Gaming has been a big part of my life for nearly 20 years now. I started at a very young age, my first console was the NES and Super Mario Bros was the first game I had the privilege of playing. Given where I come from, gaming was a luxury for a 6-7 year old kid like myself, and to top that off, electricity was a thing of luxury as well because it wasn’t guaranteed 24/7 like it is here in North America. So I would have to tactically make sure that our radio was plugged in to a power source and turned on, so that if and when we did get the electricity again sometime in the middle of night, the radio would automatically go off and wake me up and my gaming session would thus begin.
You know, those were the days when the hobby was mostly about the act of gaming, regardless of the where you’re from and what language you spoke, or what sort of obstacles and hoops you had to jump through to get a session going, at the end of the day, if you got to sit down and play a game for a little bit then then, mission accomplished. It never mattered how many units Ninja Gaiden or Contra sold, such things were irrelevant to the content of the game and how much you enjoyed it. What mattered in those days was that you and your friends got to do one of your most favorite things in the world, and if not for our meddling parents…We would would have gotten away with doing nothing else but that.
Now I don’t exactly know when all of this changed, but I vividly remember when I was first exposed to this new era of online gaming forums and blogs. In 2007 my first PS2 died, after nearly 7 years of abuse and I was finally thinking about diving into this current gen, so I went on my computer and performed a Google search for the PS3 and wow…To say it was surprising is putting it midly. There was an incredible amount of manufactured doom and gloom articles about Sony and the PS3 and how much it sucked. Now keep in mind that prior to this “eye opener”, I purchased my games based on friend’s feedback and my own taste as well. And among friends, we didn’t want to all have the same consoles as this would limit the type of games we played. So the goal was that if I have a PS2 then the next guy had to get an Xbox, and the next 2 guys had to get a GameCube and a Dreamcast respectively, so that way we’re covered on all fronts.
But the exposure to this online world automatically made me feel that I had to choose one side. There were no middle grounds to be found anywhere as everything coming from the media and so called journalists were so extreme. You were either a Sony fanboy or Microsoft fanboy, and the Nintendo Wii didn’t even matter because it’s not as capable as the PS3 or the Xbox 360. At that particular point in time, the internet was overwhelmingly in favor of Microsoft and the Xbox 360. Labels and puns were being thrown around, every other article explained in detail how the PS3 was a massive failure and how Sony was going to eventually drop out of the gaming industry the way Sega did, and how it had no games. So for the first time since 1999, I found myself confused and on the fence about getting a PlayStation console.
And then there became this whole weekly obsession over sales numbers, and gamers were spending precious time arguing sales figures instead of playing games. The worst part was that respected publications were at the center of this madness, pouring more fuel onto what was already an inferno. We also witnessed the rise of websites whose sole purpose and focus were to compare screenshots of games, especially multiplatform games, and compared them pixel by pixel in a vain attempt to show which console was superior.
This generation of consoles could have offered so much more had we been better served by the supposed watchdogs of our industry. Real problems were ignored in favor of pointless and silly theories about the demise of gaming companies, forcing gamers to choose sides thus dividing us. Meanwhile, Day 1 DLCs creeped up on us, Season Passes costing almost as much as the full games themselves are now standard practice. It’s now acceptable for a developer to release a multiplatform game that runs fine on one console but is almost unplayable on the other, as that is still viewed as “gotcha” for the other side.
We as gamers have been let down by the guys we’ve empowered to be our ears and voice, as they’ve sadly been deaf and mute from the very start of this generation, and as a result we’ve never been more divided as a community. The consensus among gamers is that we’ve had too many games abandoning their core in order to follow after the successes of others, and ending up never really providing a different experience. Games riddled with glitches and bugs getting near perfect scores, while creative new games were being punished for having “too much variety” or for being on a different console.
It’s clear that journalism in general, not just in gaming, has been watered down to the point where you can almost confuse it with a reality show. My true worry is that all of this will nonsense will repeat itself and gamers will once again be forced to choose sides and fight among ourselves instead of making sure that publishing companies don’t nickle and dime us out of our favorite hobby.
Do you feel that journalism in gaming, especially this gen, has been at an all time low? Do you feel that gaming journalists have adequately voiced yours and your community’s concerns? And most importantly, will we allow such triviality to take center stage once more with the next generation of consoles?