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Are Gamers A Nation of Whiners? |

In the U.S., a prominent politician recently stirred controversy by referring to the country as a “nation of whiners”. There are no major wars or epidemics or catastrophes, there are record levels of peace and prosperity, continued acceleration of every type of technology, comfort, convenience, and overall standard of living, and yet people still complain endlessly about the price of gas and find a million other nitpicks to moan about.

By the same token, have gamers become a similar group of whiners?

Here are the top three moans of 2008:

  • Games are too expensive
  • Innovation is dead. There are too many sequels.
  • Journalism is horrible. Review scores are terminally flawed.

Games have never been cheaper. There is tons of software for free or for $10 and under. And hardware has never done more for less money. You can get a last-gen console and games for next to nothing. And inflation adjusted, current new release games and hardware are cheaper than ever and more feature rich than ever.

Regarding innovation, the industry is experiencing a true renaissance. We are seeing an explosion of game functionality and polish. We are seeing more experimental and novel efforts than ever before. The industry is remaking and polishing every type of classic cult favorite, is building out new genres such as music/rhythm, is fleshing out previously unexplored social aspects of gaming, and has devoted huge efforts to the absolute mastery and perfection of the 3D shooter. And all this is happening at a historically breakneck pace. Compared to other industries like real estate or education, the video games business is rapidly evolving frontier territory.

And journalism? There are more types of journalism catering to a wider spectrum of tastes, more extensive coverage, and better discussion outlets than ever before. It’s also admirable that the games industry generally takes it review scores so seriously and passionately. The movie industry doesn’t put nearly as much attention or care into reviewing and evaluating their work.

  • Paul

    have you seen the comments on the official PS blog?…a lot of pointless whining, so yes, a nation of whiners. people actually complain about cheap downloadable games or free programs on a free psn network…enough said

  • The Claw

    People who aren’t whiners whine about the whiners. Everyone has always whined about world events, because well… our world has always sucked.

    When people whine about videogames it’s certainly a bit more retarded. Although, I will side with people who whine about videogame “journalism” because (and no offense to ps3blog) videogame journalism is by and large retarded. The larger sites and magazines are undoubtedly corrupted with advertising dollars and the smaller sites are like foxholes on the front lines of the “console war”.

    The main thing that perpetuates all of this stupidity is review scores. You see, review scores happen when a publisher places their money into a publication’s advertising wallet. They push that money in real hard and deep and if the publication’s feeling good they will give birth to a review score that is favorable, thus increasing income on both fronts. No honesty, no integrity, and no storks delivering review scores from heaven, just the dirty reality of business.

    Besides that, I don’t think gamers can really be considered a “nation”, Darrin.

  • Mike

    I’d disagree on two of three points.

    01. Gaming is a lot more expensive than it was in the previous cycle. Games were $49 instead of $59, all three systems were priced well according to their capabilities and saw regular price drops, and there were a ton of great games for $20 or less over the course of the hardware cycle. That’s before you even take DLC expenses into account. The only real improvement has been the games made available exclusively through digital distribution. A lot of what gets sold for less than $20 on PSN and Xbox live would have been $20 to $30 retail games in the last cycle, and in all likelihood, would never have sold particularly well due to that pricing.

    02. Innovation – this is quite relative. Shenmue and GTA3 were bigger leaps in gameplay than anything we have seen in this cycle. This cycle seems like a refinement of what was introduced before. I’m not that impressed with the motion control of the Wii, and the fact that they’re introducing an upgrade to it next spring shows it wasn’t where it was supposed to be when it came out in the first place.

    03. Journalism – this was always bad, it has just gotten louder. Fortunately RSS feeds and direct communication from developers (Bungie and Insomniac are great with this) has allowed gamers to get the information from the source.

  • I tell you one thing…

    Gaming got too expensive… this AND last generation, game prices in Germany were raised by 10€, now amounting to 70€ per game… which now is 109USD (incl. tax)… That CAN’T be right, it just can’t. Yes, importing got 1000 times better with region free games (and suckier, because of region locked dlc), but still, Europe is getting ripped off end on end. And this isn’t the end of it… Hardware also is much more expensive here.

  • Addendum…

    Darrin, you are talking about inflation adjusted prices… Well yes, in the US they got cheaper, in the Eurozone they didn’t. And “free” games and whatnot… Are you kidding me? There were free games everywhere, even when the PS1 was still king. More feature rich? Come on… Did you ever play Heavenly Sword? Games are as “bad” (or good) as before, albeit sometimes bigger.

  • Well, although I hate to say it, if you read the comments on the US PlayStation Blog and the UK’s ThreeSpeech, then a lot of PS3 owners certainly qualify as whiners.

  • Darrin

    Cost: Sure, there were always free games, but the quality, quantity, and availability of free games has gotten way better. Also, rental options, buying/selling used, and the options for buying slightly older games is far better than it was in the past. And don’t just look at two to five years ago, look at ten to twenty years ago. In the U.S, the standard new game price recently increased from $50 to $60, so comparing now to three years ago, things have gotten slightly more expensive, but when you compare to twenty years ago when games were nominally $50 and you adjust for inflation, games are way cheaper now. The numbers are different in Europe but I bet that the bigger picture trends are the same.

    Quality: Segitz, it’s easy to pick out individual titles that aren’t feature rich or are terrible. I don’t like most games on the shelves. But as an overall trend, games have far more content and features than ever before. This is fairly hard to disagree with. Mike, I’ll agree that we haven’t had any completely breakthrough genre-defining title like GTA3 recently, but game quality is inproving at a rapid yet incremental pace. Game mechanics and genres are shifting and evolving but not being shattered and remade.

    Journalism: Sure, the mere existence of expensive red carpet media events is hard evidence that game journalists are easily influenced, but I suspect that publisher influence is much less of a problem than the cynics claim. I suspect that the number of blatantly dishonest reviews is fairly low. Most of the big game reviewers are passionate about what they do and are too internally driven to be blatantly bought. They are influenced by publishers, and that is a real issue, but it’s far more subtle and a smaller issue than simple bribes.

    Also, if you make blanket statements like “videogame journalism is just retarded”, your expectations are probably unrealistic. In many ways, they are very easy targets, and it wouldn’t be hard to list out dozens of valid grievances, but bottom line: the purpose of gaming journalism is to spread information about game titles and hardware, to help gamers find out about which products they would enjoy, to provide a space for reflection and discussion of the medium, and to entertain. And journalism does that well. And journalism includes not only salaried journalists, but also sites like YouTube and gametrailers and amateur blogs and podcasts and discussion boards like NeoGAF.

  • The Claw

    Videogame journalism isn’t “just retarded”, Darrin, it’s “by and large retarded”. Meaning that, for the most part, it is indeed cheesy, useless, heavily biased/influenced crap and reading it for information’s sake is like trying to read porn for the articles. There definitely is another side to that coin but we’re talking about whining here, so I defined what’s whine-worthy about gaming; the predominantly crappy journalism and more specifically; review scores .

    The most glaringly obvious scarlet letter that gaming journalism bears is the review score scene. You can’t sit there and tell me that summing up a complex personal opinion into a number isn’t specifically designed as a tool of marketing, or that it doesn’t cheapen the written review. If you did sit there and tell me that you’d know you were wrong and were just arguing for arguing’s sake.

    The sad thing is when you read blogs and forum posts where people use accumulated game ranking stats to attempt to prove a point:

    Kid A: Halo is the best game because it got a 10!

    Kid B: Oh yeah? That’s nice, but uh… what’s a “10”?

    A: It’s the best score a game can get.

    B: I see, so does that mean that Halo is better than most games?

    A: Well, it’s 1 better isn’t it? Most games go to 9 and there is nowhere to go from there.

    B: Right, so why don’t you just make 9 the best and give Halo a 9?

    A: *long pause* … Halo goes to 10.

    The whole review score scene is so obscenely corporate that it ought to be abolished by intelligent game journalists who wish to keep their good name. However, it hasn’t been abolished so I figure they don’t mind whoring themselves out for whatever advantage it provides. For that reason I see whining as an applicable form of protest against the apparent retardation in gaming journalism.

  • west_coast_ps3

    “Are Gamers A Nation of Whiners?”

    Yes. For example there is a whole lot more chaff than wheat on the main Sony forums.

    One reason why I like this blog is that, while the post count is lower, the quality is higher.

  • mpz

    A bunch of whingers perhaps, but no nation.

    Many games are expensive – many RRP at $120 here – when the dollar is nearly on par with the us one. Network games are cheaper – but are they really passing on all of the savings that result from not needing any box/printing/distribution/shelf space? And you can’t lend them to a mate or sell them second hand either.

    Innovation is alive as it ever has been. Not everything has to be ground breaking. People like successful games to fill out the world or continue a story. There has always been a mix of a few great games (with incremental innovation), a few decent repeats, a bunch of competent but safe stuff, all the way down to a ton of shit-ware. Just be judicious on what you spend your money on I suppose.

    Which comes down to being able to trust reviews I suppose. Game ‘journalism’ is pretty bad. Even when advertising dollars or swag isn’t involved (and it usually is), you can’t tell whether the reviewers are colouring their reviews for personal reasons or just to get page hits by creating controversy. You don’t get someone who loves boring pc rpg’s to review a wii game for example, but that seems to happen all the time.

  • I’ll admit. I’ve done my fair share of whinning, i.e DMC4 going multi..hehe.

  • Rich

    I don’t think that it’s just gamers that are whiners. Its fanboys of anything. Look aroung the internet, if its not PS3 vs. 360, it’s PC vs. Mac, or Star Wars vs. Star Trek, or DC vs. Marvel etc. The internet just seems to bring out the douche in some people.

  • Darrin

    Come on, Claw… People manipulate stats. People are jerks and act like their favorite games are better than everyone elses favorites. You can’t heap the blame for all the ills of humanity on journalists.

    You just have to view review scores for what they are: a snapshot of personal opinion.

  • The Claw

    Darrin, I never expanded my opinion on the downside of gaming to correlate with the entirety of humanity, although it would be an easy metaphor to work with. I also don’t necessary blame journalists as a whole because I can understand how lots of people can cave to corporate pressure and would rather have a nice fattened stipend than show respect for the things they write about.

    I do view review scores as a snapshot of a personal opinion as well, because that’s exactly what they are, and that’s exactly what’s wrong with them. Why do I need a dumbed down snapshot of an opinion when the author went through the effort of writing out his complete opinion which he placed on the same page? Oh that’s right, because I’m in a hurry. No wait, it’s because I can’t be bothered to read the wall-of-text. Ehh, either way I’m just to lazy and stupid to give a s***, just advertise to me so I can bark about it in a forum.

    Advertisements, that’s all those snapshots are, man. Publications and publishers created them with the explicit intent to use them to influence the market and plaster them all over magazine ads and game boxes.

    Speaking of humanity, think of it like this: if someone was running for president and they were pandering for your vote, and you didn’t know anything about them, but The New York Times gave them short written review and a score of “9” would you vote for them? I know that question is kind of rhetorical because indeed, most people would vote for a president based on that kind of information but hopefully intelligent people wouldn’t. Hopefully they also wouldn’t use that kind of information to make their videogame purchasing decisions.