Kris Graft is EIC of Gamasutra (@krisgraft)
The insular, incestuous, hive mind nature of the video game community is never so apparent as when there's a new blockbuster commercial product.
Marketing teams build upon or outright fabricate credibility of the product as the video game "community," enamored by narrative-driven TV ads with booming voiceovers, latches on, instinctively. Press coverage wholly uncritical of the product's actual worth flows into undiscerning eyeballs. The community makes its mind up weeks, maybe months before a game is commercially available, to line up for hours, slap down $60 for the product, and hell or high water the community will love it, because it has been foretold.
The community continues to rally behind the product, though the most contact it has had with the product is through sanitized press interviews and hyperbolic advertisements. They have no idea if this product is of any value whatsoever, but the loyalty to the product is unwavering. Inherent to this unidirectional wave of unchecked enthusiasm is the tendency to wipe out, drown, tear down or eradicate anything that stands in opposition.
Any supposed member of the supposed community that expresses anything less than unbridled enthusiasm for the product is labeled "hipster," "pretentious" or "elitist." Anyone who says that the product is anything less than peerless is labeled "hipster," "pretentious" or "elitist." "Do you think you're better than me?" is the subtext. The people who shrug their shoulders at the impending existence of this product in a marketplace are trying to spoil the fun, rain on the parade, are being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. They're dissenting to simply to raise a ruckus and to get attention, while the people who are giving them the most attention are typically the ones loudly complaining that these dissenters are just trying to get attention.
The product is now available in the market. There is little change in community sentiment here, from the anticipation to the actual availability of the product, because the community already decided weeks, maybe months before that they would slap down $60 for the product, and that they would love it, hell or high water, as had been foretold. Sight unseen, they had already made the emotional commitment to the product long before they made the financial commitment to it.
To the hive mind, said product will be -- is -- a significant contribution to an art form, a redefinition of a medium, a standard to be followed for years to come, nothing short of a revolution, as had been foretold. Even if none of those traits are there, the hive mind will fabricate them. If there are rudimentary hints of those traits there, the hive mind will amplify them in deafening crescendo.
Sentiment that falls outside of the cacophony of this product launch orgy, and suggests that the hive mind consider the fallibility of any aspect of the product, is perceived as a breakdown in logic. For the hive mind, "Product must be excellent because [X] worked on it." "Product must be peerless because it cost [$X] to make." "Product must be perfect because it took [X] years to develop." "[X press outlet] said it's a revolution." "Product TV ad was so bad-ass." "Product cost me $60, it must be worth every penny."
Instigators of that perceived logical disconnect are met with swift retribution. It might come in the form of a petition to have you fired from your job, bombardment of your social media account, death threats via email, a mile of hateful comments under an internet article. You've stirred Legion.
The force behind the product is so intense that, for just a moment, you doubt yourself -- maybe you're wrong, maybe you're blind to the significance of the product. Everyone says your credibility demands you surrender to the product. You're probably jaded, cynical, prejudiced, somehow off-balance.
Then you see it again: The community is galvanized behind the product. To the community, you are your opinion, inseparable from it, and you cannot exist both inside the product orgy sphere and outside of it. The physics of the space in which the sphere exists do not allow for dual residency. You are positive or negative, for or against, inside or out, because the community drew the line long beforehand. Outside of the product orgy sphere, you lack credibility, as to them, you only exist in theory, but even the theoretical idea of you is upsetting enough that action is taken to eradicate even the idea that you might exist, that you -- the unfathomable you -- may have a point.
You realize you do have a point.
So, you shrug your shoulders and move on because you had little emotional investment in the product in the first place, you never really considered yourself part of that community and you know you have a strong understanding of what is valuable, to you. You pay $60 for the product, you treat it like a product, evaluate it like a product, you love it, hate it, somewhere-in-between it, all the while knowing that it's just some stupid fucking thing that neither defines you nor dictates your criteria for what's valuable and worthwhile.