Our dysfunctional gaming culture

With E3 come and gone, I’ve been thinking (again) about problems with gaming journalism, the internet, and gamers, and how these three things come together to create a toxic brew when it comes to events like E3. Just to warn you, I don’t have any answers. I’m still trying to quantify the problem of why where’s so much negativity and downright meanness surrounding gaming on the internet.

Factor 1: There are many gaming news websites out there, and they all tend to have pretty much the same news. So what differentiates site A from site B is often who gets the scoop. So there’s a tremendous pressure on the bloggers and journos of these sites to get new release info first. If the PR department of a game developer won’t come clean, maybe some of the poor schlubs in the trenches will spill something. Leaks abound. Rumors profligate. By the time the actual event comes around, there’s a cloud of mis-information and unrealistic expectations just waiting to rain on everyone’s parade.

Factor 2: The gamers don’t just want word that a game is coming out. They demand gameplay. If a game is announced but the developer has no gameplay to show, the announcement is met with derision and scorn. In the meanwhile, the rumors have come to be accepted as fact in the weeks running up to the event. When they turn out not to be true (i.e. no Kid Icarus for the Nintendo Wii at this year’s E3), the gamers get disappointed and start bad mouthing the parent company.

Factor 3: The publishers end up between a rock and a hard place. If they make an announcement with no gameplay ready, the gamers jeer at them and talk about what a terrible showing the publisher had. If they make an announcement and show gameplay that is so early that it isn’t as good as it should be, the gamers immediately write the game off as “sucking” and that word of mouth spreads like mad. If the developers make no announcement at all, the gamers (and probably the shareholders!) get pissed because there’s nothing new on the way. Gamers won’t take in on faith that there are teams working hard on games that haven’t been announced.

So E3 begins in a whirlwind of hype and ends in disgruntlement. I’m reading on various sites now about what a disappointing E3 it was. And yet I watched G4’s coverage, and I’ve been reading a bunch of blogs, and downloading lots of footage, and there are a -ton- of great games coming our way. I know I’ll certainly have to make some hard decisions on which ones I buy and which ones I’ll have to pass on due to financial considerations. I won’t be able to afford all the games I’m interested in.

Like I said, I have no answers. I just think its a shame that gamers have such high expectations that they never seem to wind up happy after an event like this.

One thought on “Our dysfunctional gaming culture

  1. “There are many gaming news websites out there, and they all tend to have pretty much the same news.”

    This is so true. I often find that gaming bloggers just echo the news even further (unless they were the source). I don’t see any point in echoing news unless I have a significant amount of my own opinion to add.

    Game companies need to develop a better ‘information release’ model that will keep gamers satisfied right up until the release of their game.

    Good article.

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