How to Improve Our Industry (With No Comment Section Wars)
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Video games have, over the years, consistently thrilled and surprised gamers. Looking back, it’s genuinely impressive how far we’ve come. Sure, there are short periods of stagnation, but overall, year to year, there’s usually something promising on the horizon. This is all despite the fact that gamers aren’t always working to make the hobby better for themselves. But there are ways we can help move things forward without angrily fighting one another in comment sections because, really, how many of us are actually having a good time doing that?

For starters, we can address the so-called console wars, as those are definitely not helping us. Competition between companies can help push innovation forward and prices down, but that’s slightly undermined in instances of brand loyalty. We should make it clear to companies that we are critical of them and we can easily pack up and leave.

Or we could, were it not for another issue: console exclusives. While these make great fuel for flame wars, they can lock us to consoles. I, for example, thoroughly enjoy God of War and were I not working this particular job where it’s beneficial to own multiple consoles, I’d likely have to make a hard choice, giving Sony quite a bit of leverage.

Developers themselves, meanwhile, would likely benefit from putting their games on multiple consoles, and multiplayer games would benefit from this if we were to also embrace cross platform games. Cross platform would at least nullify the pressure from friends who have already chosen a console as they try to convince others to purchase the same console so they can play together. It fragments us which is unfortunate considering how accessible gaming is. It could be a really good means of bonding with others, regardless of distance.

Speaking of bonding, we need to make sure this is a welcoming culture. Diversity is good for a range of reasons, and the more people that feel welcome, the more potential friends we might meet. It’s also in strict defiance of every piece of children’s programming we consumed when we were young to be outright toxic. If you quickly lash out at others, ask yourself why and what it’s doing for you. It’s absurd to me that in a time of such political divisiveness, people will gatekeep or attack one another over gaming platforms. Games can bring us together.

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More people in the hobby also means more income to support game development. It also means companies will be able to take bigger risks and experiment more as there would be larger audiences for different ideas. Until that happens, though, there’s another thing we can do to achieve a similar effect.

That thing is doing our best to support indie developers. Think of all the risks they’ve taken, and all the passion they have. Hasn’t that led to new developments in gaming? Huge and sudden explosions of unique titles, or new genres altogether. And then we start to see big developers adopt these practices. I’m not saying go out and just start dropping money on indies, though. Another way you can help is by raising awareness about cool games. It doesn’t take much for a game to disappear into the crowd, and most of us are only exposed to the biggest games in indie. That puts people who don’t know how to market at a disadvantage. It also puts people with marketing budgets at an advantage. Look at Among Us. That game flopped until it got exposure long after its release. Now it’s helping people socialize during a global pandemic.

The simple way of saying most of this is that we should vote with our wallet. Companies know we have this power, and they don’t want us to exercise it. It would be easier to exercise this power if we saw through this. Spider-man showing up exclusively for the PlayStation version of Marvel’s Avengers is pretty obnoxious, and limited exclusive maps in multiplayer games complicate cross-platform. Companies only care about our fun so long as it profits them because that is literally their only motivation. We must be critical, and we must see each other as allies, so we can have a better experience overall. Or we can just say “this is good enough,” and see where things go.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin Maltbie

Writing Team Lead
Date: 11/05/2020

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