It’s rarely acknowledged by those within gamer culture, but it must be addressed when attempting to define its problems: gaming is a hobby exclusive to the privileged.
A game itself is about 60 bucks, and can only be played on even more expensive, specialised equipment on a high-resolution TV to get the best effect. Gamer culture also implicitly encourages gaming to be done on computers, which can bring costs into the thousands, in order to be considered “hardcore”. Not only that, a “true” gamer is expected to be up-to-date with all the latest triple-A games, and completed them. This brings another cost into the equation: time. An open-world Ubisoft release, like Assassin’s Creed, can take weeks to complete, not taking DLC into consideration.
Rabid consumerism has baked itself into gamer culture, and has helped reinforce ideals of capitalism and isolation into each of its players. Exclusive games, a focus on single-player campaigns and anonymous multi-player experiences compound the problem, and trains users to regard others within the culture only on the base-level of “do they also like these games?”
Well, it’s no secret that gamers are capable of being a hateful group, who harass and terrorise other people to such a degree that it has become the norm. The excuse given is always the same. “Oh, those people are just the bad apples. It sucks, but I would never do anything like that. Don’t blame gamers for these actions, they don’t represent us.”
The recurring theme here is a focus on the lone gamer, as opposed to the group as a whole. A great example of this is the rampant sexism in the multiplayer space of online games. If a player is revealed to be a girl, she can expect a barrage of disgusting slurs from gross bigots. Instead of examining what is it about competitive gaming that makes it such a hostile space for women, gamer culture as a whole refuses to hold itself accountable for these actions, and instead offers the weak excuse that “it is unfortunate that some individuals do this.” The thinking here then branches into victim blaming, and suggests that women should just not reveal themselves to a crowd if they don’t want to be harassed. Complacency is key here.
More outspoken individuals try to argue that any attempts to address this problem would branch into “tone policing” and infringe on their rights for free speech. There are then two sides to the conversation here, yet these are just the small minority at both sides of the spectrum of overall gamers, while the vast majority remain silent. Rooting out these problems is not practiced by most people within the culture, who would rather just play the game.
In major gaming forums, like /v/, /r/gaming and neogaf, the conversation being held simply boils down to “check out this hilarious meme”, which even someone with a passive familiarity of the medium would get, or “news” which, more often than not, is comprised of pumped-up press releases saying when the latest whatever will be out. Anything of importance doesn’t get seen and is quickly forgotten.
This wouldn’t be a major problem if there were a huge array of audiences partaking in videogames, as it would then naturally set its own course. But the problem is that the most vocal members of gamer culture are also the ones the market is directly pandering to, and they are driving the conversation when it comes to deciding what is and isn’t popular in the triple-A sphere. Unfortunately, this market is young men who need some kind of “I’m a powerful man who gets the job done” simulator. When Ubisoft announced that it wouldn’t have a female playable character in one of last years most hyped games, Assassins Creed: Unity, the ones who decried this as a major insult were drowned out by the total silence of the hardcore gamers, who on the whole didn’t care.
The people who loudly declare themselves as huge, hardcore gamers are also the ones who don’t give a shit about the culture’s problems. It sucks. Be vocal about shitty practices and exclusive acts done by both the members of the culture and the triple-A publishers. It is possible to change the collective attitudes of gamers out there, we just need to care about something for once.
Words by Cameron Moyses