High Horse: When is a gaming community not a community? When its a selfish, self-destructive mess

High Horse is a rotating opinion column in which GamesRadar editors and guest writers are invited to express their personal thoughts on games, the people who play them and the industry at large.

If a friend’s ageing dog died, and your friend was upset, would you laugh in his face and tell him that it was his own fault for having an old dog? If he lost his job, would you tell him that he probably should have been better at it? No you wouldn’t. Because doing either of those things would make you a total cock. Similarly, if a bully was alternating between which of the two of you he picked on each day, would you choose to side with the bully on your days off?

No, you wouldn’t do that either, because it would be illogical, would improve nothing, and would result only in fracturing your relationship with the strongest potential ally you would have in such a situation. But the gaming community does all of the above. Because it’s frequently not a community at all. It’s frequently an unpleasant, in-fighting, self-aggrandisement club, taking the “I’m alright so screw everyone else” angle to everything, and making things worse for everyone as a result. An eye for an eye, it increasingly seems, makes the whole world just another idiot on a forum.

Above: Because, you know, like different shaped pads and stuff. THEY MUST HATE

I’m not saying that everyone should be exclusively nice to each other. The world would be a dull, unhealthy and utterly regressive place if we didn’t hurl bile and venom at the right targets while calling out everyday bullshit. But the fact is, gaming bile all too often isn’t about that. Gaming bile is all too often just a bunch of blind chimps directionlessly flinging their own shit at every target but the right one.

The 360 version of Battlefield 3 looks like total ass if you’re trying to play it on a 4Gb machine? “LOL! Your fault for buying a 4Gb baby console!” The PS3 version of Skyrim has glitches capable of making it unplayable? “HA That’s what you get for not being a PC gamer!” That increasingly seems to be the logic of online forums and comment threads. But let’s think about this. Let’s think about what’s really going on in both of the cases above. A game has been released – knowingly or not – with severe flaws which make it unable to fulfil the function that it was advertised as providing.

That isn’t the consumer’s fault for playing it on the ‘wrong’ system. A video game released commercially for any platform needs to actually bloody work on that platform. Yet instead of acknowledging, that we blame each other. We make jokes at each other’s expense, and we revel in each other’s pain and disappointment. We do everything except address the actual problem that needs to be addressed in order to improve things for all of us. And that, my friends, is just a great big slab of pathetic behaviour.

Above: A philosophy of every-man-for-himself is exactly what Rapture was built on. That worked out fine, right?

I touched upon the self-defeating stupidity of blind company loyalty in last week’s column (opens in new tab), but the fact is, we make it far worse than that once the in-fighting starts. And like all fanboyism, it’s not even about whose side is superior. It’s just about whose e-peen is smallest and who is most insecure about their purchasing choices. Unable to accept that any aspect of his life may just be a banal, everyday event rather than ammunition with which to prove how superior he is to the rest of humanity, the fanboy must use an irrelevant consumer electronics purchasing choice to assert his great wisdom to the world.

So to the fanboy, a substandard product isn’t an incrimination of the company that produced it, instead it’s a vindication of his own inalienable personal qualities. As long as he wasn’t unlucky enough to buy it, that is. If he was, the mockery he’ll suffer himself will force him to make equally inane denials of the problem.

Hmmm, hang on a minute, this sounds familiar. The delusion that unrelated world events are actually centred around oneself, combined with a paranoid need to impart aggression upon others in order to maintain the illusion, while denying the importance of events which don’t fit the chosen world view? “Fanboyism” isn’t the only phrase to describe that, you know. “Paranoid schizophrenia” is good too.

And all this time, all the while that gamers are attacking each other for the mistakes and failings of large, fairly anonymous multinational companies, said companies are finding things just a little bit easier.

Above: If you tolerate this, then your framerates will be next

Know this: For all of your adoring loyalty to a game developer or publisher, for all of the special relationship you think you enjoy, for all the support that you think you owe them for all of the good times they’ve provided you over the years, most big game companies do not know or care who you are. They like your money though, so cheers for all of that. Not to mention the years of free advertising and propaganda.

So yeah, fanboys attacking each other over corporate mistakes is frankly just insane. Gamers should only ever sympathise with each other in these situations. Because whatever any gamer might choose to believe about his system or company of choice, the fact is that if a corporation is willing to dick over one segment of its consumer-base, it’s willing to dick over another one later down the line. By siding against your fellow consumer, all you’re doing is setting yourself up for an eventual fall. In any other industry, consumers would band together to fight this stuff. In gaming though, we pull apart and accept it.

Because hey, how important is better service really, compared to a small, anonymous ego boost based around precisely f*all that matters?

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