Critical Hit | Gamers: Have They Become Too Entitled?

By Ian Soltes 24.08.2016 00:50 4

It's been seen numerous times before: the game that is called the 'worst of the series,' 'a horrible step backwards,' 'only casuals play that game,' and so on. Some just laughed and accepted it, while some people really need to stop and rethink that. Have gamers become just a little bit too entitled for their own good? Welcome to a new Critical Hit analysis…

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Which Smash Bros. is best? Was it the original on the N64? The more competitive Melee? The more casual-friendly Brawl? Or the more recent Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, which is a mix of the latter two? Which Fallout is most superior? Is God of War a great fantasy action title with fun and visceral combat, or an experience about a whiny and violent baboon that insults mythology except for the first, which was a good Greek tragedy? Which Final Fantasy adventure was the most engrossing?

Those might be some hard questions, but stop and think for a second. When reading those, how many people will at least once jump to the conclusion of 'Well, that one is the best and that other one was a waste of money'? How many will say, 'This game is objectively better than that one'? That's the whole point of this article.

Make no mistake, this is not to say that there can't be bad games even in an otherwise good series (no one shall speak of the Zelda CD-i games…) and that every complainer is wrong, but seriously thinking for just a second…what could be expected?

It would be easy to go on a rant about how some people are sticking to their nostalgia-filled goggles when they settle down to play Morrowind because Skyrim is so much better. Until the next game comes out, and the people playing that are laughing at the people who think Skyrim is the best when, obviously Elder Scrolls VI: The Rise of the Mudcrab is the best. That would be easy. That would also be missing the point of this Critical Hit, though.

As of the time of writing of this article, Final Fantasy: J-Pop Boy Ban-… erm… Final Fantasy XV is on the horizon, yet, despite not being released, a lot of people have decided it's going to be horrible. Why? Well, many were hoping the next Final Fantasy would be a return to the classical mix of high-Fantasy, inventive story-telling, great characters, and a little bit of magi-tech thrown in. Instead, the most well-known things about the game are that it stars a bunch of boys and Cidney was in the crosshairs for her outfit. That's enough to put people off, completely because there is a preconceived notion of what a Final Fantasy should be, and not having one that meets that criteria will cause it to be written off.

How many Smash Bros. fans still play Melee? Well, when the Wii U and 3DS versions came out, what were they hoping the game would be like? Some hardcore, competitive, fighting game? Before details were even released? Yes, as they felt like that was the direction the series should be taking. They didn't want what they got, since they felt they deserved Melee 2 and, thusly, the actual quality of the game got ignored in favour of the ideal.


 
With The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, people panned it for its cartoony art style, forgetting what titles like A Link to the Past looked like because that was awesome. When Fallout 3 was revealed, it was going to be a bit more like The Elder Scrolls than the prior games and V.A.T.S. would stop combat to let the player line up the shots. How many wrote it off because it wasn't the game they wanted, which was a continuation of the prior games with little deviation?

A series doesn't always have to go in a different direction, because that would be senseless. Imagine if Kratos suddenly got put into something like Ace Attorney. The game would be less about finding conclusive proof and more about trying to find a way to not get killed when trying to pin the murder of multiple gods and a countless number of innocents, some multiple times over, on someone who doesn't even care if he's guilty or not. However, some people take this to mean that the game should be exactly as they imagined and desired it, and the result is entitlement.

A game tries something new? It's bad. The developer changed something that you liked for simplicity's sake? Pandering to casuals. Added in a new feature? Shocking. The old game wouldn't have been such a sell-out. Newcomers like the game? They are just wet behind the ears and don't know what the series is really about.

Bad practices abound, stupid decisions are made, games get worse, and these things need to be dealt with. However, nothing comes from a smug sense of superiority and feeling that the next title should be exactly what you expect it to be, which is likely to be just a rehash of your favourite title, or a drastically new direction, especially if it comes with the dismissal of said game having even possibly done something right.

It doesn't matter what Street Fighter is the best, so long as people are having fun. Sure, one game may be better than others and one may be terrible, but all that declaring fans of one particular game to be inferior to your perfect gem, of which that new game totally missed what made it great, will do is drive a wedge between people and make the community worse for everyone. Don't lower your expectations. Just realise that, maybe, you shouldn't be expecting the thing you feel should be released and any deviation from that would automatically prove to be a waste of time and money.

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There is , in my opinion, a misconception of what gamers want. What makes things worse is that this misconception is partially held by the gamers themselves. A lot of people moan and whinge about a lack of originality but then keep buying the same thing. Gamers think they want innovation and new experiences. 

That was true quite a long time ago. I can remember when walking into an arcade meant you were going to experience something new. New controls. New gameplay. New sights and sounds (even display technology varied between cabinets - I don't believe that vector displays have been bettered). But the arcade scene was, sadly , shortlived. It was only viable because the arcade was for a brief time - mainstream, and therefore garnered the volumes required to make running a videogame arcade commercially viable.

Arcade games then , for all their success, were still highly abstract. The graphical abilities of those pioneering platforms required a certain amount of imagination from the mainstream gamer. The novelty of the experience compensated for it but for only for a short time. They soon moved away from it as an entertainment.

Console gaming was always a niche pastime and for the devoted was an adequate filler between visits to the arcade and it bounced along quite well, in the main supported in sales volumes created from a demand of the young and supplemented by the so-called hardcore. But then the Playstation came along and changed everything because it made mainstream gaming come back - and this time to stay.

The post Playstation console scene is now mainstream. The power of the platforms are such that the player requires little imagination to place himself within the incredible environments that can now be created and interacted with.

The young kids who played games on the NES and then moved away from gaming came back in droves - attracted by the huge leap in console power that was now compatible with the inevitable loss of imagination that ageing brings. This facilitated the idea that these games were somehow more "grown up" - even though they were based on the same basic interactions that the older games delivered. There is still a sense of indignation from the hardcore that somehow their patch has been invaded by the great unwashed. I have to admit to feeling that way myself for a time.

I argue that the typical mainstream gamer doesn't appear to want anything new. One only has to look at those games that are successful. It's the same handful of sports, driving, FPS and sandbox games with different coats of paint served up every time. They feature large amounts of exposition (the result of an unfortunate love affair with the mainly vacuous output of Holywood),  a huge amount of handholding and have their playtime inflated by filler content that is presented in such as way as to create an illusion of sophistication and depth. Playing these games still equates to doing a small number of things. These are beautifully crafted and many mainstream gamers , particularly those who play FPS games, are highly skilled players - in their own way hardcore gamers.

But it all amounts to the same thing. Gamers want largely the same thing but changed in an evolutionary way, not revolutionary. And that is why so many genuinely novel and revolutionary ideas are consigned to the bargain bins.

New stuff still appears but only by boutique setups and to a lesser extent Nintendo who rely on a small amount of franchises for their bread and butter. It was interesting to them create a new IP, Splatoon, which is an interesting twist on a well worn genre. ( I reckon they could actually make a pile of money just selling pieces of plastic nowadays.) These ideas, much like the small indie setups in the music and fashion industry will filter through to the mainstream, and in a way it's interesting to see the gaming industry becoming not unlike other entertainment industries.I'd just like gaming to not try and copy Holywood movies so much though!

In answer to the original question, I don't think there is a sense of entitlement, it's just that gamers now by and large know what they want but I don't think they are very good at expressing it. Developers need to move things on in baby steps if they are working in the mainstream market. If they want to innovate on a grander scale they need to go indie as that is were you can influence gaming if you want it to change.


 

( Edited 26.08.2016 16:16 by davyK )

I see Entitlement as people complaining about DLC or having to buy a game again on a different console. To both my response is hey kids its a business, the developer doesn't have to give you a handout or do anything for free. Its nice when they do, but seriously a developer doesn't owe you anything extra. If you want more, pay more. If you don't, don't. Do you work for free, no? then why should a game designer?

As for a whiney fanbase. They have the right to complain, and the developer has the right to ignore. A franchise can go in the wrong direction, but if developers listened to the fans. We'd never have got a Metroid Prime, Windwaker, Journey, Fallout 3 or Bioshock Infinite. Everyone's a critic, and armchair director. If you're that upset, quit being lazy and make your own game.

Too true.

Lots of gamers have always whined about paying and many have found a way to avoid it. Digital distribution makes that more difficult (and it's also why publishers crave the "always online" requirement to help it enforce it more strongly).

The day will come when technology and infrastructure facilitates true pay as you play and the idea of owning anything will become quaint. Not something I'm looking forward to as a game collector  -would welcome words from anyone who thinks that won't ever happen.

 

Do remember that there is a distinct difference between games evolving, wanting a change or improvement, and feeling outright entitled to an 'improvement'. I've seen people turn aside perfectly good games because they weren't on the PC, ignore good games because their graphics were lacking, didn't have multiplayer (despite not being a multiplayer game) and so-forth. Basically the line comes when, instead of wanting to buy a game because it might improve, wanting to NOT buy the game unless it's improved. Sort of like the difference between wanting to buy a glass of orange juice and refusing to buy the orange juice unless it comes in a 'large' size. 

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