Why Are Gamers Such Whiners?

If you were to walk into a room that held several dozen gamers and said the words “Half-Life 3” it’s more than likely one of them would start foaming at the mouth. For the last few years the quest to get Valve to make Half-Life 3 has been an ever-present presence on gaming forums and a topic for conversation for many gamers. With every year that Valve resist the cries for Half-Life 3, those calling for it get a little more enraged and there have been hundreds of blog posts bemoaning the fact that Valve isn’t listening to what the fans want.

What is it about gaming fans that makes them feel that they’re entitled to dictate the terms of the games they receive? Valve is a massive studio, with hundreds of employees, all working to ensure that their fans receive the best games they can possibly deliver. Over the years they’ve created some fantastic titles (Portal anyone?) that have been enjoyed by thousands of people. Yet, it seems the only questions Gabe Newell is ever answering are about Half-Life 3.  I have little doubt that Valve is developing Half-Life 3. I’m also fairly sure that Newell is getting pretty sick of answering questions about it.

So why do gamers feel so entitled? You’d never find a crowd of film aficionados clamouring for a sequel for a film that came out eight years ago. There might be some wistful wishing, but there is seldom a full blown tirade about how the fans deserve this sequel and how 20th Century Fox (or Warner Bros, etc.) should be strung up for keeping it from them. Sure, there are campaigns to get shows like Firefly back, but even those pale in comparison to the widespread emotion that Half-Life 3 has garnered.

Another good example of this is Mass Effect 3 and the great ending debate, which I’m sure that every gamer on the planet is now aware of, whether they wanted to be or not. BioWare ended a massively popular series of games in a way that a lot of people found unsatisfactory. Personally I’m in the minority on this one, as a think that BioWare should be allowed to end their game in any way that they want to. But I haven’t played any of the games. I haven’t invested dozens of hours into seeing Shepard save the galaxy, and so I don’t feel that same sense of possession that so many other people have. I know that if I had, regardless of my opinion on the matter now, I probably would have been a little disappointed at the way the story ended too.

Gamers feel possession because of the investments they make in playing the game. Forty pounds is not a small amount of money, and the eight or ten hours it takes to play through a story mode is not a small amount of time. That’s not even factoring in DLC, or multiple playthroughs, or even multiplayer.  A lot of people put hundreds of hours into their personal Shepards, and they were disappointed at what they got out of it. So they spoke up.

The uproar that the ending caused was massive, and had BioWare scrambling for answers. They were soon promising free DLC that helped to explain the ending, and seemed thoroughly cowed by the reaction they had provoked. I found myself disagreeing with the way BioWare handled the situation, because they gave in. I would have loved for them to stand up to all the naysayers and support the ending that their writers created, because by giving in like they have, BioWare have set a precedent that might be very difficult to shake.

A film or a television show could never have the same immersion and investment that a game does. A film is just a few hours of static enjoyment – you don’t take part in them, you don’t interact – and much the same goes for television series, except they come in nice bite-size chunks. So when a film is bad, people just mutter about it and get on with their lives. When a TV series is bad they just don’t watch it. But when a game, a game that they have invested in, is bad they want to talk about it. They want the people who made the game to know that they didn’t do a good enough job.

But most of all, if they find a game that they like, a game that they keep coming back to and can’t get enough of, then they want more. Which is why Gabe Newell will have to keep answering the same questions about Half-life 3.

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One Comment

  1. Chris Toffer says:

    I, like you, am in the minority when it comes to the whole Bioware situation. I finished the game, I was happy with it and was quite happy to leave it there. When all this bullshit moaning started, I begged, nay pleaded with the powers that be to leave this situation alone. Instead, Bioware pandered to these morons who seem to think they’re owed something?

    Don’t get me wrong, if a game is released to the point where it is broken and unplayable, then someone needs to be held accountable, and I don’t mean for a couple of hundred people, I’m stating that no-one can play this thing. Boiling Point would be a good example of that.

    However, giving the fans an apology and extra DLC because they didn’t like the ending? Fuck that and fuck those people.

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