The Trouble with Gaming Forums

Earlier this month David Gaider made a post on his blog about the increasingly toxic environment of the Bioware Social Forums. (Gaider is the lead writer for Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise) Bioware is no stranger to fan toxicity, last March they released the sci-fi blockbuster Mass Effect 3. It featured a controversial ending that quickly turned into a publicity nightmare for Bioware. The fan reaction was so bad that a few months later Bioware released an Extended Cut patch to rectify their mistake. In case you’re wondering, just over 10 months later, fans are still complaining about the ending (though to a lesser extent than before). But I’m not here to talk about Mass Effect 3 or it’s ending (that topic will come later). Partly in response to Gaider, I want to address the ongoing issue of hardcore video game fans and the overwhelming levels of unfounded negativity on internet forums.

Whenever anyone complains about rude people on the internet, the most common response is “Welcome to the Internet, that’s how it works.” This is not an acceptable excuse for people to misbehave on a video game forum. Sure, the internet can be a playground of profanity, immaturity, and prepubescent individuals calling each other ‘fags’, but this does not apply to every corner of the web. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can find well-reasoned, well written criticism.

Video game forums in particular are created so that fans may offer their opinions and criticisms to the world. Many companies have used this system to improve their future products. Developers like Bioware, Bungie and Treyarch  have a strong connection to their fan base and many of the changes made to newer iterations in a franchise are based off fan input. These companies are subjected to the outrageous criticisms and accusations of angry fans for essentially, trying to listen to their customers. There have been things said about Bioware since March of last year that are absolutely ridiculous. (If you’re really curious, just google Mass Effect 3 Day One DLC and look at the comment sections) I think enough is enough, hardcore gamers can no longer expect developers to listen if they are unwilling to conduct themselves in a manner deserving of that attention. People use the internet as a license to speak their mind with no regard for logic, rationale or decency. Is anonymity the only thing that prevents people from acting so childish?

I have no problem with negative opinions. People seemed to have forgotten that criticism without praise is not a critique, it’s a tirade. Criticism reflects a person’s standards, which when properly expressed results in better games and more sales. This is only accomplished however, when emotion and analysis are separated. Too many people on forums fail to distinguish between: “I hate this game” and “this game sucks.” What’s worse is that anyone who disagrees with a negative review is immediately flamed and their fandom is called into question. On multiple occasions in the Bioware forums, people have claimed that I can’t possibly be a true fan for actually liking Mass Effect 3. (I’d love to hear their definition of a hater). If someone is truly unsatisfied by a game, a movie, a book, or anything, all they need to do is respect the fact that other people may not share their opinion.  Most people prefer the the alternative, whether that means throwing an online tantrum or say…I don’t know giving a game a 4.5 User Score on Metacritic.

Those 75 perfect scores surely didn’t come from any “professionals.”

It doesn’t help that certain fan communities are bipolar in how they feel about games. If you hang around the Zelda forums for long enough you’ll soon realize a trend. The latest Zelda game is declared the worst entry into the series…that is until another Zelda game comes out, then the older Zelda game (that everyone hated) becomes a beloved gem that people rave about. So to sum it up, the newest game in the Legend of Zelda inherits the title of worst game in the franchise, while the everything that came before is praised and held up on some imaginary pedestal. The Final Fantasy fan base is even more divided. With very few exceptions, every Final Fantasy game is either adored or vilified (especially the newer games).  How in the world is one meant to interpret the opinion of a fan base that acts this way? How is a developer supposed to represent a fanbase that either can’t make it’s mind? Better question, why would they bother?

There simply isn’t enough respect nor consistency in gaming forums to justify developers listening to an entire fan base. There may come a time when the positive and negative opinions finally balance out but until gamers learn to be more mature, I’m going to stay away from the forums, or at the very least: browse at my own risk and I hope that developers do too.

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About Sam Hale

Autistic, young adult and lots on my mind.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I loved the ending to Mass Effect 3. I’m surprised people aren’t able to let go of this. It’s 2013, after all. Thing is though, I’m one of those people who did not rush through the game and took his time gathering information and clues to explain the ending.

    The developers did say that if people don’t rush through the game, they should get a satisfying ending. (before the game launched)

    Gotta say, the ending makes sense, fits in with the lore (eg. Starchild invalidates lore as they say. Nope, he’s simply lying), as well as past themes in the series. There was much foreshadowing for the ending right back to the Vigil conversation in Mass Effect 1 (which what the AI states is exactly what happened during the ending. It’s like a chilling vision of the events to come).

    In the end, I would hate to see a future where game endings, films and other works get rewritten or revised because of an angry mob. Very dangerous times we live in.

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