There is no fan-base so temperamental, fervorous and so quick to vilify than the videogame community. The abject dispassion caused by the slightest change can create a tumbling snowball of abuse and hatred into the path of the most common bystander. Verbal wars are fought on any public battlefield when given the opportunity of anonymity, over topics ranging from console preference to videogame comparison. Somewhere down the line, the community fell into divide; the once-common goal towards technological advancement fell apart due to petty squabbling and meaningless debates. Try as we might, there isn’t a bucket big enough to haul the water from this sinking ship.
The arrival of console gaming brought with it an almost faction-based allegiance to a singular system. By the golden age of gaming in the 80s it seemed like Nintendo was a clear winner and the only figure bound to make tracks within the gaming world. Then the 90s came and in 1995 Sony unleashed their powerhouse: the PlayStation – a force to be reckoned with. This was when the conviction of videogame fans was truly tested; the Big Kahuna of the videogames industry had a worthy challenger and the stewing zealousness broke out like a digital fever. By the time Microsoft released its contender for the crown, the Xbox, it was game over – the consol wars had begun.
That phrase encapsulates the abhorrent attitudes of videogame fanatics everywhere: ‘console wars’. All pretence of a fun, ecstatic community enjoying a steady dialogue of their differing gaming consoles is thrown out the window. This is war. You think I play videogames for fun? Is this a fucking game to you? No, I’m fighting, we’re having a war here – I want you to sit there and listen while I talk at you, but not to you about how you’re wrong.
All smallest of arguments surrounding videogame culture start out as “Fun fact: you’re a fucking idiot and here’s a list of reasons why…” Not all members of the community are this adamant about their opinions, though sadly the ones that are tend to be the most vocal about it. The vitriolic conversations never change, because to the standard gamer, change is the worst possible outcome to videogames in general. Take for example the situation Treyarch design director David Vonderhaar found himself in in July of this year.
After announcing two minuscule changes to the game Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (the changes being damage reduction to the AN-94 assault rifle and a decreased rate of fire for two sniper rifles), Vonderhaar received a litany of threats to his life and the life of his daughter among a mangled hurling of abuse. The outcry was intense; the maddened shouting and frothing anger was a testament to the decline of consumer gratitude. Six months has passed from that day and still David Vonderhaar’s Twitter feed reads like the toilet stall of a high school bathroom, a showcase of the Internet Tough Guy attitude created through the excessive use of anonymity.
Vonderhaar isn’t the first to receive threats like this and all seem to lead down the same path – an encouragement of suicide and self-harm, both indirect ways of causing pain. That is the beauty of anonymity, it is indirect - why cause someone harm yourself when you can avoid blame or any sense of responsibility through the guise of ambiguity? There is never any shift from the antisocial interactions of the internet to reality, where the world is made of real people with real feelings and real emotional pain.
We truly are fanatics. How can we call ourselves a community, when we do nothing to stop the civil war raging in our own backyard? While we fight and bicker the world will continue to disregard all we have to say against our already rocky reputation. We can’t denounce the idea of violence encouraged by videogames if we can’t even promote a healthy and supportive environment within our own community.
We need to repair, to come together and support each other despite our differing opinions. Even console developers show signs of civility, congratulating each other on their respective successful launches. The rest is up to us – through support and reconstruction we can end the war once and for all.