me— gamers. Now, obviously it goes without saying that I don’t dislike most of you folk. I hear a lot of you are alright. No, the issue for me tends to be the fact that even though gamers are supposed to be the ones running around trumpeting the praises of the medium, they are more often bummer-tastic.

Look guys, I’m a simple man. I don’t need much. I eat, stack paper and play games like the rest of you. Still, every time I try to play something online, read any sort of comment on… anything, or try to talk to anyone about the gaming industry, all I hear is negativity. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes that is definitely warranted (I’m thinking about the #1reasonwhy twitter movement here), but most of the time it’s just a ridiculous, hypocritical waste of everyone’s time.

Every year I watch gamers getting more and more cynical about literally everything. Some hate shooters, some sports games, some MMOs, some people hate games journalists. No matter the object or source of the hatred, each year it gets more and more absurd. Seriously. If everyone hates everything else, then who the hell is driving this multi-billion dollar business? At the risk of sounding like a bad 90’s stand-up comic, I don’t get it, what is with these people?

Within the last week alone gaming has had at least two dramafests with fallout from some of the crap we saw late last month. The THQ bundle outrage and the sudden resurgence of people bleating about the “games are art” debate have both really knocked it out of the park when it comes to completely unnecessary negativity.

To be fair, I’ve got my own list of genres that I can’t stand – with Japanese RPGs at the very top. When I was a younger man (read: tasteless idiot), I’d troll around on various internet for a trying to stir up trouble. I’d say all manner of things, but I’d usually take a huge steaming dump on the Final Fantasy series, or Chrono Trigger or whatever people happened to be gushing over at the time. It was great fun and I got quite a bit of entertainment out of the whole rigmarole, but I was also a huge jackass for two reasons.

First, I ruined a lot of peoples’ days and said a ton of mean and stupid things that I’m not exactly proud of. Second, my entire argument was one predicated on utter ignorance. I only said most of the things that I did because I’d never tried those games. I had shut out a whole realm of experiences without giving them a fair shake.

One day, one of my better friends set out to change that. He showed me a few games that I’d been ignoring, but of them, one really stuck out – Tales of Symphonia. Now… before you say anything, I realize that it’s very, VERY “JRPG”. It has ridiculous names, a lot of terrible voice actors, camp, melodrama by the truck load, a needlessly convoluted narrative and a ton of really archaic mechanics. It’s absolutely everything I hate about the genre in one neat, tidy package. And yet, I love the thing.

If you asked me why I don’t think I could give you a decent answer. Nothing about it appeals to my very western sensibilities, and as many things I hated about it, the trip was still totally worth it. It taught me a lesson – while I tend to hate JRPGs, I never know when something will come from nowhere and smack me in the face with ineffable goodness.

That’s just one example, too. The ratio of optimism to cynicism here in the ‘biz is just a bit absurd. When Halo 4 was first announced, for example, despite the fact that the game had a totally new team, people thought it was going to be another mindless shooter. Those that didn’t were skeptical because it had a new team. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you’re probably going to catch flak for it.

Well, I’m going to do my small part to put a stop it. From now on, I’ll give everything benefit of doubt provided that I have the time and money to invest, it’s been better for me to say yes than no. At the very least I get to know what games are actually trash and what is just being trashed by people who allegedly like games.

I’m not saying bad games don’t exist. I’m not even saying that we don’t have reason to be skeptical now and then. What I am saying is that the gaming community is one of the only one I’ve found that could honestly be just as well represented by the comments section on an average article as they could in real life. That’s ridiculous. We should have the courage to be enthusiastic, to revel in the shared love of gaming. Sadly, we never do. Instead of building bridges and coming together all love and stuff, we tear each other down.

That, to me, is disheartening. It seems more and more that we’ve become a mass of fanboys and girls spitting fire at each other and making a huge mess. People like what they like and it takes time and effort to go in search of something new. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see any return on those investments either. Just because you try new things doesn’t necessarily mean that you will ever find more things that you like. If we avoid the novel and the unknown simply because it is hard and because it takes an investment, then we’re selling ourselves short. We are shutting out countless possibilities.

Our industry, more so than any other I’ve encountered is blindly dogmatic. Everyone belongs to their own little sect, the “dudebros”, the “indie crowd”, the “Xbots”, etc. In an age where we can all have any kind of game we want at pretty much any time through the miracle of the internet, we rail against one another and tear people down. We never take the time to reach across the aisle and connect with our brothers and sisters in gaming. We waste our lives cloistered away in our intellectually safe havens, never really experiencing the outside world.

Let’s start changing that.

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