An Open Letter to the People Who Buy Games

OK. Rant time.

I have been down on video games lately. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve been busy reacquainting myself with hobbies from my past and my brain is only big enough to hold one obsession at once. Another part of the reason for this is that at least to my mind, there simply has not been anything that interesting released in the last, say, 18 months. There have been the standard titles that are good enough to pick up and fool around with. But nothing good enough to actually flip the bit that makes me want to play every night. Perhaps the most important reason for my recent lull has been more sinister: I’m tired of gamers, because gamers are a bunch of juvenile self-centered whiners with an overly developed sense of entitlement. For example: take Bill Harris and Russ Pitts. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t stand to listen to the “community” talk about games, and this has made me lose interest in the video games themselves.

After many long years of observation, I have concluded that for the most part, the “core gamer” mentality is largely driven by two main psychological engines:

1. The self-centered juvenile male sense of entitlement.

2. A crushing feeling of material poverty.

There are two things that gamers hate over every other evil in the entire universe:

1. That the developer of the video game did not sit down and specifically implement every single pet requirement that the gamer wrote down on his Dorito-encrusted wish list while sitting in his parents’ basement re-watching the entire DVD set of Battlestar Galactica.

2. That the game costs more than $30. Or $20. Or $5. Or any money at all. God forbid anyone actually make back any return on their investment. The amount of forum whining against high game prices, in game advertising, DRM, and any other way to make the business model for video games have even a little bit more margin for the people on the production side is almost endless.

Now, I have snarked about these sorts of things before. The Tea Leaves archives are full of me and Pete taking advantage of the peculiar persecution complex that the hard core gamer has: we’ve talked about how games are too easy or games are dumbed down or how the support for online game sucks or whatever. This is nothing new. In the past I have generally written this sort of thing up to a combination of ignorance and stupidity on the part of the people who like video games a bit too much.

But the Russ Pitts piece above, and the general love given to it by Bill Harris say something different to me. What they say to me is that even people who up until this point I thought of as relatively adult and reflective thinkers in this strange world of video games are in fact infected with the same core gamer brain damage as all of the other pubtards on Xbox Live.

What does this article say? I will summarize.

First it says “the industry is doing something that is bad for me.” That is, they make these “expensive” games that apparently do not work. Second it says that after putting out huge amounts of hard earned cash to purchase the game, the poor poor impoverished game critic cannot return an opened video game to his retailer if it does not work. While I agree that in principle this is a situation that one should not have to tolerate, surely you can’t say that this is the most important threat to the health of the video game industry that has ever occured in the entire history of life the universe and everything. Here’s a hint: be more careful about what you buy, and learn to use Ebay or Amazon reselling to limit your losses. This is not that hard. It is certainly not the crushing hand of the capitalist oppressor. Get over it.

Anyway, back to the game not working. For a group of people that spends most of their entire lives dealing with hardware and software systems, gamers, and especially gamers with a lot of experience seem to be woefully clueless about how these systems are put together. Let me make this as simple as possible. Suppose software were like an RPG, and you were allocating stat points. Then you can allocate a fixed number of points into the following buckets:

1. Number of requirements delivered at the given ship date.

2. Cost.

3. Correctness.

As we have seen, the poor game developer, by the nature of the audience that video games target, does not have a lot of leeway with respect to the first and second buckets. If we know anything about gamers it is that they will absolutely not tolerate any compromise on either features, the content in the game, or the cost of the game. This by itself is staggering if you consider the evolution of the medium. What is required of you to make a “real” AAA game in 2010 is that you fit three orders of magnitude more content onto that disk that used to be in (say) that Asteroids or Super Mario 2 Nintendo cartridge back in the day, and that the game cost nearly the same amount of money (or less) than before. Adjusted for inflation, the situation is even more ludicrous.

In addition, if your company does not happen to have an infinite well of money (like Blizzard, Valve, or maybe Popcap) you have a limited amount of time and human resources with which to generate this huge torrent of content.

Therefore, where do you compromise? Of course you compromise on #3. It is a no brainer. There is nothing else you can do. It is the way things have to be, like a universal law of software physics.

If gamers want it better, then they have to pony up. Either:

1. They have to be able to wait for all games to take as long as a Blizzard or Valve game to reach release.

2. They have to pay more money

or

3. Both.

Rant over. That’s all I had to say.

Note: if you are a gamer and you are currently my friend, I didn’t mean you.

Second Note: I might have the tiniest bit of sympathy for Mr. Pitts if the web site he ran didn’t cut his article up into three micropages of text to make sure that I get to see all the banner ads for his sponsors three times. Maybe he should consider making a usable web site before complaining about unplayable games.

OK. Now I’m really done.

Editorial Note: I got the Amazon returns policy wrong in the first version of this rant. So I edited it out of history.