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They Shout Louder
by Robert Fearon on 08/27/14 01:26:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


“They shout louder because they’re losing”

I’ve been thinking about this. It’s a reply you hear a lot when discussing the current bizarre-o-world slinging of abuse from a more capital C Conservative group of people who play games towards, well, anyone who they decide is an enemy of videogames. Which, it seems, is pretty much anybody but especially women and minorities.

I can understand the allure of it as an idea. I can understand its allure even more if you’re of the “oh gosh, let’s keep moving things on” bent. I sort of like to think I’m somewhere there but I dunno, it rings a bit hollow. It’s almost too ideal and heartening an answer and maybe I’m off it and off base but, well, you know.

I don’t think it’s true because I think the capital C Conservative group of people who play games aren’t losing. The more I think about it, the more I believe they lost years ago.

Well, to be fair, historically I don’t think the gaming utopia of manly man games for men ever really existed but for a long while they were made to feel as if it did. Their money, their spend was the driver of the modern big box machine and big box were happy to pander to that. Breasts and guns sold videogames to teenage boys and to twenty year old supposed men and to thirty year old men and on. They were the dominant spenders.

Then they weren’t.

Over a period of time in the mid two thousands, post casual indie boom, sometime around Nintendo throwing their Wii out into the world, sometime around Facebook games, sometimes around the app store and mobile, the big box industry realised that whilst they had a vocal and self-identified-as hardcore slew of supporters, their spend wasn’t the biggest spend. There were other people who spend and they spend a lot. Sometimes it was groups of people who weren’t traditionally considered “gamers” who spent a lot. Sometimes it was just by throwing the net wide enough they caught more and more people but compared to what the more traditional gaming audience spent, the numbers were enormous and growing the further the net was cast.

And bit by bit, this changed the way many operate. Companies were more likely to court the non-traditional spend, companies were more likely to be more upfront and explicit in how much of a money funnel they see their customers as because pissing off the hardcore still left all those who weren’t. Even the hardcoreiest of hardcore videogames, Call Of Duty primarily courts the filthy casuals with its film style launches and nods to the Hollywood blockbusters. There are people out there who just play CoD who never had an interest in videogames before. FIFA and Madden do the same. And somewhere, somehow, they bring in a new hardcore, this time accepting of map packs, DLC and all the norms of new Big Box.

Big box releases becoming ever thinner on the ground as studio after studio got shuttered by the big boys of videogaming. Of course, this leaves a void and along comes Ubisoft to fill the big budget shelves. Just as Gameloft filled the big box on mobile need even if it meant copying games to bring it, a space needed to be filled as the roster of big box games shrank. Releases dried up. With AAA budgets reaching the stratosphere, big box games take longer and those that do appear do so with day one DLC, preorder bonuses, microtransactions, season passes and more. In big box, “just a videogame” is dead. It has been dead for years.

Just a videogame is dead and big box killed it.

I’d love to be able to believe that the current screaming is all because women and indies are taking away videogames, because journalists are corrupt and all that jazz. I don’t doubt there’s people whose belief in this is sincere either, I’ve read their words, heard their pitch shifted down to disguise their voice conspiracies, I’ve read their forum posts, got their eggy messages on Twitter and this week I’ve witnessed a major gaming site throw them a bone that validates their beliefs. I’ve seen the abuse and the damage they cause and it is awful.

The middle ground gave way. But the rise of indie filling out the gaps that studio culture brought with it is partially a show of strength from those of us who make games outside of that culture but partially because we’re filling a void big box long since stopped giving a toss about. Like Ubi moving into the AAA space, indie fills out the middle and below. That with humans being let loose to make videogames comes a higher level of social responsibility shouldn’t surprise. The rules of the big box machine do not apply here. A developer’s ethics are not hidden amongst 300 other staffers, thousands or millions in marketing and from videogames made to appease shareholders as much as the audience. This is the way it always would be when that machine ceases to function as people who play videogames have grown used to and it is a tremendous thing.

Indies are an easy target for a generation pandered to by big box unable to accept that the ones they defend are the ones excluding them, the ones killing off the games they believe are the true videogames. The same as minorities and women make for an easy target (although it cannot be understated how this videogame culture holds an allure for the more repellent of views about humans, built as it has been on breasts and guns for so long). Journalists too are in on the deal because someone has to be to blame. I read that on the internet, it must be true. It is telling that it is everyone but big box people consider to be killing just videogames, except in those rare moments of clarity when the pre-order day one DLC seems awry or the servers dip under the load.

It cannot be big box because they supplied the videogames, their marketing pandered to the manly man exclusively for so long, their marketing is still omnipresent and all consuming enough to mask the fact that they long ago stopped concentrating on the self identified hardcore as their main source of cash. It is obvious to everyone that this is no longer the case. It’s obvious to those who slide in to fill the gaps left behind by big box and it’s obvious to those who buy videogames and identify as the best at buying videogames. The changes are laid bare. Yet here we are, the belief is strong that it must be someone else, anything else. It's easy to see the change, not so easy to see the cause.

The hardcoreiest hardcore lost years ago. The net has been cast ever wider, year on year. The hardcoreiest hardcore spend considered insignificant compared to what else is out there, a point ably proven by F2P where the money in a fortnight can eclipse the money made total with the right game.

The just a videogame is dead, the hardcoreiest hardcore see it too, sort of.

It died as indie allowed progress in other ways, vastly more types of games are now able to be made and exist. The death of the videogame is not at the hand of women, queers, PoC or more human white men, it did not happen at the hands of journalists reporting on the more disturbing aspects of videogame culture, it did not happen because people decided that "gamer" was maybe something not so great to identify as. It did not happen because someone made a video pointing at a few things videogames have the habit of doing.

It happened because the big box money machine found itself more people to make money from. The very people who pandered and supplied the wares shifted their focus. And that’s when the hardcoreiest of hardcore, the vocal screamers who just want to play videogames with none of this ethical rubbish or DLC or microtransactions or or or lost their fight.

The depressing thing is, the hope for a future of videogames made of "just a videogame" doesn’t lie with big box, it lies with the very people some quarters are attempting to drive out of the industry in order to "save videogames". It lies with those who’d fill out the middle ground and below. It lies with those who would say no to DLC, no to microtransactions, no to DRM solutions and on and on and on. It lies with the indies, the small developers, the women, the people of colour, the queer and beyond.

The vocal "just videogame" mob have lost one battle. What they’re losing this time isn’t the right to call videogames their own, it’s their chance to keep having videogames of their own because really, money aside, they’re not making the most compelling of cases that they’re the kind of people you’d want to make videogames for.

When big box no longer care, who will?

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Christian Nutt
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> historically I don’t think the gaming utopia of manly man games for men ever really existed

Yeah, I agree with this. I mean, the only time that was the ONE AND ONLY type of gamer was really just a SLICE of the last generation, when you think about it. The PC got infected by this meme earlier, of course, but even then I don't think it was ever viewed as some sort of mainstream huge demographic. Once shooters rose up as the dominant genre on consoles (and most of what wasn't a shooter started failing, at retail/triple-A) suddenly this was not only how it was but how it ALWAYS was, which simply isn't true. The PS2/Xbox/GC generation was not like this -- it had a diversity of content for disc-based software.

Lars Doucet
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It should also be noted that this group is a little hard to describe in traditional left/right political terms -- recent surveys from within the reddit MRA groups reveal they strongly self-identify as both irreligious and non-republican, which are the opposite of traditional American "conservative" tribal markers (in those two particular ways).

So they're "conservative" in the sense that they are opposed to "progressive" views on women and also seem to be virulently opposed to treating Women with basic respect and human decency, but I don't see them having much common cause with say, Pat Robertson or Mitt Romney.

(Those aren't scare quotes by the way, just trying to acknowledge C and P as our traditional ideological poles).

I'm not trying to nitpick or do the "not all conservatives" thing, just point out that this group in particular is very demographically weird and our traditional tribal markers and left-right narratives aren't as useful as we might normally think. (Neither am I trying to defend conservatism's honor -- the closest thing to my own political tribal marker is "libertarian" or "independent" which puts me squarely in uncomfortable guilt-by-association territory to these lunatics).

This group has exploded onto the scene in the past few years with a loudness and persecution complex that really boggles my mind. How much of "gamer" culture do they represent, are they just a loud, virulent minority or are there more of them than we think?

Robert Fearon
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Sorry if it wasn't clear, I'm using "Capital C Conservative" because I don't think "gamer" is the best fit here. It's a little too associative of "loving games too much" which is a line I'm not quite prepared to draw, even whilst nodding in agreement with a lot of the criticisms of those who act in the name of "gamers".

Rather than trying to position them somewhere on an American political spectrum (I'm not American for starters), I'm using it as a term to refer to those who would prefer to continually uphold the status quo of power. Be that with their regressive views or any other means. I probably should have made that more clear and I'm sorry for any confusion that caused.

Daniel Pang
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[Comment voluntarily redacted].

I'm not changing anyone's mind.

Simon Love
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@Daniel Pang : For the record I actually enjoyed reading your viewpoint and my "Like" was meant for what has been redacted.

Daniel Pang
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It was done out of anger; ravings of a madman. I've had the experience to know that doing anything out of anger on the internet is a recipe for disaster, and retracted the statement so cooler heads can discuss things in a rational and sane manner.

Thanks regardless.

Kujel Selsuru
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While I don't care what gender, race, sexual orientation someone is if they don't love at least the same level of depth as me I don't want them anywhere near our medium. Whith that said I realized years ago that the big box companies were more interested in the wider market then use nerds/geeks cause as you said there are a lot more of them then us.

When I was a teenager in the early 2000's I loved the xbox cause it was for the nerds/geeks but gradually over the life of the 360 it became a "casual" brand where COD and Madden where it's focus and not the deeper experiences I love. This has me playing more indie games and more on PC then had in the past cause that is where the games I enjoy are found.

You are right when there is a hole in the market someone has to fill it and I'm glad it's the indies doing so instead of more big box companies.

Heather Hughes
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"if they don't love at least the same level of depth as me I don't want them anywhere near our medium."

There are two ways I'm reading this and one I agree with and the other I don't. If you mean you don't want people who don't love the industry near the medium in DEVELOPMENT, I agree. The development side should always be filled with people who greatly love the industry, since that love will drive them to do what's best for it.

However, if you're indicating you don't want people who don't love games as much as you near the medium in any regard, I have to strongly disagree. It's that kind of thought (I think) that is driving a lot of the hate inside video games right now. It seems like the idea of, "This person isn't as invested in games as I am; therefore, their opinion shouldn't matter." I've seen this time and time again in other industries and it sickens me to see it invading video games as well. I'm not saying we should try to conform to every person's opinions or views (since that's just impossible), but excluding people on a subjective basis like "how much they really love video games" only leads to snobbish and a forced "exclusive club" behavior. A type of behavior which, I think, contributes to the kind of anger, bitterness, and hatred we see written about all the time - because if video games are an "exclusive club," so-called members are going to feel threatened or attacked anytime someone outside the "club" voices an opinion about the "club."

Kujel Selsuru
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@Heather: What I mean is if someone doesn't like the level of depth in games I love I don't want them near our medium cause there are far more "casuals" then "core gamers" and in capitalism the suits fallow the money.

I've watched as the kind of games I love have grown fewer and father between and I don't want that. If I thought the kinds of games I love could easily co-exists with the kinds of games the "casuals" like I'd not care but the reality is that's not really the case. My tastes have always be at odds with the heard and that is one of the reasons I was drawn to video games as a kid and chose to get into game development as an adult.

Now just to clairify what I mean by casual and core. I define casual as non-nerd/non-geek players who like COD, BF, GTA, Candy Crush, FB games, Flappy Bird, etc basically games with shallow gameplay and/or lots of cut scenes.

I define core gamers as nerds/geeks who like RPGs, RTSs, action adventures, turn-based strategies, etc basically games with a lot of gameplay depth that also require I use my brain.

Bernie M
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You are very young. Anyway in the 80's and 90's only men bought games. Also the blogger is very young.

Robert Fearon
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I'm old enough to know that's never been true.

Christopher Gore-Gammon
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We should all also remember that this industry and community are both still very young; and just like any human-made community, is experiences an age of ignorance. As this community and industry age I believe that the positive actions of today will shine hope on the future. As an inspiring game designer, I thank you Robert for this article!

Emeka Enubuzor
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The craziest thing that has happen to this industry is it's love for negative equality. We, as the forward facing industry, are hound dogs for this stuff. We sit here day in, and day out, looking for any amount of inequality. But the thing is that we just focus on one group, females. We're entirely blind to whole other groups of people till something happens, but even when that happens, we still do our best to frame it as a female issue. It becomes so one note, and tone deaf that people start to speak up for the other groups. When that happens, we have the inevitable argument. Because no group wants to ease up on the point they're backing. Everyone wants a 100% of their opinion to be right, which for some reason means to the other group that they're 100% wrong

We've hit this point where discussion about anything in this industry is like walking in a minefield. We're entirely self destructive because we're so gungho about our dumb little opinions. We never take the time to even parse the other person's argument. We never take the time to understand that person, instead we turn off the comments, walk away from anyc discussion, go to our echo-chamber, and talk about the idiots that dare disagree with us.

You say the people shout louder because they're losing, but from my point of view, as someone who doesn't associate with MRA, or SWJ, or Feminist, or anything, as just a normal person looking at this industry, I see everyone shouting. Everyone trying to be the loudest. I personally see everyone losing.

Kyle Redd
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"Because no group wants to ease up on the point they're backing. Everyone wants a 100% of their opinion to be right, which for some reason means to the other group that they're 100% wrong"

A possible bit of hope in that area at least: Based on recent Twitter posts from both parties, it seems that Zoe Quinn reached out to The Fine Young Capitalists to discuss her prior efforts against their "Women Making Games" charity. So maybe there will be some reconciliation there.

Emeka Enubuzor
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That's great

Jeanne Burch
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As the AdWeek 2004 demographic study that changed everything showed, video games were never all that "manly." AdWeek discovered that 45% of the people playing video games were women.

That's pre-Facebook days.

The "shout loud" crowd doesn't like the data. They find a lot of reasons for why the data in this and other studies is faulty. "Common sense" is the most polite thing they cite when trying to discredit the data. The data doesn't much care about their common sense or their shouting.

empty fortress
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Spot on. What pisses me off is that the big box created this audience, then left us indies/hobbyists/marginalized creators to hold the stinking bag. Thanks for nothing.

Curtiss Murphy
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What are you talking about? This article left me feeling that I'd peaked inside an elitist, members-only club where everyone looks angrily my way for wearing the wrong shoes. Every sentence was full of double-speak, poetic, insider references that I could barely understand. If you want to change the world, one thing you might consider is that people on the outside, who might possibly care, have no idea what you're talking about. If, on the other hand, this was an exclusive members-only party, then I apologize for bringing the wrong shoes.

Yama Habib
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I'm in the same boat. I'm not sure what language this was written in, but I'm sure that I don't speak it.

Robert Fearon
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There's absolutely nothing stopping you investigating anything further, man. I'm not being explicit about certain things because I have absolutely no desire to fan the flames of some of the idiocy and hatred going on at the moment because it's terrible and people are getting hurt by it.

I've no intention of changing the world with a blogpost on Gamasutra, y'know? I'll spend my time doing that sort of thing elsewhere. This is just some food for thought and you're welcome to take it, leave it, agree with it or disagree with it or whatever. Spend time to dig deeper or don't, it's all cool.

Larry Carney
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Of course they need to shout louder.

Considering how often they are censored, how there is practically no paid gaming "journalist" who even remotely adheres to their value-set, and how often they are vilified by "tolerant" gaming communities, how the heck do you expect them to be heard?

Robert Fearon
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I don't. I expect them to shut up.

Mike Higbee
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And this is where there can no actual debate just one sided vilifying of the opposite side of whatever you happen to fall on. It's always funny to see the tolerant side just go lalalala not listening you poopie heads.

Mike Higbee
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*edit double post

Robert Fearon
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Whatever makes you think I'm tolerant? I have no tolerance for much of what's happened to my friends, peers and people within the games industry over the course of the past week and nor will I ever.

It's disgraceful and there is nothing there to debate about that. But as I said in my piece, which you're welcome to disagree with - the people shouting so loud are not making the best case for many of us to ever want to make videogames for them. Maybe that's something more worthy of consideration than whether they're being silenced or not. (Hint: they're not)

Mike Higbee
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The thing is it always comes down to an argument of "my friends" or if you bring up any point you're a sexist or misogynist. Even though many sites aren't covering the other side, they are changing policies due to it like Polygon and Kotaku stopping staff from contributing to Patreons.
Just because a few bad apples act like asses doesn't mean you get to write off a counterpoint.
If that was the case I'd have written off most issues.

Robert Fearon
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No, no, no. If you bring up sexist or misogynist points then you are a sexist and a misogynist. Many people go through their days without being accused of being either sexist or misogynist, MOST people go through their days without it because they don't really feel the need to splutter sexist or mysoginistic rubbish into the internet.

The idea that this is "a few" bad apples is to entirely understate the scale of the recent abuses and I refuse to concede to that. And the reason it comes down to "friends" is because the abuses are driving people out of videogames and as an industry, we're more close knit than people seem to think. Not in a conspiratorial lunatic everyone is in bed with one another, most of us don't meet up, don't go to the same events and what have you but each and every one of us feels the ripples from this abuse. It makes women scared. It makes men scared.

If you are complicit in perpetuating this abuse, if you think you're having an innocent and reasonable discussion whilst people are fearing for their lives, you need to stop. There is no debate to be had about that. It is never OK.

Expecting me to lend weight to things which barely scrape their head above logical or reasonable, expecting me to debate these things in some way is insane. Please stop.

Please take this discussion elsewhere. It is hurting real people and I want no place in that.

Larry Carney
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So this entire blog was just you.........whining?

How astounding.

I would offer, instead of clogging up gaming culture with such dross, that you take your own advice.

Maxim Preobrazhenskiy
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I am as capital-C conservative as one can get when it comes to games.
And yet i have bought less big-box releases than nearly anyone i know among everyone who plays games.

You see, this image of "big box" crowd being the "traditional" gamer? It is false. The "big box" crowd was hooked on high tech spectacle, to the actual detriment of traditional gaming values. And, for a while, they were the big payers of gaming market. Because guess what, high tech spectacle was the most compelling things games had going for them for a good while.

But now...

Now games have come back to the platforms that don't really afford high tech spectacle.
Now game development tools have reached a point where pretty much everyone can get a decent game running in a span of a year or so.
Now social interaction tools have reached a point where many good games are able to find its players without a huge marketing budget.
Now we have studied and understood how to consistently make games that are mechanically good and are finally starting to struggle with what makes them art.

Long story short, games are finally reaching people who never really cared for high tech spectacle. And high tech spectacle is not the only thing games got going for them anymore.

We are finally able to bring that traditional game magic - the kind of magic that perpetuated the gaming world as it was born back in previous century - to the mainstream audience.

What you the author of the article calls "traditional" gaming was nothing but a deviation from true gaming tradition. Now that this deviation is finally withering, traditional gaming is finally making a comeback :)