As I consider the events that have characterized the past few weeks in gaming culture, the idea that continually worms its way into my mind is that of polarity. Because as incredible as the stream of quality releases has been, the grotesque underbelly of the community has repeatedly come to light. This contradiction has potentially smeared what could have been a defining season for gaming on a mainstream level. Instead of celebrating the masterpiece releases of Horizon Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild we are left screaming into our collective pillows at the hateful immaturity that radiates from corners of the internet.
Two events come to mind; the DDoS attacks in response to Jim Sterling’s Breath of the Wild review and the public blasting of a Bioware employee involved in the development of Mass Effect Andromeda’s criticized facial animations. While both leave many gamers understandably perplexed, the two highlight different negative traits of this despicable sect. On one hand we have a divisive media figure being maliciously attacked for giving a game a lower-than-average review score, and on the other we have disgusting sexual harassment being directed at a member of a development team who worked on a disappointing aspect of a disappointing game. The fragile psyches of gamers who require the validation of others for their purchases and the quest for a reason to spew deplorable hate at another person are poisonous traits emanating from the darkest corners of the community.
When toxic flare ups occur, a common sentiment arises. The words “the silent majority is with you”, or something to that extent, echo in the direction of the most recent victims. This idea is simple and almost universally agreed upon; the people in the majority are generally silent on any one issue, thus are not voicing their opinion. In gaming, this generally means that those who are positive are too busy enjoying their games to voice much of anything online.
There is little we can do to specifically address the negativity. Showing attention and raising our emotions at these comments provides the fix many are looking for. Hiding behind an anonymous handle removes the norms (and inhibitions) of society, allowing people to run unchecked by human decency. In other words; everything becomes fair game. This creates a comment culture that hinges on tearing things down and prodding the patience of decency.
The games industry is a massive source of constant entertainment for its audience, and the creators of that content, be they developer or media, endeavor to create a labor of love with every piece. I know from personal experience that whenever you create something, there is no better feeling than when someone shows their appreciation and support for it. If this wasn’t the case, developers would not sink the incredible amount of time and effort that they do into their projects. They deserve praise for creating something that people can love, even if it doesn’t live up to marketing-fostered expectations. The problem is that those that are actually enjoying their creation aren’t always the ones shouting from the rooftops about it.
It is time that this silent majority finds its voice.
I don’t think we realize how much even just one of us loving a product means to its creator. If it made my day whenever someone complimented me on my service as a waiter, I’m sure that that feeling is multiplied by how long someone worked on a particular project. But too often do festering comment sections look to tear down these folks who are essential to our favorite hobby. There is nothing we can do or say to stop people from behaving destructively, but if the silent majority were to speak up, then maybe we could drown out some of the bile.
If the silent majority decided to flood these figures with the positivity that they have given us, the result would be overwhelming. Those who sacrifice so much of themselves in support of the facilitation of our entertainment would finally fully understand how much their games mean to us. Rather than negativity being the primary characteristic of a comment section or twitter feed, uplifting vibes and meaningful discussion would instead reign supreme. The irony is that this negativity is what keeps many of us from interacting in the first place. If each of us made a commitment to engaging, even at a small level, it could create a chain reaction that would help to shift the outrage narrative.
For too long have a small percentage of negative people dictated discussion of our beloved pastime. While the silent majority has long been content with simply ignoring the noise and enjoying their games, now is the time to shift the conversation. It would take a monumental collective effort, but if those who normally abstain from the back and forth would throw their ideas into consideration, it would do wonders for an industry still struggling to find its long-term, mainstream footing. As the development climate becomes more transparent and strenuous in simultaneous fashion, the impact of this positivity cannot be overstated. In the wake of disgusting negativity and immaturity, our encouragement in the presence of negativity can make all the difference.
So speak up! Tweet at your favorite Youtuber, writer or developer that you love what they do and that you can’t wait for what’s next. Uplift a person for a positive comment rather than tearing them down for a grammatical error. Defend others against the tidal wave of hate and aggression received for an unpopular opinion. But most importantly, be decent, encouraging and beneficial to the culture. You don’t have to avoid criticism to make a positive contribution to the community, as long as you criticize the idea rather than the person. There are many avenues toward improvement, but they all begin with the silent majority clearing their throats and letting their opinions sing.
Imagine the harmonies we could create.
Brett Williams is an Associate Writer for MONG who mourns the absence of true debate in comment sections. You can follow his nonexistent ramblings on twitter.