Don’t Judge a Game By Its Cover – What Causes People to Hate Games?

Since the age of six, I’ve been gaming, becoming immersed in worlds I’d only dream of visiting. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in the story-telling narratives that grip you tightly, refusing to let go until the final moment.

For some, these final moments fail to connect, and for others, well, they don’t even make it past the first few hours. People will lament about their dispassion for games, wishing for the games of yesteryear. Reddit and other sites, or forums, are rife with player discontent about games for a multitude of reasons. One of the biggest complaints I’m interested in is the games-are-greedy or they-force-you-to-do-things crowd.

First, some context. The video game industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Despite revenue falling, the industry outperforms the American movie and sports industry altogether. To say the video game industry is tiny would be a colossal understatement.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction…

That being said, every year you’ll find the same types of complaints from gamers. A quick Google search for “video games suck” rewards you with a seemingly infinite repository. You’ll find YouTube videos, Quora posts, or Reddit threads of people asking the same question: What happened to the state of gaming?

Pick whatever curse-filled tirade you want to read, watch or listen to, gamers are a tough crowd to please – myself included. However, an odd talking point I’ve noticed around gaming seems to pop up in a different industry, too. The movies.

The same type of arguments that exist about gaming exist somewhere in the great debate of the current state of movies. Even Matt Damon thinks movies were better during his heyday. People are fed up with reboots and remakes and reshoots and sequels and any other way the industry makes a profit. 

When it comes to games, I’d say people are fatigued by the abundance. But even that gets written about too.

Every year, EA Sports releases its money-making, behemoth, sports franchises from Madden to FIFA. And every year, people rage over the Madden NFL video game series as being the same as the year before. They portray the developers as underachievers and the company as greedy. There’s even a Twitter page dedicated to this.

Other franchises aren’t immune to these responses, either. Call-of-Duty? It sucks now. Gran Turismo? It sucks now. What about all games? According to this Reddit user, they all suck now!

Are all of these complaints, worries, or fears valid? People obviously feel justified, that’s for sure. But where does that come from?

We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore!

Hearthstone's in-game shop has multiple bundles for pre-pirchase and sale, often costing up to the price of a new game.

Cue the crowd who believes micro-transactions have ruined gaming for the rest of our days. However, when you dive into the statistics, the majority of gamers do not purchase these small, cosmetic, one-time perks. To someone unfamiliar with gaming, this probably sounds like when Doc Brown told Marty McFly about the flux capacitor. 

Micro-transactions are simple enough in concept. Players can purchase something for a game they play that benefits them in various ways, from cosmetic to straight-up advantageous – at least, in theory. 

If you’ve ever read comments about how games are “Pay-to-Win” (PtW) or Pay-To-Play (PtP), this is where this next dilemma meets us. Some even argue that a Free-To-Play game is actually, a “Pay to Enjoy” game.

This may all seem confusing and cumbersome, but not everyone agrees with where the state of gaming is, either. I’d argue most people’s complaints about the industry – in general – are not a one-size-fits-all issue.

All We Need Is Just A Little Patience

Protagonist Ellie from Naughty Dog's critically acclaimed, yet, polarizing sequel, The Last Of Us Part Two

If only we all took a step back, the debates within the gaming community may be easier to understand and listen to. Unfortunately, some people are unwavering in their contempt for a studio, its developers, or the narrative a game’s story explores.

No greater example comes to mind than the critically acclaimed, fan-splitting, and divisive title that launched during the height of the pandemic – 2020’s The Last Of Us: Part Two, from developer Naughty Dog.

What can I say here about this title that hasn’t already been said? Countless amounts of videos have been painted across YouTube depicting The Last Of Us: Part 2 as political pandering, poor in character logic, bad story-telling, or being “forced” to agree with the game’s narrative. Luckily, if you dig deeper, you’ll find videos about people who learned to love the game, find its inner beauty, and grow to understand the narrative.

And that’s the thing about video games that I’ve always found fascinating. You can love a game, then praise it, only to find someone online, or off, who had the exact opposite experience from you. They may have taken away a different meaning or lesson and interpreted a moment during the story in a completely different way. It’s only natural that we come to disagree on these aspects. However, I believe there’s a reason for that, which people don’t point out enough.

You Assume The Protagonist’s Role

I feel like it almost goes without saying, but how we play games – how they are designed – is fundamental to our arguments about them. When you play a game, you’re controlling a protagonist – the main character that you journey with throughout the story. You get to know them, love them, cry with them – you might even die with them.

But you yourself, aren’t that character. Just because you can control your character’s locomotion, doesn’t mean you are responsible for every thought or decision that character makes. That’s already been decided. Even if you’re given choices during a game’s story, the writers and developers already planned out what those outcomes would bring.

For me? I just want to enjoy the ride. Of course I want a good story. Who doesn’t? But if that’s subjective, then everything else about gaming is. And if that’s the case, then arguing about gaming in any way is virtually useless. 

But people still do it. As do I. 

How many times I’ve wondered if what I’m arguing here makes any sense, or is worth it, is more times than I’d like to admit.

People from all over the world love to play games – to experience a story in a world different from their own. Perhaps they’re looking for a lesson, or guidance, or an escape. That’s why anyone watches movies or reads books, too, right? Who are any of us to say others should or shouldn’t enjoy those things?

But we can’t seem to help ourselves.

Contempt And Compassion Cultivates Communities

Discord servers to join to connect about  games

Nowadays, the internet is chock-full of “I hate toxicity” posts. The research about toxic behavior is quite clear: It’s really bad

On top of this, there are sections of people within gaming communities that post comments on websites, accusing game companies of straight-up lying about products, like developer Maxis’ Project Rene. This is slated to be the next installment of the long-running Sims franchise, but don’t tell that to the Sims community on Reddit. Some believe Project Rene to be the death of the franchise.

Others have accused developer Rockstar of “forcing” players to buy Shark Cards – a virtual in-game credit card, of sorts, that you can spend up to $100 on to obtain in-game currency, for GTA V: Online. Twitter is filled with this narrative as well, and it can be quite jarring to read post after post.

Maybe the anonymity of gaming makes it all too commonplace for disparaging, dehumanizing, and derogatory behavior. But there are also a ton of communities that exist that attempt to cultivate a warmer atmosphere. Just look at Discord. There are many Discord servers that are catered to adults looking for online friends and companionship through gaming. This didn’t really exist when I was a kid.

YouTube has a plethora of channels dedicated to “Let’s Plays,” a video genre in its own right, where people post clips of themselves playing games. Additionally, there are a good amount of benefits to playing video games. Thanks to the internet, we can find people with similar passions for games all over the world.

But as the industry chugs on, division will always exist, debates will still be had, and toxicity will remain until we find a better way to reconcile our experiences as gamers. We should be having fun while gaming, not arguing about who has the moral high ground.

If you’re looking for a positive gaming community, look no further than the Average Gamer Discord! We mostly chat about video games, but there’s a space to connect with people about whatever you’re interested in.

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1 year ago

i think part of this is general knowledge about what it takes to develop a video game. i wonder if sharing some resources on game development would help with the broader conversation

Two Average Gamers
Reply to  Stan
1 year ago

Great point, we’ll keep this in mind as we plan for new content to share!

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